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Reading With ADHD: 10 Tips to Focus on Reading When Have ADHD 2023


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Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

reading with adhd

ADHD, short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition that affects 10 million Americans[1] nationwide.

The challenges of living with ADHD include symptoms such as issues with reading comprehension, difficulty sustaining interest in mundane tasks, and the tendency to succumb to all sorts of distractions throughout the day.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re far from alone. Even if you’ve never received an official diagnosis, the following ten tips for sustained attention will all help you rally your interest and focus when reading, both at work and at play.

10 Helpful Tips to Stay Focus on Reading While Have ADHD

  1. Get Your Mind In Order: Meditate, Stretch, And Breathe Fresh Air
  2. Just Get Started 
  3. When In Doubt – Lock Yourself In
  4. Create Lists To Organize Your Thoughts
  5. Find An Accountability Partner
  6. Try To Stay Off Of Your Phone
  7. Live On A Schedule
  8. Use Productivity Tools To Keep You Moving
  9. Reward Yourself When You Succeed
  10. Forgive Yourself

How to Focus on Reading With ADHD?

When you struggle with ADHD, even extremely interesting books on your favorite topics feel distant and banal. Where has our passion gone? How will we survive at work, where reading is usually paramount?

Keeping your eyes on the page or on the computer screen can be extraordinarily difficult for those with ADHD, but these ten tips and tricks will help you immensely whenever you need to stay focused and on task.

Get Your Mind in Order: Meditate, Stretch, and Breathe Fresh Air

These three steps, according to the research[2], should always come first to set the tone for proper focus, whether your inability to stay focused is ADHD-related or not. There are few other cure-alls for the easily distracted that confer benefits of this magnitude holistically, for free, and right from your desk or office.

If you have a child with ADHD, engaging them with yoga[3] or tai chi[4] practice early on may equip them with effective coping strategies. These self-soothing practices will help them better adapt to and manage the condition later in life. They’ll be calmer, happier, and likely much more interested in reading books at home and at school.

Other studies suggest that even something as simple as spending more time outside with your child[5] might help them improve their reading and listening skills at home and in the classroom. A healthy relationship with nature may improve emotional well-being, self-esteem, and social development in children as well.

 The CDC also recommends that people with ADHD maintain a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise. While this may be common knowledge, not everyone is doing this. 

Supplements like nootropics may also help – they’re calming and keep your mind razor-sharp as the week drags on.

Just Get Started 

This is one tip that everybody can probably get behind, but it can be especially useful for those with ADHD. The hardest part with any difficult task is initially getting started.

Most of us struggle most when contending with the beginning of a difficult or unpleasant reading assignment. The anticipation is enough to have us procrastinating all afternoon long.

However, if you can just tell yourself to get through the first ten minutes of that reading task, it will get easier. Then, maintaining that momentum of productive energy will feel more like a breeze. All that you need to do is get the initial ball rolling.

When in Doubt – Lock Yourself In

Sometimes, you’ll have to quarantine yourself from a whole world of distractions just outside of your door to make it through every page. There’s no shame in it. 

If you’ve got stuff to do, this reprieve might be just the thing to get you back on track. Focus hard, get it done, and emerge from your cocoon victorious and even a bit wiser for your time.

Create Lists to Organize Your Thoughts

Your to-do list is one obvious example; keeping everything that you need to do all in one convenient place ensures that you’ll never drop the ball. What are some other lists that you can keep?

Throughout your day, document each racing thought as it comes and goes, instead of dwelling on it or letting it distract you from your current task or the book in front of you. 

Doing this ensures that nothing important is forgotten, even if your hands are full when the thought occurs to you. It will also give you some valuable insight into what exactly distracts you the most daily – after a week or so, you’ll notice a pattern showing which intrusive thoughts tend to throw you off-track most frequently. 

For example are you worried about something in particular? Are you fixating on something unimportant? This habit might evolve into a full-blown journaling practice[6], another excellent mindfulness activity to partake in whenever you’re finding yourself losing focus.

