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5 Minute Refocus Per Interruption? Tips to Make Focusing Easier for ADHDers

DNDI can’t begin to explain how hard it is at times for me to focus. To sit down, and get going on what I need to do. But when I do – look out – because I can do a lot to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, it’s so difficult to get to that place these days because there is an ongoing bombardment of distractions that seem to get greater by the day.

Research has shown that if you work in an office environment you get interrupted about once every 8 minutes.  And that it takes 4-5 minutes to refocus after an interruption.  And those are just studies on the general population!I can’t imagine what the time to recover from a distraction is for those with ADHD.  I’ve been puttering around this computer for hours this morning trying to force myself to get some things checked off my list.  I have had cell phones ringing, e-mail dings going off, coffee beeping, had to go to the bathroom, got hungry, on and on and on.  It is all I can do to pull these words out of my head.

Understanding the cost of this is important.  If each interruption is costing me five minutes to get refocused, then no wonder I am not getting much done.  So I have devised some solutions:

  • I work alone unless I have meetings. I know, this is very antisocial, but it works for me.  I’m a thousand percent more productive, and feel better about myself because of it.  Working from home or at the coffee shop just seems to work.
  • I put a sign up when in the office. I thought the one above was quite creative.  I tend to be boring but you can make it fun, colorful, and creative.  ADHDer thinking please interrupt later…  or something to that effect.  A friendly but important way to keep distractions at bay.
  • I turn off volume on my computer. That way I can’t hear those annoying e-mail beeps.
  • I turn my phone off. It is easier for me, because I don’t have kids.  But I do consider my company and nonprofit my kids.  It annoys many people because often I don’t answer my phone.  But the trade off is that I get my work done, and it is creative, plentiful, and innovative.  There is rarely anything THAT important that can not wait.
  • I make a check-list. And tell myself I can’t do other things until I finish.  While it may sometimes feel impossible to get in the groove, I can eventually get there.  Patience is key.  I make them for meetings as well for any topic I might want to cover – when a great meeting gets off track it helps me stay on target for the goals.
  • I ask for support from others. I think once people truly understand the cost that those interruptions make on those of us with ADHD, they have much more empathy.  Because ultimately, them interrupting us less makes us more productive, quicker to reach our goals, and happier about ourselves.  It is so important to establish these boundaries.
  • I listen to music I like or have uninteresting TV playing in the background. I find that this kind of noise keeps the tiny distractions – like ticking of a clock or dog barking – at bay.  Granted, I can’t listen to the music I love the most of my favorite tv show, because I can pay TOO much attention to those.  However, this static does truly help.
  • I keep a huge bottle of water and some gum next to me. This helps keep my mouth entertained while I work, and keeps me drinking and staying hydrated.  It also helps keep me fuller, longer.

These aren’t perfect solutions, and they don’t always work, but they certainly help a lot!  It is recognizing what works for your personal situation that is most important.  It is amazing when you follow a few of these simple steps how much you can get accomplished and how much easier it is to get there.

Are there other things that people have found work to keep distractions away from your day?

If you have ADHD – do you think you are in the five minute rule, or is it different?

As always, thanks for your wonderful insights!

Creative Commons License photo credit: chrismar

5 Minute Refocus Per Interruption? Tips to Make Focusing Easier for ADHDers

Kathryn Goetzke

I own a company called the Mood-factory (, a company that creates products based on how sensory experiences effect moods. I also run a nonprofit for depressio, iFred (, we are working to change the brand of depression. And yes, I have ADHD, along with PTSD, major depressive disorder, and a host of other challenges, opportunities, and gifts.

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APA Reference
Goetzke, K. (2011). 5 Minute Refocus Per Interruption? Tips to Make Focusing Easier for ADHDers. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Feb 2011
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