How To Harness ADHD Hyperfocus To Increase Productivity

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that causes symptoms such as impulsivity, distractibility, trouble focusing or paying attention, forgetfulness, and hyperactivity. Another common—but less well known—characteristic of ADHD is hyperfocus, which is a state of intense concentration on one subject or activity. While this symptom can be challenging and disruptive to daily life in some circumstances, it can also be valuable when channeled toward certain activities. Below, we’re going to cover what hyperfocus is and how individuals with ADHD can use it to get more done.

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What is hyperfocus?

Hyperfocus is a state of heightened concentration on an activity, project, or topic. A common characteristic of ADHD, hyperfocus can cause an individual to divert their attention exclusively to one task for an extended period of time. A common misconception about ADHD is that it makes focusing on all tasks hard. While it can lead to inattention in many circumstances, ADHD can also increase an individual’s time spent on things they find interesting. 

Consider, for example, a situation in which someone with ADHD is struggling to focus on homework in a subject in which they really aren’t interested in, partially due to external distractions. If one of those distractions is a jigsaw puzzle that they’ve been enjoying, they may shift their attention completely and enter a hyperfocused state, whereby they are able to tune out the outside world and work for several hours without a break. People with ADHD may have the ability to hyperfocus on various activities, like cleaning the house, writing a book, playing video games, watching TV, or doing an art project. Typically, the key component of hyperfocus is positive stimulation.

Research on hyperfocus experiences is limited but growing. Some scientists are skeptical of whether hyperfocus is a legitimate symptom of ADHD due to the fact that much of the evidence is anecdotal. Though not everyone with ADHD experiences this phenomenon, many people with the disorder have reported experiencing intense levels of concentration, leading other experts to regard it as legitimate.

What causes hyperfocus?

ADHD is thought to be partially caused by dopamine deficiencies in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for many important frontal lobe brain functions, our ability to maintain focus and motivate ourselves. Low levels of this neurotransmitter, then, can make it hard for an individual with ADHD to prompt themselves to transition between tasks, particularly those that are not of interest to them. They may first be drawn to projects that bring them the stimulation they’re seeking, then find it more comfortable to continue the activity they’ve been engaged with for long periods of time. 

The potential negative effects

You might forget about your surroundings

While the ability to pay sustained attention to one task can be a positive for people with ADHD, it can also present significant complications. Individuals with ADHD can get so involved in an activity while in hyperfocus mode that they aren’t cognizant of their surroundings, which can be problematic and even dangerous at times. For example, a child’s hyperfocus on complex math problems during a history class may lead them to fall behind at school despite skill and interest in a specific subject.

Getty/Luis Alvarez

You might lose track of time

Another potential drawback of hyperfocus is that it often causes people to lose track of time. Many individuals with ADHD experience a symptom known as time blindness, which hyperfocus can exacerbate, leading to further struggles with time management and lost productivity. Being mindful of how much time is spent on a task can help people better manage their time, even if they’re enjoying themselves. 

You might ignore other tasks

Hyperfocus can also cause an individual to focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of other important responsibilities. This can create significant challenges in their personal life and career. For example, someone with ADHD may bring almost all of their attention to one aspect of their job because it interests them, devoting the majority of their time to it and neglecting other vital tasks.  

You might strain relationships

States of hyperfocus can also affect an individual’s relationships. Individuals with ADHD may spend less time with their partner, neglect family members, or fail to nurture friendships due to a lack of attention. As we’ll discuss below, though, there are ways of avoiding these negative effects by harnessing hyperfocus. 

Harnessing hyperfocus for productivity

If you’re living with ADHD, there are ways you can channel your hyperfocus toward tasks that might otherwise be difficult. Harnessing hyperfocus is often a matter of producing the right set of circumstances for it to occur.

This can be done by eliminating distractions, creating a schedule that works for you, and taking frequent breaks. 

One way of helping foster hyperfocus is getting ancillary tasks out of the way so that you can set aside a block of time for sustained concentration. If you have emails to which you need to respond, errands to run, or other tasks that are not relevant to the activity on which you want to focus, it can help to complete those so that they aren’t on your mind as you try to focus. 

Creating an environment that is optimized for productivity and free from distractions can also help you remain focused. Try to gather everything you need for the task at hand and arrange your workspace so that it’s uncluttered and organized. Visual clutter can draw your attention away and make sustained focus less attainable. 

It can also help for you to identify the times that your brain is at its most active and focused. Most people perceive that they’re better able to concentrate at specific times during the day. While science suggests that our brains are most active during certain periods, there is also evidence that you can optimize your schedule by working with your body’s flow regarding productivity. If you know that your brain works best early in the afternoon, for example, try to set aside those hours for sustained focus.  

Working in intervals is also suggested for those looking to harness hyperfocus. If you’re experiencing hyperfocus, it may be tempting to continue with your activity in the same way for as long as possible. But taking regular breaks can help you avoid getting burnt out on one task and allow you to hydrate, have a snack, stretch, or walk around a bit. One popular method of organizing time for people with ADHD is the Pomodoro Technique, which consists of 25-minute work intervals, each of which is followed by a 5-minute break (with a longer break every couple hours as a reward). 

Remember that people with ADHD can become so engrossed in an activity that they lose track of time. So, even if you do not work in intervals, consider setting a timer that will alert you regularly so you can stick to your schedule without the added difficulty of keeping track of time. 

Rewarding yourself once you’ve completed a task can help you build positive associations with productivity. So, once you’re done, eat some chocolate, snuggle with your partner, go to the movies with a family member, or meet a friend for coffee. Because frequent rewards have been shown to mitigate the effects of ADHD, treating yourself in this way can help you develop sustained motivation.   

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
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Online therapy for ADHD

There is a growing body of evidence pointing to the efficacy of online therapy as a treatment option for ADHD and other conditions. In a meta-analysis of studies on the efficacy of online therapy for ADHD, many scientists concluded that online therapy reduced attention deficit in participants across the six included trials, specifically noting that it could be used to “help patients focus on improving their ability” rather than on activities that may be distracting. They also mentioned the convenience and comfort of online therapy as primary advantages of the modality.  

If you’re struggling to focus on certain tasks because of ADHD, or experiencing related mental health challenges, know that help is available. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can address ADHD symptoms remotely, allowing you to control your environment and limit distractions during sessions. You can also reach out to your therapist outside of sessions; if you have a question about hyperfocus or want to clarify a point made during therapy, simply send them a message, and they’ll respond when they’re able. A mental health professional can help you understand and navigate ADHD symptoms so that you’re able to live a productive, fulfilling life. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have sought help in the past. 

Therapist Reviews

“Ms. Norwood was an incredibly empathetic and compassionate counselor and she helped me a great deal. She is very spiritual, wise, and understands a great deal about the human mind and is very good at guiding her clients to understanding themselves better. I’m very happy I got to work with her!”

“From the beginning, I told Heather that more than anything else, I wanted to be heard in counseling — and since that moment, she’s never made me feel anything less than exactly that. I’ve had several negative counseling experiences, but being able to find and connect with Heather has put my faith back into counseling for myself once again. I’m so grateful for her and everything she’s done for me, and I can’t wait to see where I go from here.”


Though it can present challenges in some situations, hyperfocus can also help individuals with ADHD utilize the unique characteristics of the disorder to get more done. By limiting distractions, taking breaks, and creating an optimized schedule, you can harness the benefits of hyperfocus to boost productivity. If you’d like to discuss your experience with ADHD and practice strategies for managing hyperfocus and associated symptoms, consider online therapy. With the right guidance, you can continue walking the path to productivity and mental wellness.

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