How to Harness your Hyperfocus

Hyperfocus is one of those terms that we may see as one of our ADHD superpowers. In a session with a client of mine, we discussed the role that hyperfocus plays in her life and our conversation inspired me to write this post (I have her permission to share our discoveries). Let’s pretend her name is Isabella. The session Isabella & I had opened up a whole new door into the realm of hyperfocus!

“We discovered that hyperfocus has an on & off switch which we can toggle by adding or removing friction and giving ourselves some perspective.”

Additionally, there are some key components that we uncovered that need to be considered when reaching for that hyperfocus switch! Isabella is learning how to harness her hyperfocus and you can too!

Read the rest of my article, “How to Harness your Hyperfocus”, on Planet Neurodivergent .

Mourning the loss of MY TIME

I can’t count the times that I have been super excited because I foresee a block of time which I consider “my time”. This is time where nobody is in the house, I have nowhere to be and I have no commitments. These are the chunks of time that I usually tell myself “I’m going to spend the evening getting sh!t done…”

A chunk of time is like a gift that gets snatched away from me. Or better yet – a gift that I launch into the stratosphere.

Let me explain…

I’ve been away from home for the past few days and I have had a monster list of “want to do’s” running through my head. Now that I am home, I CAN DO THE THINGS!

You would think.. but I have sat on the couch and watched TV. I’m trying my best to be kind to myself but I can’t help but think of all the projects that I wish I could have completed that I thought up months, if not years ago. I have so, so many ideas that are up in Neverland.

Here’s what I realized happens…

I think to myself YES! I have time to do things! Then I start to think of all the things that I want to do. Then my super fast ADHD brain goes “I can do A and I can do B and I can do C and I can do D, oh, oh, oh, I can do E! I have been meaning to do E for a LONG time!! I could also do F and probably G. It would be really nice if I could complete G” …and enter OVERWHELM. So then I don’t do anything and I sit on the couch and turn off my brain (but not really).

Fear not… I HAVE A SOLUTION!

Here is what I did for myself at work that I’m going to start to experiment with for myself on a personal level.

The other day I was overwhelmed and I didn’t seem to be doing anything; it was like I was spinning in circles. Then my friend suggested I sit down and write all of the projects that I am trying to do on a paper. Essentially a brain dump. There were SIXTEEN projects. And by project I don’t mean “call grandma”. These were projects like “make a website” or “network”. These all have MANY action steps.

Once I got all the projects down on paper I decided to make one sheet of looseleaf paper per project (don’t worry I put them all on a clipboard labeled “projects” so as not to lose them). Then I was like “hey! I can coach myself through these”!! So here’s what I did:

Step 1: Write the name of the project at the top of the looseleaf.
Step 2: Write the reason why I want to do this project.
Step 3: Write the outcome that I am looking for from my project.
Step 4: Write down how I know that I will be successful in reaching that outcome.
Step 5: Write down all of the action steps that it will take to reach that outcome.

This way I have a roadmap for each project! When I get lost or down on myself about the project I can look back to my handy dandy project sheet and figure out:
a) Why I want to do the project in the first place (what’s my motivation).
b) What my next action step is!

Also, it’s worth mentioning that my energy at the end of the day is less than optimal for working on projects. Working on projects is more of a roll out of bed and start when my energy tank is full and my mind is less cluttered.

I challenge you: How many projects do you have on the go?!
Remember: the more projects you try and complete at once, the harder it will be to complete any of them; there is no such thing as multitasking!!

I’m breaking up with my phone! — Day Five.

Screen Time: 2h19min
Pickups: 48

(I am not improving lol. The elastic that I had on my phone fell off)

DAY FIVE (FRIDAY) –> DELETE SOCIAL MEDIA APPS

Here is a summary because day five is a big one!

  • WWW: What for, why now, what else?
    • What are you picking up for phone to do?
    • Why are you picking up your phone now instead of later
    • What else could you do right now besides pick up your phone?
  • Delete the social media apps (I can’t because of my business BUT I did put them all in a folder that says “WORK ONLY”
  • Don’t be strict with yourself and say for example “I have to go to the gym five days a week”. Instead reframe it and say “I go to the gym give days a week”. Notice the difference?

