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Focus on Focus

Did you know focus requires focus? Yes, it sounds a touch nonsensical, but when you're living with ADHD, the act of focusing has a tendency to become unhinged. And unhinged focus can damage what you're otherwise out to find: productivity.

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Did you know focus requires focus? Yes, it sounds a touch nonsensical, but when you’re living with ADHD, the act of focusing has a tendency to become unhinged. And unhinged focus can damage what you’re otherwise out to find: productivity.

This week on the show we’re talking all about focus, the state of mind appropriate for best focus, and how you can take care of your mind and body so that when you need to find focus, it’s there.

Links & Notes


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello everybody. And welcome to Taking Control, the ADHD podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete Wright:
Oh, Nikki Kinzer, let’s look at your shoulder.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, geez.

Pete Wright:
We’re on the live stream. Go ahead.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. Isn’t that awful?

Pete Wright:
Nikki got blasted by Mr. Sun.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know.

Pete Wright:
You poor thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
I am a poster child of what not to do.

Pete Wright:
You started this, and you said, “I may look like I’m blushing.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
And you didn’t at the time, but now it’s all I see. You got destroyed. You poor thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
I didn’t even think about it. I was out in the sun. I was helping my husband with some photographs and we were out there all morning and I got my water, I remembered my water.

Pete Wright:
Good.

Nikki Kinzer:
But I forgot snacks. And I obviously forgot suntan lotion. So I’m feeling it and I’m never doing that again.

Pete Wright:
You poor thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Poor, poor thing. I’m so sorry.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you. I’m sorry too because I was stupid.

Pete Wright:
Well, once in a while, it’s okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Your skin is resilient and your skin is young and healthy and you’re going to be great.

Nikki Kinzer:
I hope so.

Pete Wright:
You’re going to be great.

Nikki Kinzer:
I hope so.

Pete Wright:
We are talking about focus today and it makes me think of the one good line, that’s not entirely true, from the Jackie Chan remake of the Karate Kid. Do you know that line?

Nikki Kinzer:
Wash out, wash in?

Pete Wright:
Nope. I knew you were going there. Wash out, wash in? Who washes in?

Nikki Kinzer:
What is it?

Pete Wright:
Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wax on, wax off. Yes.

Pete Wright:
Wash in?

Nikki Kinzer:
I just remember Ralph Macchio, who I had a huge crush on, “why am I doing this?”

Pete Wright:
Yeah, yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
He was so mad.

Pete Wright:
Jacket off, jacket on. Yeah, no, if you want to hear the best line related to ADHD from the remake Jackie Chan’s Karate Kid, which was actually about Kung Fu, you’re going to have to hang on, but for right now, you can head over to Take Control, adhd.com. And you can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released.

Pete Wright:
And if this show has ever touched you at all, and you want to give back, pay it forward, pay it back, head over to patreon.com/theADHDpodcast. That’s where you go for that and then you can join the community. The community is amazing. The community is full of people, just like you, who are living with ADHD, and they are doing their best to share tools and strategies and help make each other better through their lives with ADHD and thankfully blessedly to us, it is all around this show. This community has been life-changing. And if you want to join again, patreon.com/theADHDpodcast. Nikki, that line from The Karate Kid, which should be called a Kung Fu story is …

Speaker 4:
Connect to the energy around you.

Speaker 3:
I just want to learn the cobra thing.

Speaker 4:
Cobra takes a lifetime. Requires great focus.

Speaker 3:
I have great focus. Mr Han?

Speaker 4:
Your focus needs more focus.

Speaker 3:
Mr Han?

Pete Wright:
Your focus needs more focus.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh yes.

Pete Wright:
That is a branded motto around my house and has been since we saw that movie, it’s like the only takeaway we got from that movie, but we say it to each other all the time.

Pete Wright:
Your focus needs more focus today.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s fantastic.

Pete Wright:
It’s so good.

Nikki Kinzer:
It is really good.

Pete Wright:
It’s so good.

Nikki Kinzer:
And it’s so good with what we’re going to talk about today.

Pete Wright:
The real news, the first news that we have to get out of the way is the GPS workshop.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. There’s actually two things I want to talk about because you were talking about Patreon and it is a wonderful community. And our Patreon mom, who’s our podcast assistant, Melissa and I got together last week and we are putting together a four week clear the clutter for summer challenge.

