Ever caught yourself in multiple trains of thought? Or notice yourself staring and wondering how long it has been since you looked down to your exam page? Well, it might be that you have a short attention span. Concentrating can be hard when there are continuously external factors available to distract you from your work. It is difficult to handle, for sure, but when this lack of concentration is so large that you are sometimes unable to function: this article is for you. In this article you will read the experiences of Lotte Houx dealing with ADD, a brain disorder that will be explained in the next paragraph. Even when you do not consider ADD for yourself, expanding your knowledge on the disability of peers is always valuable. Besides, great tips to optimising focus are shared! 

Lotte Houx, 19 years old  
Social Work student at Hogeschool Utrecht 

What is ADD? 
“ADD stands for attention deficit disorder. As the name reveals, a person with ADD has difficulties concentrating and focusing for a longer period. Obliviousness, easily distracted, or/and overstimulated by incentives. The symptoms of ADD are quite like ADHD; only the H of hyper is an aspect someone with ADD is not struggling with. ADD is only diagnosable by a psychologist. I hear you thinking; ‘what benefit does it have to diagnose my short attention span?’. Well, if you are struggling with ADD, medicines can be pre-scribed for you. Your environment will understand you better. And you receive benefits in school by, for instance, longer timeslots on exams.” 

Could you give me a good example when experiencing ADD? 
“Yes, so I am studying Social Work. Currently, I am an intern in an institution within the Youth Care System. I hear numerous, heavy, life stories of patients. It is required to have full concentration in these moments since you will otherwise lose track. I notice that if I see something around me or quickly think about something else, my thoughts are unconsciously on a different path. When the conversation is finished, I am unable to name anything about the conversation again. Being distracted happens more than I’d like to and is frustrating since this is unacceptable in my field.”  

When and how did you found out you have ADD? 
“First of all, almost my entire family has ADD. The disorder is hereditary which explains that a lot. At some point, I noticed having the symptoms of concentration difficulties and obliviousness. But these are symptoms which are easy to dismiss. Everybody can be distracted, right? Everyone is overwhelmed occasionally, right? I just had that a bit more often than the kids around me. It was remarkable how ‘gone’ I was and how quickly I forgot information, appointments, or things that have been said. At some point, everyone around me started to wonder if I had more than just a general lack of concentration. In combination with the family tree of ADD, the connection was quickly made.” 

I do know you are not officially diagnosed, why did you make that decision? 
“It is indeed important to share that we didn’t diagnose me for one critical reason. So, my father struggles with heavy ADD himself. Since he got officially diagnosed, he noticed how his excuses rises. He started to connect the smallest things to ADD and therefore got easy with blaming them on the disorder. Using ADD as an excuse became standard practice. My father became less of the go-getter he was. This is what my parents did not want for me and is a big tip for everyone else. Do not surrender yourself to ADD. It is indeed a disability but learn how to live with it and you can push yourself to be the best you can.”  

When would you say someone should consider on diagnosing ADD? 
“Once the symptoms get in the way of your daily activities, it might be good to see an expert. When these symptoms hinder your behaviour, thoughts, or desires it is always good to reach out. I do have to say, it will not get you many steps further when receiving the diagnose itself. The only thing a doctor could do, is give you the suitable medicine. Besides that, it is still up to you how to deal with the disorder. What helps is to create little tools and thought pattern to guide you in fighting the distractions. An expert can provide this support. For instance, I bought a fish tank for on my desk. This helps me to find some sort of calmness that helps me to concentrate on my schoolwork.” 

How to deal with ADD at school and on a daily basis? And do you have any tricks you use that will help others as well? 
“For learning and schoolwork, the best tip is an empty desk and clean computer screen. Also, a specific spot only devoted to schoolwork helps your mind coming in this focus mode. Putting your phone away is difficult for me, for every Gen Z’er I would say. When you notice having large difficulties with concentrating: come up with a creative alternative. Often, I let my phone run out of battery on purpose. This way I am quite forced to focus on my schoolwork. And in my day-to-day live… I find keeping my focus on conversations the hardest. A little trick I use for preventing distraction is to look people in the eye. While maintaining eye contact, you force your brain to stay in one place. When I have important conversations, for instance, at my internship, the environment must be as less distracting as possible. If it is an option, I make my ADD known or apologise sincerely once I lost track of the conversation.”  

What are your tips for people with a lack of concentration? 
“So, I have already explained a bit how a clean workspace is important. On top of that, putting your phone away is also extremely important. Uhm… getting some fresh air before you start on schoolwork is also important. If you are already in your room the whole day and then start on your projects… not much will get out of your hands. It is proven how fresh air and movement contribute to a better focus. Besides, writing a little to-do list for the day is very helpful. You will have your busy thoughts in the back on your mind on paper. Also, the act of crossing the tasks you have completed is very rewarding and motivating. But I would strongly advice you: one job at the time. Work on one thing properly before you place your focus on the next. Another tip can be to listen to music while studying. It can prevent your thoughts to wonder. Classical music, concentration vibrations, or even techno are good options. Last but definitely not least, fix your sleeping schedule. Go to bed at an acceptable time and wake up every day with the same alarm. It really works and will benefit your concentration.” 

All in all, lacking concentration happens to the bests. It is very helpful to hear experiences of someone with ADD. Yes, maintaining focus is hard for our generation, but try out the tips to improve your attention span before panicking about the disorder. It is important to mention how self-diagnosing is not the purpose of this article. Instead reach out to a professional when worrying about the hinders you experience daily. BUas is all about student wellbeing; feel comfortable to discuss your thoughts on concentration and ADD with your study coach or a student counsellor!