Hyperfocus Obsession

Jesse J. Anderson

— 2 min read

Hyperfocus Obsession

Hey friend,

I have a problem. I'm supposed to be writing this newsletter right now, but I can't because my brain is someplace else.

I was supposed to start writing this hours ago, but I've been obsessed with solving a nagging problem. A problem that feels like the most important thing I could be doing with my time.

What is this important problem distracting me from my work?

I can’t figure out the song stuck in my head.

Most nights, my wife and I stay up pretty late. One of our regular routines is playing our daily games: Wordle, Connections, and our new favorite—Bandle. The latter is the one that’s gotten an ear worm stuck in my head as I tried to figure out what the song was.

There can be great advantages to the hyperfocus that comes with ADHD. When I'm hyperfocused on some exciting new project or when learning some new skill, I can get a ton of stuff done!

But sometimes, it’s focused on trying to figure out lyrics to a song, just because it’s there. An unsolved mystery begging for my attention.

In these moments, figuring out this song feels like THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. Even as I write this, I continue humming the melody (some sort of a ballad, from the mid-2010s I think?), hoping some bit of lyric will come to mind that I can actually google (“then you say…” maybe? or “if you need me now”? Argh, what is this song?!).

Hyperfocus can create a compulsion that can be extremely difficult to redirect.

You can try a few strategies to help when stuck in unproductive hyperfocus, such as mode-shifting and mode-blending:

  • Mode-shifting. Engage in an activity to break up your stasis and reset your environment. Taking a walk can be a good way to help transition to a new focus, even if it's a short one like quickly checking the mailbox.
  • Mode-blending. This is the opposite approach. Instead of making a clean cut, engage in an activity to smoothly blend the transition. Put in your headphones and listen to a podcast or a favorite album to help you move from focus A to focus B while maintaining something consistent through the transition.

What do you do when you get stuck in hyperfocus obsession?

Stay focused,
Jesse J. Anderson

PS: Excited to announce that Extra Focus is hosting Managing ADHD Overwhelm with Meredith Carder, an Author and ADHD coach who you may know as @hummingbird_adhd!

This live class will be on March 5th @ 2pm PST / 5pm EST and is available for all paid Extra Focus members to attend.


[spends months building up a new daily routine]

[forgets one day]

[never does it ever again]
ADHD is having “such potential” that I test into the gifted students program, but “difficulty completing or handing in assignments” so I fail out of it.
The ADHD urge to abandon a project and lose all motivation once you can see the finish line.