Pete Wright:
Fancy that.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know. So if you’re a deluxe, you have to be either a deluxe or supreme member, and we are going to set up a four week challenge, and there’s going to be three days out of the week where we’re going to have study halls, but for organizing. That’s fun, right?

Pete Wright:
Fun.

Nikki Kinzer:
And then we’re going to open up the channels for people to update and tell us what they’re doing and post pictures and stuff like that. So for all of the Patreon listeners that are out there, that is coming, and if you’re not part of Patreon and you’re looking to clear the clutter for summer, you might want to think about joining.

Pete Wright:
I love it. I love it. That is such a wonderful and practical way to move some things forward in and around your place.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, for sure. Yes. Yes.

Pete Wright:
That’s really great. That’s really great.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay.

Pete Wright:
All right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So second announcement, GPS workshop, guided planning sessions. They are going to start June 7th. So, that’s the next set of workshops. This is going to be for six weeks. The deadline to enroll is Wednesday, June 2nd. You can find everything that you need to know about GPS on my website. And of course, if you have any questions, you can always email us and we’ll answer them.

Pete Wright:
Excellent. And I believe that is it for old business and new business?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, it is.

Pete Wright:
All right. Bang the gavel. It’s time to talk about focus.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, my first question is going to be, did you know that you have to focus on focusing, Pete, right? And you already know that because you’re saying your focus needs more focusing.

Pete Wright:
My focus needs more focus. I don’t know if you know, we learned that from the Karate Kid with Jackie Chan and Jayden Smith.

Nikki Kinzer:
Smith. Yeah. That’s right. Okay. So I have another fun fact.

Pete Wright:
Excellent.

Nikki Kinzer:
Focus is also like meditation.

Pete Wright:
Okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
But we’re going to talk about that in a minute.

Pete Wright:
Outstanding.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. So, okay. So it’s a given with ADHD that you are going to have some trouble with attention and focus. We know that, right? It’s in the name, attention.

Pete Wright:
It is. It’s written on the ten.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s in the name, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So we know that attention has something to do with ADHD, but we also know that ADHDers can focus really well on the things that they enjoy. And there’s a name for that too. Any guess?

Pete Wright:
Well, is it a hyper-focus?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
I live that sometimes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. So you’re focused on one activity and the world shuts down around you. So here we are on two spectrums, right? We have no focus and then hyper-focus, and time can go by really fast or it can go by really slow, because we also know ADHD time is messy and complicated.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So where does that leave us? What does that mean? How do you get in the middle? So I have a few things I want to talk about. When you go into an activity that requires focus, exactly what Pete was saying, you need to pay attention on how we plan on doing that. We need to really work on our focusing to focus, and it starts with your own wellbeing. And this is something we have control over. And I think it’s often overlooked that if you’re getting the right amount of sleep, you’re eating well, and you’re exercising, your focus is going to be better that day.

Nikki Kinzer:
If you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, you ate fast food all day long, and you didn’t get any exercise, your ADHD and your focus is going to be really messy and loud, right?

Pete Wright:
Right, right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So if you’re having a hard time focusing on something, look at those things. Do you need to get out and do some exercise? That can be something you can do immediately. But I also want people to really think about their sleep habits too, because that’s a really essential piece to focus. Question?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, it’s really hard because what I hear most often and I do this myself, is when I’m feeling stressed and strained and maybe overcome by all of the things you just listed. What I’m saying out loud is, “Oh, I just need to focus. I just need to focus. If I could just sit down and focus.” And I’ve been thinking a lot about this after our conversation with Will Henshaw last week, do you remember what he said specifically around going into a productivity session, like a work session?

Nikki Kinzer:
I don’t remember.

Pete Wright:
He said, “Make sure,” it’s about the music, so he was talking about when you start your attentive music. “Don’t start the music until you’re ready to start the work. Until you have everything ready.” Remember? And that really stuck with me because it gets to the challenge of just saying this undirected, unhinged, “I have to focus,” and gets to the intentionality behind focus behind saying, “Right now I need to settle in and tune my brain toward this one next thing.” And that’s what I have to focus on.

