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Autism, Productivity, and Hyperfocus

By James Cleves, Autistic Self Advocate / Founder of CleverVA

You’re working intently on a task. Your brain has essentially blocked out the rest of the world, leaving you in a little bubble of intense focus on that task. If that’s a project or piece of work you really need to get done, then this hyperfocus can be incredibly useful.

Shows arms holding phone. Grey sleeves. White table with coffee cup, cell phone, and book.

But hyperfocus is a double-edged sword. You can become so involved in your

task you lose track of time. You might forget to eat, wash or even sleep.

And you can’t generally pick the moments when hyperfocus happens. Or decide

how long it lasts.

So, hyperfocus isn’t always an aid to productivity. Sometimes, you might even

want to avoid slipping into that state. So you need to find ways to regulate your

attention and keep yourself grounded in the here and now in order to get your

work done.

Advice for allistic people is usually to shut out all other noises and stimuli -

anything that could be a distraction. But when you’re autistic, these other stimuli

can actually help regulate your attention and keep you focused.

Every autistic person will have their own ways of keeping themselves grounded,

and will probably test out multiple things before finding what works for them.

These are some of the ways that have worked for me:

1. Fidget toys

On my desk live a variety of fidget toys. There’s a little clicky cube with many

things to press, press, pull and generally play with. Then there’s the little tub o

slime that’s so relaxing to squidge between my fingers.

Green slime.

2. Mobile phone games

I like to play with low-impact games on my phone. These games don’t really

involve any thought or strategy, you just basically click or tap your screen to

play. Playing with these gives my brain a mini tea-break. A brief break from my

task to stop me getting sucked in too deeply and keeping me on point.

3. Stimming

One of my favourite things to use for stimming is my tie. I wear a different one

every day and as a stim I like to stroke whichever one I’m wearing. Doing this

tends to bring me back into the immediate situation if my mind has started to


Those are just a few of my favourites, but if you’re in need of some new ways to

keep yourself grounded, they could be well worth a try.

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