15 thoughts on “A Hyperfocus Balance Sheet: Is Hyperfocus Worth It?

  • November 24, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    It’s isn’t a good time for me to be commenting…. I NEED to get to bed as I have an early morning tomorrow. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to write something.

    Hyper-focussing IS my form of ADD. I am rarely distractible when I am working on a task, which can be a terrible detriment to the rest of my life. I do get mildly distracted when I’m going along from point A to point B, but it doesn’t have much of a negative effect…. at least I’m not stressed by it. In fact, I actually prefer that side of my personality. I feel more animated, more creative, and generally more alive.

    My hyper-focussing is my true stressor. It prevents me from meeting deadlines (which sounds backwards), or I meet them, but with a great sleep cost. The sleep deprivation increases my stress levels and further slows my performance (which is already embarrassingly slow), creating a vicious cycle that I just can’t seem to break.

    I was just telling my ADHD coach this week that I’m so frustrated by this disorder. I have a wonderful life (when I’m convinced by others to go out and enjoy it), husband, and job, yet my single greatest nemesis — time — is such a big problem, it’s destroying me. Hyper-focussing is my time-sucker. I fall into this vortex of focus and can’t sense that I need to get out. I don’t seem to be able to feel the passage of time.

    My doctor and I have been exploring various ADHD meds over the past two months, but nothing seems to touch the hyper-focussing. I can’t help but wonder why I’m on a medication that was created to help people focus, when I need help to de-focus. Do you, or anyone else reading, have a similar story to share. More importantly, a possible solution that worked for you?

    So, to answer your question, no, I don’t use hyper-focussing to get things done. I couldn’t use it if I tried because I can’t control its on-off switch. And, it simply extends the length of time it takes me to do things so it’s more of a hindrance for me. I’m glad you have found it helpful, though. Just be careful of its potential impact on your physical health as a result off too little sleep. (Hehehe… which I will be suffering from tomorrow ;-))

    • November 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      Hey Sandra,
      I’m so glad you expanded on the down side of hyperfocus. What you describe (potentially) has such a huge negative impact on every aspect of our lives, especially, as you mention, our sense of time passing, it’s so important to address.

      As for what works, after years of rejecting it, I finally broke down and bought a very inexpensive kitchen timer and lo and behold – it worked wonders in keeping me on track. I couldn’t believe how much I loved using it (I had thought that the alarm going off would jangle my poor HSP nerves too much, and I could ill afford being more of a nervous wreck; paradoxically, it actually eased my stress because I found myself moving on to the next task in a more timely fashion).

      The other thing you could try, if it’s a possibility for you, is to have a friend phone you at agreed-upon times to help you to move on to the next activity. Please make sure that it’s a mutually helpful arrangement though, so that your friend doesn’t feel put out by helping you in this way (you could offer to shovel her driveway, clean her house, give her a reflexology treatment, whatever works for you, in exchange).

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and I wish you all the best in finding solutions that work for you. It would be great if you would share them with us when you do! Don’t give up, I know you can do it!

      Take care,

  • November 25, 2012 at 11:21 am

    The King uses it all the time, in fact, he insists that it’s a necessary part of getting into the creative flow and as an artist he has to be there to do his best work. At first, he was certainly guilty of letting it go “to far” and get “out of balance” but over the years he has learned to control it. I would like to think I have had something to do with that being more than willing to interrupt the hyperfocus and call him back to reality. Well, me and the kids. One time he was so tired from working, working, working that he fell asleep on the living room floor and the kids tied him up so he couldn’t get away with ties – we were just laughing about it over Thanksgiving. (old post tells the story and talks about transition http://queenofthedistracted.blogspot.com/2011/04/wheres-gaffers-tape.html)

    Now he has learned to stop and start it more voluntarily – he has always seemed to be able to choose when he initiates hyperfocus and what he hyperfocuses on. More recently, he’s learned how to use it more to all of our benefit and not just for a creative groove.

    I don’t have that super power myself but I think in the long run, when mastered, maybe when you you have someone to help you figure out when you have carried it too far it is a gift – without it I am sure my husband would not be as successful as he has been or gone as far in his career for sure.

    • November 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Hey Queen!

