Hello to all my ADHD peeps, and loved ones currently living with ADHD. Today we are going to talk about tips/tricks that will help you or your loved one develop an effective studying pattern.
Our first question is: How do I stay focused during studying?
This will be variable for a lot of people because we all study differently, but I think there are several things you can do to study more efficiently. Make sure to test out a few of these methods and figure out which ones work best for you or your loved one. I will talk about my top ten tips for creating more effective studying while living with our ADHD.
Tip number one: Create a Distraction Free Study Space
The most important thing to remember with ADHD is that at our core, we have problems with attention, and if we have anything that catches that attention it is very difficult to resist the urge to look at it. This is why I have my desk in a corner. I placed my desk in the corner because it doesn’t allow me to look out at the rest of the room and get distracted by my rabbits or pay attention to what is going on outside. If your study area is by a window, make sure to close those blinds because outside is filled with distractions and will likely cause issues. Before you start studying ensure that everything you are studying for that day is at the desk because that will make sure you are prepared and subsequently limit unwanted distractions if you need to get up and try to find school supplies.
Tip number two: Create a Consistent Study Schedule
Humans are creatures of habit, if we get into a consistent pattern, we are more likely to stick to it. This innate nature is really helpful for those of us with ADHD in creating successful study habits. Practice is going to make perfect with this tip. I suggest setting up a schedule and doing your best to stick with it. It is better to study one hour each day compared to studying seven hours straight on Sunday and not the rest of the week. This means pick a time that you are available to study and stick with it. It is easy to say, “I am going to study for two hours a day,” then proceed and wait until later and later until the day is gone. If you are a procrastinator it is going to be very difficult to find time at the end of the day to reach your goals. So, pick a time and schedule it as your designated study time. Once your body starts getting adjusted to a schedule you will have an easier time having a block of time set aside each day. You won’t have to plan or think about it, you will just know that from 4-6 is your study time. This will also allow you to create other plans accordingly to your study schedule. If you study from 4-6 daily you know that you can spend time with friends after that time, allowing for an easier time managing work/life/school balance.
Number three: Ditch the technology
If you are studying, make sure that any distracting technology such as cell phones or tv are not in close proximity (as much as possible). It is very easy to get distracted and check your phone because you thought it was vibrating or you saw a notification pop up, and next thing you know its been three hours and you’re watching funny cat videos. Eliminate this urge by removing the temptation. Put your cell phone in your backpack or if you are at home put it into another room. By all means use your cell phone while you are taking breaks, but study time is study time.
Number four: Take frequent breaks
We like to think more is better, but that is not always the case, especially when it comes to studying. Your brain can only handle so much information at a time, it needs short breaks while you are studying for that next big exam. Set a timer for thirty minutes and if you were able to successfully study during those thirty minutes stand up and stretch it out. Take a five-minute breather. If you are hungry, eat a healthy snack. If you are tired continue stretching and move those feet to ensure you wake yourself back up before you jump into another thirty-minute study session. Make sure you are timing your breaks. It is easy to get carried away with a five-minute break and that five minutes turns into thirty minutes. Giving your brain periodic breaks will help it to organize the content you’re studying better and get it filed away before you begin again, allowing you to actually have better retention and learning than if you go at it for eight hours straight.
Number five: Noise cancelling headphones
This is a big one that has personally helped me out a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I hear a noise and I have to go investigate. Right now I am writing this blog post without noise cancelling and I can hear my wife’s cat purring and cars driving by. That may not seem like a huge distraction, but anything pulling you out of focus is going to make studying more difficult. Get some nice headphones that allow you to escape the outside world. Some people have mixed results with sound coming from the headphones. Personally, I like to play music on a very low setting just to eliminate complete silence.