Pete Wright:
Not just I have to focus, but I have to focus on this thing. I have to make sure that everything I need to do to be able to focus is done. And that might be, I need to have had some protein just recently. Right? I need to recognize that I’ve only had five cups of coffee and three bowls of cereal all day and I’m going to suffer if I don’t go eat some carrots or something, right? I need to have my body balanced in order to focus on this thing. Focus needs to be targeted and your body has to be ready.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and I think what you’re saying too, “Oh, I’m going to focus.” And you’re really trying to force that, really makes it difficult. It really makes it even harder. So I think it is looking at, “Okay, I’m having a hard time focusing right now. What can I do? What do I need to do to help that?” Because you can’t force yourself into it. You don’t just all of a sudden, it’s like when people say, “How will I be motivated to do this work I don’t like to do?” Well, you’re never going to be motivated to do it, but you are going to have to find some way to get started on it. And it’s like with the focus, some things with hyper-focus, you’re not going to have any issue if you’re engaged and you have something that you really want to do.

Nikki Kinzer:
So, yeah, I think it’s definitely taking a step back and looking at what’s going on here, that I possibly could change, my environment or whatever it is. I think identifying the tasks that you are more easily distracted can be really helpful and figure out what those distractions are and how can you eliminate them? And we’ve talked about this before with the music episode, and we’ve also talked about this with background music or a background noise. Some people do really well in a coffee shop because they like to have that background noise. It helps them focus. Somebody was telling me the other day that they focus better when they have a TV on in the background.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
And they were saying that they’ll just watch the same movie over and over and over again. So they’re not wondering what’s going to happen. They already know it’s going to happen, but it’s company for them.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. That’s my buddy. For me, it’s Ronan. I love that movie so much. That’s still in my rotation.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. So that can be something that you can practice learning about yourself, right? Where do I focus best and what kinds of things do I need around me? And I’ll tell you the number one distraction that I get from everybody almost 99% is this phone.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, it’s rough.

Nikki Kinzer:
This phone is such a distraction for people. And if you need to go into deep focus on something, you got to get rid of the phone. Now I don’t mean toss it into the water or break it, but you got to turn it off. And you got to put it somewhere where you’re not seeing the notifications or you’re not tempted. And you can do this in small pieces of time. I understand that you may be looking at the phone as an emergency, if somebody needs to get ahold of you, but the chances of that is really slim. And we don’t want to use that as an excuse to say, “Oh, I need my phone with me all the time.”

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So even if you’re only doing it for 20 minutes or twenty-five minutes, you’re probably going to be okay, and that will get you at least away from that distraction. So it’s something again that you really have to think about and work on.

Pete Wright:
I would add to that the distractions that live on the computer itself. Once you get rid of the phone, the computer is still buzzing. You’re still getting email. You’re still getting notifications. And I think having a handle on a tool or a suite of tools that help you turn off those distractions and remind you that you’re in a focus session, because for so many of us being in a focus session means being on the computer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, for sure.

Pete Wright:
How many of us go into focus work and sit down with a note pad? I wish I could do that, but every bit of my work, whether it’s design or edit or whatever it is, exists on this device. So I would throw in a tool like Serene or a tool like Freedom, right? These are apps that you can install that will block windows for a certain period of time or block entire apps from you being allowed to open them.

Pete Wright:
Or you try to go to Twitter and it says, “Hey, this is blocked for another 29 minutes.” You should get back to work, right? Those kinds of apps beyond just turning off notifications, which you can do fairly easily. I think for me, provide that out of mind reminder that I agreed with myself to be in a focus session right now, I made an agreement and I’m going to live up to that. And sometimes I need somebody to push me back into it. Sometimes that’s an app like Serene.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and it’s a strategy, right? It’s a strategy that you’re using to help you with focus. And that’s the other thing that I would just encourage people to do is practice what you already know. We talk about strategies on how to focus in a lot of our episodes. I know a lot of other podcasts do. I know there’s tons of books out there where you can get different recommendations on how to focus and choose one. Choose one that you think might work or that you’re interested in, or that you are interested in trying and play around with it. If you’ve never had a fidget toy before …

Pete Wright:
Definitely try a fidget. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Get a fidget toy. If you’ve never have actually stopped your work and go walk outside, try it and just see if it makes a difference. So much of the stuff we already know, we just have to practice it.

Pete Wright:
Absolutely.