How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price


I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day One.

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day Two.

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day Three.

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day Four.

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day Four.

Screen Time: 2h 6min
Pickups: 56

DAY FOUR (THURSDAY) –> TAKE STOCK AND TAKE ACTION

By now, we’ve tracked our phone usage for a few days. Now that we’ve gathered this data, let’s analyze it.

  1. Look at the results from the tracking app that you installed
    The tracking data may not be entirely accurate, but that’s okay — we’re just trying to get a general sense of how our guesses match up to reality.

    How many times per day did you pick up your phone, and how much time did you spend on it?  How does this compare to your guessses? What, if anything surprised you?

  2.  Notice what you’ve noticed
    Next, think about what you’ve noticed over the past twenty-four hours about when and why you typically use your phone.

    • What did you notice about how – and how often – your phone interrupts you, or does something that grabs your attention?
    • How did these interruptions make you feel?
    • What did you notice about how you felt physically and emotionally before, during, and after you used your phone, and during times when you were separated from it? For example, did you feel relaxed, tense, excited, anxious, or some other emotion?
    • What did you pick up on about how your phone affects your levels of dopamine and cortisol?
    • What did you notice about the moments when you felt you were in a state of “flow” (that is, some combination of engaged, energized, joyful, effective, and purposeful)?
      • What were you doing?
      • Whom were you with?
      • Was your phone involved?
    • How did you feel when you saw other people on their phones?
    • Putting this all together, what patterns did you notice?
    • What, if anything, surprised you?

How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price

Here are my answers:

  1. Look at the results from the tracking app that you installed
    How many times per day did you pick up your phone, and how much time did you spend on it?  How does this compare to your guesses? What, if anything surprised you?

    –> The amount of “pickups” that I do astounds me. WHAT A WASTE. It’s the fact that my phone is grabbing my attention and distracting me ~56 times a day.

  2.  Notice what you’ve noticed
    Next, think about what you’ve noticed over the past twenty-four hours about when and why you typically use your phone.

    • What did you notice about how – and how often – your phone interrupts you, or does something that grabs your attention?
      –> I noticed that it is a huge time waster! I just set a timer to write this blog post for 40 min. I now have 15 minutes left and I did at least 3 “pick ups” because my computer notified me that someone txted me. (I have since turned it off but holy frustrating!!)
    • How did these interruptions make you feel?
      –> 
      Extremely frustrated… no wonder why I feel like I’m on a constant ferris wheel and don’t get anything done!
    • What did you notice about how you felt physically and emotionally before, during, and after you used your phone, and during times when you were separated from it? For example, did you feel relaxed, tense, excited, anxious, or some other emotion?
      –>
      I am constantly feeling irritated. The only time that I do not feel irritated is when I decide that I’m going to sit down and respond to text messages and have a nice conversation with someone. Otherwise, I just feel like I am constantly being interrupted and am unable to get anything done. There is also this ginormous feeling at the back of my mind that I need to answer my phone and check if I have some sort of notification. I cannot wait to get rid of that feeling!!!
    • What did you pick up on about how your phone affects your levels of dopamine and cortisol?
      I am pretty sure that when I am picking up my phone it is because my cortisol is spiking and I’m searching for that dopamine “hit”. Most of the time I will not get that dopamine that I am looking for and my cortisol will spike even more. This is the constant ferris wheel that I am on. PLUS add to the ferris wheel that I need to return to what I was doing previously before I was interrupted. Talk about disruptive, especially for someone with ADHD.
    • What did you notice about the moments when you felt you were in a state of “flow” (that is, some combination of engaged, energized, joyful, effective, and purposeful)?
      • What were you doing?
        I was reading, on a call with a client or doing some creative thinking. Also, I was having in-person conversations with people that I really enjoy their company.
      • Whom were you with?
        I was with friends, family or on a date.
      • Was your phone involved?
        Nope! Only to show someone a picture or to looking up something on a menu.
    • How did you feel when you saw other people on their phones?
      I don’t think that it really bothers me. It is what people do nowadays… The only reason why it would bother me is if I am trying to have a conversation with someone and they are on their phone.
    • Putting this all together, what patterns did you notice?
      I notice that I don’t even really like having my phone beside me. I would like to change the story that I have been telling myself that “someone needs me, someone has messaged me and that I need to constantly check my phone for my business.” All are false. I also get this ginormous feeling like I am forgetting something. My phone ends up being my security blanket that will let me know if I have forgotten something. I think I would also like to squash the bug that is buzzing around my head saying that I have forgotten something.