Find an Accountability Partner

There’s power in numbers. When in doubt, you can always phone a friend or a colleague. This is especially helpful if you know that they, too, struggle to focus on reading at work or at home.

Whenever either of you is fading, establish a system where you can touch base and re-center yourselves, even if it’s something as simple as a daily walk around the block during lunch to blow off some steam together.

Enlist your family too!  A family member can be your partner or your kids. A quick break with a loved one is sometimes all it takes to find your second wind and get back to powering through.

Try to Stay Off of Your Phone

Social media is a huge part of modern life. But if you’re constantly reaching for your smartphone, you might be distracting yourself unnecessarily, and draining your focus in the process. 

We reinforce this tendency[7] every time we stop what we’re doing to write a Tweet or a Facebook post. Instead, you can try chewing gum at work instead of scrolling endlessly through your social feeds. 

It’s important to stay off social media or your phone when you have more important things to take care of. Save the memes for after-hours or as a reward after your hard work is done. Then there will be more to indulge in later! 

Live On a Schedule

While a set routine can feel boring, it can be hugely beneficial in boosting your productivity and focus. If you’re serious about improving your focus, blocking your time wisely, and setting goals for yourself each day, week, and month are all surefire ways to motivate yourself.

When we live constantly in the moment, we forget about the future. Remind yourself daily: who are you? What do you want to accomplish? What do you stand for? Where are you now? How far do you have to go?

Use Productivity Tools to Keep You Moving

Sometimes, we all need to call in for backup from the pros. Apps like Beeminder, Toggl, Todoist, and more can all help you visualize your goals and keep track of what takes the most time away from your daily reading -professional or otherwise. 

Knowing is half of the battle, so any type of time-tracking app will help you paint a much more comprehensive picture of how you allocate every moment. Then you will be able to identify and fix any productivity issues and nip them in the bud.

Reward Yourself When You Succeed

When we’re rewarded for our work, we’re usually much more motivated[8] for the next leg of the race. We’re also more interested and excited about our work, professional or domestic. We’re also usually much happier to do it in the future when we know that a reward is coming our way.

This can be anything from a simple treat-yourself lunch out on the town to a well-deserved evening off of your feet with Netflix, wine, and chocolate in hand. You’ve earned it, and you might find yourself re-energized when it’s time again to buckle down.

Forgive Yourself

Our bottom line and closing sentiment: nobody is perfect, ADHD or otherwise. Your reading comprehension and ability to stay in your seat do not define you, nor does it have any effect on your self-worth.

If you’re having a bad day, just keep plugging away until you have a moment to regroup. Once you’ve had a chance to collect yourself, you’ll be more than ready to dive back in anew.

+ 8 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. CHADD (2018). Overview – CHADD. [online] CHADD. Available at: https://chadd.org/for-adults/overview/
  2. ‌Modesto-Lowe, V. (2015). Does mindfulness meditation improve attention in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? World Journal of Psychiatry, [online] 5(4), p.397. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4694553/
  3. ‌Chou, C.-C. and Huang, C.-J. (2017). Effects of an 8-week yoga program on sustained attention and discrimination function in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. PeerJ, [online] 5, p.e2883. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237364/
  4. ‌Herbert, A. and Esparham, A. (2017). Mind–Body Therapy for Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Children, [online] 4(5), p.31. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447989/
  5. ‌Tillmann, S., Tobin, D., Avison, W. and Gilliland, J. (2018). Mental health benefits of interactions with nature in children and teenagers: a systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, [online] 72(10), pp.958–966. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6161651/
  6. Journal of Further and Higher Education. (2020). The power of writing about procrastination: journaling as a tool for change. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0309877X.2019.1702154
  7. Google.com. (2021). Redirecting. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.researchgate.net/file.PostFileLoader.html?id%3D571e178b93553bf18335eb61%26assetKey%3DAS%253A354747904217088%25401461589899260&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1638694024999000&usg=AOvVaw3GqtFRZKro_IM5vSPgw8Qj
  8. ‌citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. (n.d.). Download Limit Exceeded. [online] Available at: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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