Nikki Kinzer:
So why is focus like meditation? Couple things. When we are taught to focus on our breath, when we’re learning how to meditate. One of the things that they’ll say is when you meditate, a thought is going to come into your mind. Lots of thoughts are going to come into your mind and that’s okay. You don’t want to just push them away or pretend like they’re not there. You want to see the thought, acknowledge it, and then place no judgment on it. And you just let it flow by and you focus on whatever it is you’re focusing again on, whether that’s your breath or a mantra or whatever. So you see it, you hear it, you think it, “Okay. I see you. You keep going. I’m going to go back to my breath.” Well, that’s the same thing with focus. So say that you’re working in the middle of the day and all of a sudden you realize that you’re not working on what matters. How many people do that?

Pete Wright:
That doesn’t take long. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. So you’re working on something and you’re like, “This isn’t even on my list, but here I am working on it.”

Pete Wright:
And it’s suddenly the most important thing I could possibly be doing right now. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. So think about having some reminder or something that pokes you and says, “What are you doing right now? Is it what you need to be doing?” And if it’s not, don’t pass judgment on it, just, “Okay, I’m going to put this aside for right now. And I’m going to go back to what is most important.” And you’re doing that without judgment. So it’s the same process. You’re acknowledging that you went somewhere that you didn’t want to go. And now you’re going back and you are heading back, what do I want to say? You’re focusing back on where you want to be.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. I think that’s, to me, that is really challenging and I’m sure there are people out there like me where the reason I have my focus as tuned into something else is because the thing that I agreed with myself I need to do, I don’t want to.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, of course.

Pete Wright:
I don’t want to do that thing. That’s too hard for me right now. And so, I think the act of tuning back in to the thing that you really agreed with yourself that you’re going to do, let’s all just take a minute and acknowledge that part sucks. It’s hard, it’s hard. And there are things that require just the brute force treatment, right? At some point you just say, “You’ve got to keep trying until you get through it, the hard thing.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and it’s another issue that you could practice another strategy because you’re avoiding something. You’re avoiding something you don’t want to do. So how do I get started on something I don’t want to do? And sometimes it means doing it with someone else. Sit with me while I’m doing this so I can get this done.

Pete Wright:
But I do think this is so important, what you’re saying right now, because you’re being gentle. You’re being kind to yourself about a different thing, right? Just because you can’t keep your focus on this thing doesn’t mean you can’t do it. So you just tune your focus in and know that that’s a separate issue, practicing tuning your focus on the thing that you need to do is different than avoidance. And I think it helps to batch those emotionally and say, “I know I need to tackle this hard thing. I know I do. And I have to try a different strategy because focus is okay. I’m doing okay on that.”

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s a really good distinction. That’s important that we say that because there are two different issues and there’s two different ways to approach them.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
And they both can be done. Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, absolutely.

Nikki Kinzer:
So, yeah, I like that. I’m glad you brought that up. So to close, I just want to say that, we know that ADHD, you’re going to get distracted. It’s not an excuse to not get your work done, but it is certainly an explanation of why it might be taking you longer than what you expect and working with your ADHD means that you’re accepting that this is part of it and it doesn’t make you a bad person. So you shouldn’t be beating yourself up saying, “Man, I can never focus, or I can’t ever get this done.” Because it is part of your ADHD, just as we said, it’s hard to do. It’s uncomfortable to do, but I want to encourage people to keep practicing and add buffer time, add buffer time to your schedule, because what that’s doing is it’s allowing for those distractions to happen. And it’s so much better, I believe, to embrace them than to fight against them all the time.

Pete Wright:
Buffer time is a life saver. Life saver.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yep. I agree.

Pete Wright:
Thank you everybody for hanging out with this, a meditation on focus with Nikki and Pete.

Nikki Kinzer:
You need to focus on your focus.

Pete Wright:
That’s right. Focus on focus. We sure appreciate you downloading listening to this show. Share your tips and tricks. Head over to the show talk channel in our discord server. You can join us over there and become a supporting member at the deluxe level to get access to that very channel in discord. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you right back here next time.

Nikki Kinzer:
Public announcement.

Pete Wright:
What? Oh, we have, what? This is an emergency.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wear suntan lotion. Wear suntan lotion if you going out in the sun, lather up and protect your skin.

Pete Wright:
Yes.

Nikki Kinzer:
There you go.

Pete Wright:
Well done. Thank you for taking care of your most important organ, your skin. Thanks for your time and attention too. Again, we’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control, the ADHD podcast.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.