    • What, if anything, surprised you?
      What surprised me… I think it was how often I feel like I need to pick up my phone. It’s just so silly and comical. I actually laugh to myself when I realize that I have picked my phone up out of habit. Time to break the habit!!

P.s. I totally forgot to put the elastic band on my phone so I have ACTUALLY just put it on now and I’m thinking it will do the trick to get rid of these unnecessary phone pick ups! I will also be hiding it away in a drawer (out of sight, out of mind.. I hope!)


I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day One.

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day Two.

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day Three.

I don’t fit in the box

It has been exactly one year since I wrote the journal entry below.  My ADHD diagnosis has been so life-changing for me. With my diagnosis I was able to start to understand who I am and what I need. It’s really quite amazing and emotional for me to read this journal entry because I was at the worst point in my life. I was so low, lost and lonely. I was looking to others for answers and direction. The thing that ended up being my light at the end of the tunnel was when I started to look internally for my direction and answers. I started to be true to myself and started to learn to ask myself “what does Alyssa need? What does Alyssa want?”

Monday October 23rd, 2017

I have so much on my mind, it’s crazy!

Last Wednesday I stumbled across a TED Talks video and it was all about ADHD. The different types and how most girls aren’t actually diagnosed because they don’t have your “typical” ADHD.

I am such an emotional mess since watching this video. This can explain everything. I have always felt like I don’t belong, like my thoughts and my feelings and my actions are too big for people and I always have to watch what I do and what I say.

I am at a point now where I can’t put on a brave face anymore and just go along with everything. Imagine if I could go to school. Imagine if I could start something and actually finish it. But most of all; imagine if [a certain person] could just accept things for the way that I want to do them. The best way to describe it is that I live and strive best outside of the box and society/[certain person] and whatever/whoever else wants me to be inside the box. And I can’t. I really, really can’t. Because now the box is closed and there’s no air holes and I really can’t breathe anymore. Doing anything and everything is overwhelming and hard.

stuck in the box I don’t want to do anything anymore. If I am being completely honest with myself every time I go to the grocery store there’s too many ppl, there’s too many choices, price tags, the lights are too bright and I get super dizzy, emotional and anxious. I avoid going to the store as much as I can. I love having new clothes but going to the store and picking them out, trying them on… too overwhelming.

I have always wanted to make my way through a cookbook. Could never actually do it. I don’t get why! If I do have an ADHD Brain then it would make a lot of sense.

I can’t cook in a kitchen with someone else because I am always making sure that I am not in their way or doing something wrong.

I keep thinking to myself that I’m going to take off the ADHD mask and just do and say what I feel. It’s so scary though because who am I? Who does that make me? Will people like me? Will I just become brutally honest? Will I be like [person]? I really don’t want to be annoying. Would I prefer that or who I am now? I do not know.

One week, 7 days from now, I will be going to see Patty. Hopefully she can give me some advice/shed some light and maybe then I can start to feel better.

I’m so lonely. And my tongue is almost permanently numb.

Right now I can’t even handle an 8 hour work day for my dad. I’m sick of telling him that I’ll come in to work the next day and then not being able to go. Same thing with friends. I hate making plans and then cancelling or bailing because I just can’t.

It is really quite remarkable how much has changed for me since I started to accept who I am. By accepting who I am, what I need and what I want, people and jobs have just started to fall into my lap. That’s not to say I didn’t do the work; I made myself vulnerable and I put myself out there. The good people, the people I have recently been surrounding myself with, really appreciate that. Have you ever heard that you attract the energy that you put out? What about that you teach others how to treat you?

I’ll end this here because I can go on and on and on about my personal transformation.

I’ll leave you with this question: Can you relate to anything in my journal entry?


