Harness your hyperfocus

Creating your own superpower user guide

Do you ever wish you could get into hyperfocus whenever you want to? And then find that hyperfocus seems most elusive when you need it? I do. If I were an artist I can picture myself waking up in the middle of the night with a spark of creative genius, painting throughout the night until the masterpiece is done. Yet most of us live in a world where we cannot easily walk away from our daily responsibilities and dive into hyperfocus at will.

Hyperfocus for me seems to switch on just about when everyone else is ready to end the day. And hyperfocus isn’t something I can do all the time. I once tried to explain to my manager that I could do in four hours what most people do in eight. That was interpreted to mean I must then be able to do double the amount of work. Ugh. This missed the point: I can only do that if I also have the time to break away from work; the daily 9 to 5 grind does not enable hyperfocus mode.

Sometimes you hear people saying that ADHD is a superpower. I would rather say that ADHD comes with a superpower – hyperfocus. In the Marvel Comic series, X-Men, Professor Xavier runs a school for mutant children with superpowers, and with his help they are able to gain control over their superpowers rather than being controlled by them. Living with ADHD sometimes feels like living with a superpower that cannot be consciously switched on and off.
Over the years I have tried various life hacks to harness my hyperfocus. I tried Cal Newton’s “deep work” approach: I blocked hours in the day when my mind was fresh to hyperfocus, but just could not get into it, a couple of hours wasn’t enough. I blocked specific days for deep work, only to discover that hyperfocus would often remain elusive even on those days.The good news is that I have recently managed to harness my hyperfocus more constructively. Thanks to advice I discovered in an excellent ebook published by ADDitude Magazine, “The secrets of the ADHD brain” (order the book ebook or read the summary article), I started looking for patterns around my own hyperfocus. I discovered for instance that I would find myself hyperfocusing for hours, creating presentations, writing articles or generating content, after I had spent a couple of days beforehand reading about or listening to podcasts related to the topic. Most importantly, I realised that I was giving myself time to think and reflect without being self-critical about not producing anything concrete.

I cannot force hyperfocus, but I know I can now consciously design my days around how my brain works, so that I am prepared and ready to be wonderfully productive on hyperfocus days.

That is what works for me, but if you have ADHD, it may not work for you. Invest the time in exploring what triggers hyperfocus for you – think broadly, beyond that moment or day, to see what patterns emerge. In doing so, you can create your very own superpower user guide to harness your hyperfocus.