Procrastination is a common experience for most of us; whether it’s binge watching Netflix or scrolling through every social media app on your phone before even considering buckling down to work. This is even more difficult and frequent for individuals diagnosed with ADHD, who struggle to maintain concentration, switch off from distractions, plan ahead and experience hyperactivity and impulsivity. Luckily, there are strategies you can use to improve your concentration and become more in control of hyperactivity. Whether you’re a parent a parent of a child diagnosed with ADHD, or an individual with the diagnosis the following suggestions offer support.
Tip #1: Get organised
Use lists, colours and visuals to organize and prioritize tasks. It is easy to get overwhelmed by a long to-do list. By prioritizing lists and working through these, it is easier to concentrate and make progress. Setting reminders and timers can also be helpful to both motivate and keep you on task. Plan ahead if possible, giving yourself more time than you need, if you know you will get distracted. For example, starting a project long before it is due, so that you have some leeway if you become distracted. Breaking tasks into smaller parts and interspersing these with breaks, particularly movement breaks, will help you to stay attentive and allow you to celebrate small achievements. It can become disheartening when you feel a big task looming ahead of you. Breaking this into small parts to tick off your list is a great way of helping you to feel accomplished. Ensure to minimise external distractions, such as noise and phones.
Tip #2: Exercise
Daily exercise is a great way of releasing energy in a healthy and productive way. By engaging in daily exercise you can release energy, which will make it easier to sit and concentrate later in the day. Exercise can improve your concentration, reduce restlessness and impulsivity and help you to feel relaxed and calm. This will be most effective before sitting down to work, and is not advisable before bedtime.
Tip #3: Developing healthy coping strategies
Mindfulness and yoga can help to improve concentration, while leaving you feel relaxed and calm. You can download apps to guide you through mindfulness exercises of varying lengths. Walking mindfulness rather than sitting mindfulness may be more beneficial for those who find it hard to sit still. This is a great way of gradually increasing your concentration, by working from 5-minute exercises, to 20-minute exercises. Mindfulness can help you to notice when you are becoming distracted so you can intervene to take a break or minimize distractions where possible. Talk to your loved ones and seek support when you need it. Being open and honest with loved ones can help prevent you from becoming overloaded and burn out.
Tip #4: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is an evidence-based intervention for ADHD that can help you to identify faulty thinking patterns around procrastination. By monitoring and recording your negative automatic thoughts, you can draw links regarding beliefs that are causing frustration, self-doubt and failure. This leaves room to do some cognitive restructuring to create more helpful, positive and accurate thoughts and beliefs about your abilities. CBT can also help you to identify time-wasting traps, such as attention switching, delay aversion, procrastination and false busy-ness. Once you have targeted these, becoming more productive and task focused will be much easier.
Tip #5: Reward systems
If you are a parent with a child diagnosed with ADHD, it may be helpful to consider implementing reward strategies. This is an evidence-based intervention for supporting children to complete tasks and maintain concentration. The specific reward system will depend on each child. However, it is important to choose a reward that will be special and effective for each child. For example, it might be a pack of pokemon stickers for completing 20 sums; or for a child who finds it difficult to sit still, it might be a 15-minute soccer game after sitting at the table doing homework for 45 minutes. The most important thing is to make a realistic goal. This can then be gradually increased as s/he builds confidence in their abilities.
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