Why Can’t I Focus When I Know I Should?











When you have ADHD, you know how hard it can be to focus on things that aren’t interesting to you, and how easy it is to get supercharged by things that are. You’ve probably heard this, or something similar, your whole life: “If you can pay so much attention to ___________________, why can’t you ever finish  ___________________?”

It can happen at home or at work. The tasks that are mundane or boring seem almost painful to you, and you have many procrastination and avoidance tactics to get around doing them. You’ll move mountains to get to the interesting stuff, though, and work through the night with laser focus and brilliant productivity. It almost doesn’t make any sense, to others or to you. How can you work so well at that, when you can’t do this?

Your interest level changes the chemistry of your brain

According to Dr. Thomas Brown and the recent studies into the science of ADHD, your interest level actually changes the chemistry of your brain, allowing release of chemicals that enable you to accomplish tasks. Here’s the catch—it’s not within your conscious control.

It all happens on a subconscious level, before you even get a chance to think about it.

So you can’t say, I choose to be interested in this task, therefore I will now release dopamine and/or norepinephrine now so I can accomplish it. Nope. It doesn’t work that way.

In a non-ADHD brain, a chemical is automatically released so messages jump the gap of brain receptors when a task is considered, making it easy to focus. In the ADHD brain, we don’t release and reload those chemicals effectively. Unless we are suddenly really scared—someone holds a gun to our head or we are backed up against a wall—or a task is genuinely interesting to us, the chemicals just don’t get released, making it very difficult to focus. We can’t fool our brains.

How to make it happen for yourself

A preferred method many of us have come to rely on to get that chemical rush, is to wait until the last minute before beginning an uninteresting task—until you are freaked out and something bad will happen if you don’t get it done. This works, but it often leaves you without enough time to do a good job—right? You can come through, but you’re often not very happy with the results. You are probably very familiar with this tactic.

Meds also change the chemistry of the brain, and if you choose to take them, fine-tuning the dosage should help with your gap jumping. This is another method you may use.

But the way we like the best for getting those chemicals jumping gaps at maximum efficiency is to do what you love.

Do what you love to change your brain chemistry

When you own a business, you are at the best possible place to make this happen. You can decide to work with your strengths and get the stuff you’re not good at off your plate. It’s not as easy to do this when you work for someone else.

Try it. Make a list of the things you love to do in your business, and another list of the things you’re not good at and don’t like to do. For a few days, concentrate on doing only the things you love to do, and pay attention to your productivity. Awesome, huh?

And since you own the business, you get to decide how the work gets done, so wouldn’t it make sense to do what you do best, AND what your brain chemicals will help you do?

There’s always a way to delegate, even if you don’t have a staff or tons of cash. Since you’ll be more productive doing what you love, you’ll make more money, too.


  1. Hi Marcia and Jacqui,
    What a fab article! I can totally relate to the leaving it to the last minute strategy! I have done it so much that now I think I am living in the wrong time zone as I stay up til the wee small hours getting things done then I sleep through my alarm and end up getting breakfast at midday after feeding and walking the hounds. Really, for maximum health, I should be taking advantage of as much daylight and sunlight as possible so I know this is not a good way to work. I work better with a partner to keep me on track but for now I am left to my own devices so I might have to set more alarms to give me a nudge :)
    x x x

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