Achieving an optimal work-life balance with ADHD

In my previous article, I looked at ‘why it is so important to have a good work-life balance’. In this article, I want to look at the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance for adults with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), particularly for those who are hyperfocused. Hyperfocus is a term used to describe an intense state of concentration or focus on a particular task or activity. I also look at the strategies you might use for improving work-life balance with ADHD.


ADHD can be diagnosed at any stage of life and is characterised by difficulties in attention, hyperactivity, and impulse control. Some individuals develop coping mechanisms or compensatory strategies to manage ADHD symptoms, making it less apparent in childhood but more noticeable if things start to unravel when the demands of a career combine with the demands of home life.

Some of the coping strategies become part of the challenge. For example, many individuals with ADHD may struggle with time management and organisational skills. They use tools to help them cope with their symptoms. However, while these tools are often extremely helpful, they may increase the amount of time needed to complete various tasks. For example, it may take extra time to set up an app or calendar to get and stay organised before completing a particular task.

You then have the dilemma of, do you stay at work to keep on top of work tasks or do you keep to standard hours and potentially become less successful at work.

The work-life balance becomes particularly difficult in adults who become hyperfocused, which can easily occur among individuals with ADHD. It's important to note that while hyperfocus can be a positive and productive state, it can also have drawbacks. The intense focus on a specific task may lead to neglect of other important responsibilities, including self-care and social interactions. Individuals experiencing hyperfocus may struggle to disengage from the task at hand, even when it's necessary.

Here are some ways to spot if an adult with ADHD is hyperfocused:

Intense concentration

During episodes of hyperfocus, individuals with ADHD can exhibit an extraordinary ability to concentrate on a specific task or activity.

Time distortion

Hyperfocus can lead to a distortion of time perception. Individuals may lose track of time and spend extended periods engrossed in the task at hand.

Increased productivity

Despite challenges in maintaining focus in other situations, during hyperfocus individuals with ADHD may demonstrate heightened productivity and efficiency.

Selective attention

Hyperfocus often involves a selective attention to a particular area of interest, allowing individuals to block out distractions and fully engage in the task.

Passion and enthusiasm

When hyperfocused, individuals may display a high level of passion and enthusiasm for the activity, driven by an intense interest or intrinsic motivation.

Difficulty shifting focus

One characteristic of hyperfocus is the difficulty in shifting attention away from the current task. This can lead to neglect of other responsibilities or activities.

Creative flow

Hyperfocus can enhance creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. Ideas may flow more freely, and individuals may experience a heightened sense of creativity.

Understanding hyperfocus in the context of ADHD is crucial for both individuals with ADHD and those around them. Recognising when hyperfocus is occurring and finding a balance between harnessing its positive aspects and managing its potential drawbacks can be beneficial.

If you are, or are living with, an adult with ADHD who becomes hyperfocused you could try these strategies to help ensure it doesn’t become problematic because of the impact on work-life balance:

Set timers

Use timers to designate specific time periods for tasks. When the timer goes off, it serves as a reminder to evaluate progress and transition to other tasks.

Schedule breaks

Intentionally schedule breaks between tasks to allow for mental and physical transitions, this helps prevent prolonged periods of hyperfocus.

Task prioritisation

Prioritise tasks based on importance and deadlines. Ensure that hyperfocus is directed toward high-priority activities.

Create a structured schedule

Develop a structured daily schedule that includes designated time slots for work, breaks, and personal activities. Stick to this schedule as much as possible.

Set clear goals

Define clear and achievable goals for each task. Having a specific endpoint can help signal when it's time to move on to the next activity.

Use visual cues

Utilise visual cues, such as clocks or alarms, to provide clear signals for transitions between tasks.

Practice mindfulness techniques

Incorporate mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or brief meditation, to help bring awareness to the present moment and make it easier to disengage from hyperfocus.

Delegate responsibilities

Delegate tasks to others when possible, especially if hyperfocus is preventing the completion of other important responsibilities.

Task chunking

Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. This can make it easier to transition between tasks and prevent hyperfocus on one aspect.

Use external reminders

Set reminders on your phone or use task management apps to prompt you to switch activities.

Create physical cues

Designate specific physical spaces for different types of tasks, moving to a different area can act as a cue to shift focus.

Establish accountability

Share your schedule or task list with a friend, family member, or colleague who can help remind you to transition when necessary.

Reflect and evaluate

Take regular breaks to reflect on your progress and evaluate whether you need to adjust your focus or switch tasks.

Seek professional support

If hyperfocus is causing significant challenges, consider seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or therapist specialising in ADHD. They can provide personalised strategies and support.

By understanding the unique challenges associated with ADHD and implementing tailored strategies, individuals and those around them can work towards achieving a more balanced and fulfilling life. If you’d like to talk more about this subject, get in touch with me here.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14
Written by Karen Baker, MBACP | Disordered Eating, Bereavement and Loss Counselling
Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14

As a Person-Centered Counselor, I have a lot of experience with working with clients with disordered eating, bereavement, and loss. My aim is to help you navigate through what might be a very difficult and distressing period of your life. You might be feeling stuck and unable to move forward or reac...

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