My Mixed Fortunes with Hyperfocus and ADHD

October 25, 2022 Michael Thomas Kincella

Throughout my life, I've had to deal with two diametrically opposed traits of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): inattentiveness and hyperfocus.

Hyperfocus and Undiagnosed ADHD in a Child Called Michael

When I was 13, my family and I went on a camping trip. One night, as everyone else slept in the main caravan, I parked myself on a deck chair in the awning and read books one and two of a trilogy--back to back.

What's remarkable about this story isn't the reading of the two books. What's remarkable is how I remember feeling when my dad emerged from the caravan the following morning to ask why I hadn't been to sleep. Hyperfocus--the state of total absorption in one task--had thrown my sense of time off by such a huge margin that it felt slightly unsettling to learn how long I'd been reading.

The Pitfalls of Hyperfocus in ADHD

The hyperfocus of my youth was normally only present when I was reading books. More specifically, hyperfocus was only really present during leisure reading: curriculum-mandated school books, outside of English class, were given scant acknowledgment. So, while I was able to breeze through Enid Blyton's back catalog at a fair clip, I was unable to give my studies a fraction of the same attention.

That's because the polar opposite of hyperfocus is inattentiveness. Incidentally, inattentiveness negatively affects grades. Unfortunately, that was my default.

Anyway, now that I'm an adult with obligations and responsibilities, I can't afford to be inattentive. Nor can I afford to be blasé and spend uncountable hours in a time-blind reading fugue.

I Use a Timer to Deal with Hyperfocus in ADHD

In my job as a writer, completing projects relies on my performing all the various tasks associated with writing--researching, the writing itself, editing, etc. Naturally, some sections take more time to complete than others. And, even though time allocation is far from a scientific pursuit, it is remarkably easy to hyperfocus on a single task--at the expense of the project as a whole.

For example, maybe I start out conducting research on X. Then, before I know it, the world has gone from light to dark, my stomach has been grumbling for an indeterminate amount of time, and the only real evidence I've researched X is the microscopic tab bunched up in the far left of my browser window.

To avoid this scenario, I use a well-known online timer. After a rough estimate, I simply plug in the amount of time I think is appropriate and work on that task until the beeper sounds. It isn't a perfect system, but it's much better than the alternative.

How do you deal with hyperfocus and time blindness? Let me know in the comments.

APA Reference
Thomas, M. (2022, October 25). My Mixed Fortunes with Hyperfocus and ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Michael Thomas Kincella

Find Michael on Twitter, Reddit, and his website.

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