Number six: Give yourself rewards
Studying is hard, so make sure to reward yourself for successful studying. People with ADHD crave rewards because we produce lower levels of dopamine and rewards are a great way to meet our extra demand for dopamine. If you plan on studying for two hours a day and you meet that goal six days of the week, make sure to reward yourself. If you love getting frozen yogurt, go get some! This will give you a reason to keep up the hard work. If you are not someone with ADHD but want to help a loved one with ADHD, you can create a study chart. Let’s say that you are trying to make sure your child is studying for an hour a day, create a study chart. If they meet their goal for that day give them a sticker. Then create a prize table for a certain number of stickers. For example, if they collect 25 stickers then we will go out for ice cream. If they have 40 stickers they can go out to the movies. Work with your loved one and determine goals that they want to work towards. This works for those of us with ADHD trying to motivate ourselves as well. Keeping a chart helps track your studying and it is rewarding to see success over time. Find rewards that work for you and celebrate small wins.
Number seven: Don’t be too hard on yourself or your loved one
Set realistic goals to start with, and if you want to increase these goals as time goes on. You are not going to be able to sit down and study for eight hours a day overnight, and that is okay, but make sure that you are not beating yourself up because of it. Your brain is like a muscle and it is important to remember that you have to exercise it just like any muscle. If you want to get stronger, you do exercises targeting those muscles, so the more you practice the better you are going to get at studying. Don’t get frustrated if the first week you have issues, this is to be expected. Look at your study plan and reanalyze. What caused you problems? Did you not allocate enough time for studying? Were you not sleeping well? Did you get distracted by the outdoors? Really analyze the situation and take measures to fix the problems and grow from these mistakes.
Number eight: Know when to ask for help
It is important to understand that not everything is going to come to you easily. I think one of the biggest things that I struggle with with ADHD is asking for help. Sometimes it can feel embarrassing that you are not able to pick up the material as quickly as your peers. It is okay, I promise you. As a kid I always picked up math quickly… fast forward a decade and I’m taking high school math in college and having a really difficult time. I was embarrassed, but at the end of the day getting help was one of my best ideas. It allowed the teacher to understand where I was struggling, and they were able to redesign the problem so I could grasp it. A lot of teachers are really good at reshaping a problem so that it makes more sense to you. Ask for help and understand that you are not silly. You are only silly if you let yourself not understand material when you could have asked for help.
Number nine: Discover your learning style
Not everyone learns the same way, so it is important to determine your learning style to know the best ways for you to study. Each individual is unique in their learning style, the main styles visual, tactile, auditory, or a mixed style. At the bottom of this post, I am going to post a link for a twenty-question test to determine your learning style. It is a free and great resource to get started on the road to successful studying, so make sure to take it and figure out which way you or your loved one learns best. There are lots of resources available online with tips to study for each learning style, for example visual learners do well with charts/pictures, auditory learners do well with listening to lectures, and tactile learners do well with flashcards. Also make sure to look up resources for the subject material that you are struggling with. Youtube and Khan Academy are both great resources to learn subject material that you may not have picked up the first time. Khan Academy also has free practice questions for a large variety of subjects. Remember rule one though, don’t get distracted by outside resources. Make sure to play into your strengths because this is going to create a better learning experience for you, and it is going to allow you to study more effectively so that you can get on with your life quicker.
Number ten: Positive reinforcement for yourself and your loved one.
One of the biggest things that helps me is just having someone tell me ‘you are doing a great job and I am proud of you.’ It is hard to study, but having an outside party tell you that your hard work is paying off is a huge reward all on its own. It drives me to improve because I know that I am doing the best that I can, and I know that people are noticing how hard I am working. When you finish studying at the end of the day look at what you accomplished and appreciate the hard work you put in. If you wrote three pages to your essay, be proud of that. You worked hard and you deserve to be proud of your hard work. No one can take away your hard work, be proud of yourself, you are great and you are going to make it through this. If you are a loved one help your loved one with this. If they are okay with it, look at their work with them and tell them that you are proud of what they have accomplished. They worked hard and just telling them that you are proud of what they have done will go a long way.
Creating improved study habits is going to be difficult, but with a little work we are going to make it through this and become better for it.
Thank you for your interest in staying focused.
Link to determine your learning style. This is a great resource and I recommend everyone use it to get a better understanding on how you learn so you can play into your strengths.