Time Tracker Worksheet
Body and mind — out of sync!
Stress & Anxiety
Why do we take something simple and make it more complicated?
Our second brain!
Fish out of water
Discomfort and most of all, FRUSTRATION!
Meditation – Natural breathing
Productive vs. Unproductive Worry
Eliminate the “why”
Emotional Hijacking
Top 3 reasons you should focus on your strengths
Gluten Sensitivity & Anxiety

 

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day Two.

Here are yesterday’s stats:

Screen Time: 3h 14min
Pickups: 52

So, I am finding that I don’t care so much about the screen time. That said, 52 pick ups is A LOT!! For me, I’m reading that as if I was distracted from what I was doing a whopping total of 52 times.

Day Two (Tuesday) –> Assess Your Current Relationship

Now that you’ve got a tracking app up and running in the background, pull out a notebook or create a new e-mail message to yourself (or just get a pen and write in the margins – I won’t be offended) and write a few sentences in response to the following questions

  • What do you love about your phone?
  • What don’t you love about your phone?
  • What changes do you notice in yourself – positive or negative – when you spend a lot of time on your phone? (Depending on how old you are, you can also ask yourself if you’ve noticed any changes since you got a smartphone to begin with)

Next, imagine yourself a month from now, at the end of your breakup:

  • What would you like your new relationship with your phone to look like?
  • What would you like to have done or accomplished with your extra time?
  • What would you like someone to say if you asked them to describe how you’d changed?

Write your future self a brief note or e-mail describing what success would look like, and/or congratulating yourself for achieving it.

-Catherine Price

Let the assessing begin: 

  • What do you love about your phone?

I love that my phone can take pictures. Pictures are such a valuable reminder to me of events that are important to me. Especially with my ADHD, moments and things that are special to me can be easily forgotten. Pictures are such a simple and effective reminder of how important that time was to me.

I love that my phone can keep me connected. This can be my friends, my family, my classmates new and old.

I love that my phone is my “backup” when I get lost. I love to explore, try new things and I feel so much more secure knowing that I have my phone. If I do get the feeling that I can get lost then I have the security of telling myself that I can just google maps or waze my way out of the situation.

I love that my phone is my notepad that does not get lost. Who am I kidding… I misplace my phone at least once on a daily basis. What I mean, is that my phone is the notepad that constantly follows me around and I do not need to try and find where I left my pen!

I love that my phone tracks my period. I am absolutely terrible at remembering dates and this is often a question that the doctor asks. With my handy period tracker, I do not have to worry! I can also track my mood, pains and “intimacy”. It’s interesting when you can look back and see correlations with the time of the month and when bloating, pains, etc. start!

I love that my phone has my daily calm app! Daily meditation helps me soooo much! It’s so awesome to start my day off grounded.

I love that my phone has all of my music. I also recently got apple music and being able to instantly download a song that I have just shazamed is a pretty big deal! Instant gratification, yo!

  • What don’t you love about your phone?

Soooo, after writing all that, it’s scary to me how much I love about my phone.

I don’t love that I feel like my phone is dictating my life. I feel like I start something, get a little bit bored and then pick up my phone to check if someone has text messaged me, e-mailed me, instant messaged me, sent me a message through Instagram. The funniest part is that when I do pick up my phone and see that someone has somehow gotten into contact with me I feel annoyed. I get this little twinge of annoyance because I have just interrupted my time, doing whatever it was that I was doing. Talk about addiction.  

This seems like one little tiny thing that I don’t love but it is a HUGE thing and it is much more important than the long list of things that I love.

p.s. I also do not like that all these social media apps and our phones are listening to us and tracking us. That is a whole other conversation but it does play a role in what I do not love about my phone.

  • What changes do you notice in yourself – positive or negative – when you spend a lot of time on your phone? (Depending on how old you are, you can also ask yourself if you’ve noticed any changes since you got a smartphone to begin with)

I’m changing this question a bit — what positive changes do you see when you spend less time on your phone?

I notice a lot of positive changes. My mind feels SO MUCH LESS cluttered. Last Sunday I turned off my phone for 8 hours and I read a book (this book actually). My mind felt so awake and clear. It was really amazing and a huge inspiration to truly break up with my phone!!