      Thanks so much for weighing in. As we can tell from Sandra’s comment, hyperfocus can be the most difficult symptom for some of us with ADHD. It’s important for us to hear about how it affects others, and I especially like that you work with your partner as a team to address his challenges, and that he’s using it to benefit all of you. Actually, I’m very curious about what exactly that means?

      If you’re willing, I’d love to hear how the King uses his hyperfocus to the benefit of the whole family (although I can imagine how that might be of benefit to the Queen, ah-hem, and if I’m right, no need to share here. Hope you don’t mind the inference.)

      Take care!


      • November 26, 2012 at 3:12 am

        oh so much to say – I am too wordy but I will try. Staring with how his ability to hyperfocus has helped our children (beyond it helping support them financially. Most profoundly, he has taught our children how to use hyperfocus as a tool, how to direct it and manage it instead of it just controlling them. Taught it by example but also by walking them through the steps as they are faced with situations that need them to employ those skills and get into that hyperfocused state of mind. He’s taught them how to pull out of a hyperfocus and set aside what they want to focus on for what they need to focus on. He’s included us in his hyperfocus so that we are taking the journey as a family not just him by himself. I had so much to say about it I put it into a blog post on my site ( http://queenofthedistracted.blogspot.com/2012/11/an-inheritance-from-distracted-king.html )and I have a promise from him to write down the process by which he gets himself into that state of mind and how he pulls himself out of it switching it from one thing to another so he can maintain some sort of balance. I think the key is that because he can manage it he can use it everyday in smaller spurts so that he rarely has to completely lose himself in a project spending day and night in crunch mode – he can consistently work on something over time to completion. I can copy the whole thing here if you like – let me know 🙂

      • November 26, 2012 at 6:53 am

        Hi Queen of the Distracted!

        Thank you so much for answering my question. I will mention for my readers that you do indeed have some kids with ADHD as well, so having Dad show them how to use their super-power of hyperfocus for the good is fantastic! And yes, I we’d be so grateful if he would share his tips here. I know that I, for one, may benefit from his strategies. I’ll contact you in a pm to see if he’s up for an interview or a guest blog post.

        In the meantime, again, I really appreciate your speedy response! And I’d like to encourage everyone to stop over at Queen of the Distracted’s Blog here: Queen of the Distracted

        Take care!

  • November 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Side note to Queen of Distracted. You have a wonderful family! I admire how you support your husband and how well your husband has learned to USE his ‘problem’ to his advantage. It isn’t a problem then, is it?

    The hyperfocus/distraction cycle reminds me a lot of bipolar disorder. Any level of mania is a heck of a lot better than any level of depression, but in creative people, the cycle can work to one’s advantage.

    As they say, “It’s complicated.”

    • November 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm


  • November 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    “Could I have gotten this project done without hyperfocusing?

    Honest answer: doubtful.”

    I think this is the key issue I would have looked at. For the longest time I didn’t want to give up the free spirited nature of ADHD for hyper focus, but as you begin to see things get done that frankly, would not have prior… it can be a real eye opener. In addition, feeling on top of things has reduced my anxiety and occasional depression.

    I have recently begun treating my apartment with a view of hyper organization. By forcing a big of OCPD into my life, I have found a structure that I LOVE to see implemented! Hyper focus and organization (in my case) have really helped me see what I can pull off in life (and increased my over all mental health)

    • November 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Julian.

  • November 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I am still new to ADD. I have had several home clean up projects going this year including a renovation. Still in progress….I pass the big room and stress hits me but I cant bring myself to just spend one full day to get more of it done. Its so boring! A killer! I realize this is probably common with ADD and ADHD to find this type of a mess stressful. But isn’t it stressful to anyone….

    • November 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Hi Jane49.

      Actually, it’s been my experience that my friends without ADHD are not only able to happily tackle cleaning up a messy or disorganized room, many have offered to help me with mine. Please remember that ADHD is a neurobiological condition, and there are actually (as best as I can understand through my research and reading) physical reasons why many (if not most) of us folks with ADHD respond so adversely to “boring” tasks or activities that we don’t experience as stimulating. It has to do with a different brain chemistry.

      I’m not saying that others don’t get bored, of course they do; it’s just that (as some researchers point out) it is actually experienced as painful and intolerable for us. Dr. Gabor Maté’s book Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It (1999) would be a good resource for more information about ADHD and hypersensitivities. Many books about ADHD in adults also address the brain differences that lead those of us with ADHD to seek stimulation in order to rev up our brains. It’s fascinating, but not always easy to understand reading, but it does explain why we respond differently to tasks others seem to do effortlessly or with much less angst. (Sadly, we still have to clean up our rooms!)

