What’s the Most Important Thing to Pay Attention To?

Posted on July 30, 2018 by

Everyone gets distracted sometimes.  ADHD, anxiety and stress often make it even harder to pay attention and stay focused on what needs to be done.

The first step in paying attention is to know what you should pay attention to. You can pay attention better when you practice naming what you need to pay attention to.  Then you can be mindful and aware of whether you are distracted or paying attention to the most important thing in each situation.

Write down the most important thing to pay attention to for each activity or situation listed below. For example for students, the most important thing to pay attention to for number 3 might be doing math problems or answering the questions on a worksheet and finishing everything assigned. For adults, the most importance thing to pay attention to for number 3 might be to pay attention to what your children are telling you and what they are doing – and NOT your cell phone. Give them your undivided attention when they are with you.

For Children and Teens 

  1. Listening to the teacher: __________________________________________
  2. Doing schoolwork in class: __________________________________________
  3. Doing homework: __________________________________________
  4. Reading:                  __________________________________________
  5. Getting ready in the morning: __________________________________________
  6. Getting ready for bed: __________________________________________
  7. Doing chores:             __________________________________________
  8. Playing with a friend: __________________________________________
  9. Talking to parents: __________________________________________
  10. Putting my stuff where it belongs: __________________________________________
  11. Riding on the bus: __________________________________________
  12. Riding in the car: __________________________________________
  13. Riding my bicycle: __________________________________________
  14. Playing sports:          __________________________________________
  15. Participating in activities such as dance, yoga, art class, and music lessons:                __________________________________________
  16. Other:                  __________________________________________
  17. Other:                  __________________________________________


For Adults

  1. Talking with my spouse or partner:  __________________________________________
  2. Interacting with my boss or coworker: __________________________________________
  3. With my children: __________________________________________
  4. At work: __________________________________________­­­
  5. Driving: __________________________________________
  6. Getting ready in the morning: __________________________________________
  7. Eating: __________________________________________
  8. Exercising: __________________________________________
  9. Doing hobbies: __________________________________________
  10. With friends: __________________________________________
  11. Doing Chores: __________________________________________
  12. Doing Yard Work: __________________________________________
  13. Getting ready for bed: __________________________________________
  14. Putting things away: __________________________________________
  15. Getting enough sleep: __________________________________________
  16. Paying the bills: __________________________________________
  17. Shopping: __________________________________________
  18. Other: __________________________________________
  19. Other: __________________________________________

Circle the activities during which you struggle the most to stay focused. Think about what distracts you while doing them. How can you eliminate or reduce the distractions? What can you do differently to keep yourself on task?

Print out the completed list of activities and post it where you will see it every day to remind yourself to stay focused. 

You can learn skills to help you stay focused here.

Debra Burdick, LCSW, also known as ‘The Brain Lady’, is an international expert on ADHD and Mindfulness. She is an award-winning, #1 best-selling author of: Mindfulness Skills Workbook, Mindfulness Skills for Kids and Teens, ADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens, Mindfulness for Teens with ADHD, Mindfulness for Kids with ADHD, Mindfulness Skills for Kids Card Deck, and Radical Self-Care When You Are Ill Card Deck. She is an international speaker and retired psychotherapist and neurotherapist, who has been helping all ages thrive for over 30 years.

I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.


  1. Enjoyed seeing your comments re: attending. I’m learning that when I pay attention to a project/chore, etc. I more often remember what it is I’m doing instead of the “what did I come in here for?” I try to use this technique throughout my day and really notice when I get “lazy” and don’t pay attention. It’s a bit like mindful planning or setting my goal before I start. It often feels a bit simplistic, but it works for me.

    Comment by Martha Webb on at

  2. Hi Martha,
    I agree, it is simple, but very easy to forget to do it. It gets better with practice and setting your intention to pay attention.

    Comment by Debra Burdick on at

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