This makes me a bit emotional, but another positive change would be to actually enjoy life. It sounds silly and like a huge exaggeration but I lost 3 hours of “life” yesterday because I was checking my social media to see what was going on. I feel like phones are now becoming “life” and this is a huge mistake. I wish I used those 3 hours yesterday to go for a walk, spend some time with people I love, etc. I won’t get that time back but I CAN change what I do with my time in the future. What happened to just being and living?!

Next, imagine yourself a month from now, at the end of your breakup:

  • What would you like your new relationship with your phone to look like? 

I would like my new relationship with my phone to be purely scheduled; I look at my phone in the morning at 9am to respond to e-mails, messages, etc. I look at my phone at lunch to answer txt messages. I look at my phone at 5pm to answer e-mails, messages and that sort of thing again. Then donezo for checking messages. If someone wants to get in touch with me for a long convo, they can give me a call and I’ll call them back.

That said, there are exceptions to this rule like listening to music (I’m going to take out my old phone for this and use it as in ipod), adding to my lists, tracking my moods/period, taking pictures and my daily meditation. I feel like these things can easily get out of hand so I’ll have to be mindful about this!

  • What would you like to have done or accomplished with your extra time? 

I would love to just “be”. Why does my mind have to be constantly stimulated? I am such a creative person and I have been feeling like my mind is SO CLUTTERED by a constant loop of “I need to check that”. First of all, I am telling myself that I need to do something (a big no-no for me) and second of all, I don’t need to constantly be on top of my e-mails, messages, etc. People can wait! It’s interesting because in this book Price talks about how we are so addicted to the checking. We don’t know if someone has messaged us, commented, etc. so we feel the need to check. THAT is where my addiction lies.

To better answer the question, I am just going to be Alyssa. My phone really equals answering to other people. Without my phone, I feel like my time will really be my time.

  • What would you like someone to say if you asked them to describe how you’d changed?

I would like someone to say that I look and seem less anxious and stressed. I feel like a jitter bug that is never caught up and always missing/forgetting something. I am also hoping that people will say that I am less distracted, more in the moment and less forgetful!

Write your future self a brief note or e-mail describing what success would look like, and/or congratulating yourself for achieving it. 

Dear the Alyssa of November 23rd, 2018,

I am so happy and excited for you! Breaking up with your phone is such a huge accomplishment! ESPECIALLY when you take into account the society that we live in. You have turned off the huge feeling and reoccurring story that you are missing out and that someone needs you. You are now living and doing activities that are important to you. You are now cooking more and enjoying doing what you love. Your phone was a toxic, demanding relationship that was dragging you down. You now have a new-found positive relationship (his name is Stevie btw). Stevie is super understanding and does not pressure you to spend more time with him than you want. He understands that you need to live your life and that is actually something that he wants for you! He is just there for you to help you track what you may forget and to enjoy things like daily calm and listening to music. He is so supportive and it is really refreshing!


I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day One.

I’m breaking up with my phone! – Day One.

I really cannot believe how much my phone rules my life and I cannot stand it!

“What if someone has texted me and I’m not responding”

“What if someone needs me”

“What if I have a new potential client who has sent me a message”

This doesn’t mention the whirlwind of emotions that interrupt what I was doing before I checked my messages, Facebook, e-mail, Instagram, etc.

What does it change if I answer people the moment that they message me? I feel like I go about my day unconsciously jumping from “thing” to “thing” because of my darn phone. I leave a room and re-enter it and have to check my phone… it’s been 30 seconds.

how to break up with your phone.png

I recently took this book out from the library “How to break up with your phone” by Catherine Price. Lets just say that I did not put it down. I am now at “The Breakup” part of the book.

(stay tuned for a post summarizing all the mind exploding facts and research that I have learnt from reading this book! Specifically the facts on attention were particularly interesting to me — hmm.. I bet you can’t guess why. Just kidding, it’s pretty obvious!)

The Break-up 

Day One (Monday) –> Download a Tracking App

The first step in our Technology Triage is to compare the amount of time we think we’re spending on our phones to how much time we’re actually spending on our phones. Start by jotting down your answers to these questions:

  • If you had to guess, how many times a day do you think you pick up your phone?
  • How much time do you estimate that you spend on it per day?

Next, download a time-tracking app that will automatically monitor how often you reach for your phone and how long you spend on it.