      Maybe you can enlist a friend to help you with this room that’s stressing you out! (A friend with great organizational skills, that is).

      Take care, and good luck!


  • November 29, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Hi Zoe,

    I am one of the cases that doesn’t understand myself too well. I was too busy helping others out of obligation and empathy. Your response above has opened a new door of understanding. My Mothers’ three major moves in the last few years were very hard on me. What remains are two full storage units. What started out as a lifetime of hard work ended in a large home and yard full of mostly nice things but so much. The work-place was very big as well in another location. It created additional sorting as well. I get a choking chest-like pain and run out of air. It has YES become physical. I couldn’t put my symptoms in words or understand why I felt that way. I had to tackle the big house and yard on my own with some help, but the big parts like the main storage area at the back, I was on my own, and moving day (s), with the movers, on my own. Thank God the movers’ manager was patient and helpful to assist me in parting with certain things. It was me alone getting rid of the last few things of my Dad. (Kept a lot of it though). When his big collection of National Geographic came down from a shelf, I was so sad. They were years of saving. I couldn’t keep everything. With ADD on top of all of that, I was a mess. I was viewed by some family members all these years as anxious or mean or angry. I was instead suffering. If I was a little kid with adhd in that position I would have been running around screaming or day-dreaming it away! Right?

    • November 29, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Hi Jane49.

      Wow! It sounds like you deserve a huge pat on the back. (and I’m glad my last response was helpful; sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, so I just try to share intuitively when I can in the hopes that it might be of some use).

      My goodness what you describe would be a massive undertaking for anyone, even more so for someone with the extra challenges of ADHD. I think you should be very proud of yourself for getting through it all and still standing!

      Your story reminds me of something that I need to be reminded of, repeatedly: that sometimes we are doing much better than we think. I’ve become aware from time to time that in my efforts to manage and overcome my ADHD challenges, I sometimes overshoot on my expectations. The way I understand it is that I’ve never been a person without ADHD; therefore, I’m not sure what the “normal” or usual expectations would entail. To be more clear, sometimes I think that others might breeze through something that I’m having difficulties coping with, when in fact, the situation would be difficult for most of us (of course generalizations are inaccurate, and there are always differences, but I will generalize to make my point).

      Lately, for example, I’ve started to get antsy about the renovations of my new house (mostly because they’ve been stalled out and not moving forward in any appreciable way). Christmas is coming, and I would dearly love to invite some close friends over to celebrate, to reminisce, and to look forward to the New Year ahead with hope and excitement. But I have no living room. In fact, I do not have ONE room in my house without boxes and files and stacks of things that don’t belong. I am like a rat in a very messy maze and it’s starting, (to be honest) to drive me crazy. (In spite of my earlier renovation euphoria, which was because (among other reasons) things were improving so quickly; I was busy with writing my book so didn’t have time to relax and enjoy the new house anyway; and Christmas was not around the corner).

      When (yet another) friend commented yesterday that she’s amazed at how well I’ve been handling this, and – more importantly – that she would be going nuts by now, I realized that under the circumstances, I was expecting far too much of myself and not realizing that even those without ADHD, and who are not as affected by their environments as I am (I’m also an HSP and am very affected by smells, sights, sounds, etc. in my environment) would be challenged by the state of chaos I’ve been living in for nearly two months now. (Which is pretty much what my friend said, noting that she knows how much things in my environment can bother me. It runs in the family: my late mom once moved a vase 1/8 inch before we could launch into our visit).

      What I’m saying is, please pat yourself on the back for a job well done under difficult circumstances, and remember that sometimes our expectations of ourselves are unrealistic as we over-compensate for our perceived deficits / challenges.

      Sorry to be so long-winded, but I thought my recent reminder might be helpful to you too.

      Take care of yourself, and thanks again for writing.


  • November 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    You are not long-winded at all. I appreciate how much you have shared. I think I am an HSP as well. I am struggling lately with a lot of things and don’t even want to go to parties, tonight’s included. I wouldn’t want to dampen anyone’s spirits! Again, thanks Zoe. Hope to shake your hand one day for the help you are giving others.


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