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How Do You Concentrate?

This might seem like a silly question to ask.

After all, it’s not like those of us with ADHD simply need someone to explain to us how concentrating works and then everything will be OK. It’s not like there was a “how to concentrate” lesson in school and we just missed that day.

ConcentratingThe reason I raise the question how do you concentrate is because it occurred to me that people with and without ADHD would probably tend to answer it differently.

Someone without ADHD might be confused by the question. They might say “well… I just concentrate!”

That seems to be the neurotypical way of concentrating. You just do it, and generally it works.

But if you were to ask me how I concentrate, my answer would be much more elaborate. I would tell you all the different things I intentionally do to maximize my chances of being able to pay attention.

I would tell you how I almost always listen to music during tasks that require concentration because understimulation tends to be the end of ADHDers’ ability to sustain attention.

I’d tell you how I think about what time of day I should do a task to have the best odds of focusing on it, and how I deliberately order the items on my to-do last to start with the task that will pose the largest attentional challenges.

I’d also tell you about how I strategically – or sometimes not so strategically – procrastinate, so the last-minute panic before a deadline dials up my focus.

And then there’s the fact that in some situations, like having to passively listen to talks and lectures, I simply don’t concentrate much at all. So, given that, part of the way I concentrate is to avoid as much as possible activities where I can’t concentrate and seek out ones where I can.

The details of how to concentrate will differ from one individual with ADHD to the next. The broader point is that people who are actively coping with ADHD, consciously or unconsciously, will tend to have a list of strategies that help them sustain attention.

For us, concentration is an elaborate process that has been improved (but not perfected!) through trial-and-error. It’s not a one-step formula of “just do it.”

In that vein, whether you have ADHD or not, feel free to share your own answer to the question below!

Image: Flickr/Michael Loke

How Do You Concentrate?

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2020). How Do You Concentrate?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Jul 2020
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