Don’t try to change anything about your behaviour; our goal is just to gather data. We’ll touch base about your results in a few days.

-Catherine Price

Here’s my answers:

  • I would say that I pick up my phone 30 times a day.
  • I’m cringing just thinking about how much time I spend on my phone per day. I’m going to say 2 hours and I’m wondering if it’s an underestimation.

Here we go… downloading the Moment tracking app. moment.png

Anyone else want to break up with their phone?!

Body and mind — out of sync!

Here’s to all of us creative types! You know when your brain is running a million miles a minute and you have so many ideas that you want to do RIGHT NOW?! Well, fortunately we are not machines and cannot do everything right now! Yes, I said fortunately! Who wants to live like a robot?!

Lately I have been feeling like a robot! I have had so many amazing ideas and I want to put them all into action right this second. brain lightbulb

I have my long list of “to-dos” and it’s like I jump from thing to thing without stopping. Then, when I do finally get a pause my head is still spinning because my brain is thinking of the to-dos that I want to accomplish that are incomplete. And the kicker: in my mind I would have finished the to-dos weeks ago! This becomes oh-so-very overwhelming and I end up totally shutting down.

Why am I telling you all this? Wellllll a really cool thing about my school is that we practice coach with our classmates! I was the client today (my classmate was coaching me).

My poor classmate was coaching me on something that I wasn’t even really clear on! I went into the call saying that I wanted to work on:

“finding something that I can say to myself to let myself know that it’s okay not to accomplish all of my to-dos and that I am not a machine”.

Her second question to me was “what is the outcome that I wanted regarding letting myself know that it’s okay not to accomplish all of my to-dos and that I am not a machine”

This is why I felt bad, this was not an “easy” coaching conversation! I had noooo idea what the outcome was that I wanted because I had never actually come up with a solution for this issue that I was having.

My classmate was really amazing and dove down with me to try and figure out what exactly it was that I needed to get me through this complication regarding treating myself like I’m a machine.

Here are the results that I feel SO happy and liberated with:

I was feeling like my body and mind were out of sync.

–> The most important piece out of it all was that I was feeling that my body and mind were out of sync because I EXPECTED my body and actions to be able to keep up with my thoughts and ideas.

Let me just repeat that again because it is so important! I expected my body and actions to be able to keep up with my thoughts and ideas. 

I am actually laughing at the thought of this because if you spent two minutes inside my head, you would laugh at the insanity of how fast my creative thoughts move!! How can my actions possibly move as fast as my thoughts?! My expectations were extremely unrealistic and were an extremely large hinderance to my well-being.

A side note about myself is I am super big on HARMONY. I like everything to be in balance and when something feels out of sync I get totally out of whack; I am a libra after all! So when my body/actions cannot keep up with my brain and ideas I get totally out of harmony and I become highly uncomfortable and overwhelmed. Now that I am aware that it was really my expectations that were getting in my way, I have a game plan!

My game plan: 

  • Remind myself that I am not a machine 
    • I now have an understanding that my brain cannot possibly move as fast asHere's a friendly reminder my actions and the expectations that I had placed on myself. These expectations were insanely unrealistic!! Now that I am reading this and it is as clear as day, I am laughing at myself and wondering how I ever thought that the expectations I had put on myself were even possible! With this in mind, I will be able to remind myself that I AM NOT A MACHINE.
  • Use my Time Timer to slow my brain down! 
    • I even talk about the solution in the Time Timer video that I made! I will set chunks of time for my “to-dos”. When I find myself in a block of time where I have not assigned myself something to complete, I will do something relaxing and enjoyable and remind myself that I AM NOT A MACHINE.
    • I bet you’re wondering “but how does the Time Timer slow down her brain”? When I decide ahead of time that I will be doing “such an such to-do” from 10-11am, I set my Time Timer for one hour and I know that it’s the only task that I am to be doing. This works so well because when a thought about another to-do pops into my head I can literally say to that thought “nope! Right now I am concentrating on such and such task. “

(Jump to 1minute in to skip to the part where I start talking about the Time Timer)

Do you have high expectations of yourself? Do you ever wonder where they come from? Sometimes I notice that the voice of the expectations aren’t actually my own, but that of my parents!

p.s. Do you notice the reoccurring theme here?!