For students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it’s often a big challenge to stay focused. This can affect your ability to study even when you’re trying your best. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours studying and getting nowhere. The following tips are designed to help students with ADHD maintain better focus to allow them to reach their full potential:
Choose Your Own Study Space
It’s important to identify a distraction-free zone of your own where you can study. Ideally choose somewhere quiet, comfortable and clutter-free. An ADHD brain will associate locations with certain activities so it’s really important that you don’t study on your bed or on the sofa where you also engage in screentime. This might make it difficult for you to settle down to relax and sleep.
It’s often challenging to sit still when you have ADHD but you don’t have to fight it. Try walking around while reading or sitting in a chair that rocks. This will allow you to move in a calm and gentle way and focus more on studying.
By reading out loud you will engage your auditory as well as your visual senses. This helps your brain to process information at a deeper level than just reading in your head. To take it one step further – read a section of text to yourself, then try to paraphrase it to yourself (or somebody else) using your own words. This will help you to retain the information and recall it more effectively.
Switch Subjects Regularly
Once your attention begins to drift – change subjects. This is known as ‘shifting’. To make the transition easy, make sure you have a different subject ready and close by. You can also shift back and forth between tasks until you have completed all your work. This helps you to stay productive and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Identify Your Distractions
Make a list of what distracts you and where you are most likely to find these distractions. Use this list to identify which environments will work best for you. Also, you might find studying in a library difficult if you are easily distracted by the sound of whispers or page-turning. If you find yourself distracted by your phone notifications, try putting your phone on silent during study times, or even turning it off.
The Pomodoro Technique
To effectively maximise your study, break down each session into manageable chunks of time. One way to do this is by using The Pomodoro Technique. This method uses a timer to break down work into intervals, usually 25 minutes in length, separated by short five-minute breaks. Each interval is known as a Pomodoro from the Italian word for ‘tomato’.
There are six steps in the original technique:
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer sounds and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (five minutes) then go to step 2.
- After four Pomodoros take a longer break (15-30 minutes), reset your checkmark point to zero and return to the beginning.
Identify The Best Time To Study
Some of us are early risers and are really productive in the morning, while other people are night owls and study best during a late-night energy burst. Everyone is different and it’s important to work out when you can best focus. Just a quick word of warning: if you tend to work best very late on, make sure that you give yourself time to wind down before going to sleep and that you leave yourself enough hours to get a decent amount of sleep. Not sleeping enough is likely to exacerbate ADHD symptoms and make focusing even more difficult.
Create A Study Plan
You might want to use organisational techniques to create a study plan. Visual planning can be highly effective for ADHD and this can take different forms. You might like to create a mind map, use coloured post-it notes or write lists using coloured pens. There is a lot of useful technology available for visual planning that you might like. Apps such as Trello are great for organisation and mind-mapping apps like SimpleMind or Xmind may also prove useful. It’s helpful to block your time into study periods. You can plan these using a diary or electronic calendar such as Google Calendar.
Choose Your Background Sound
Some people with ADHD prefer white noise in the background while others prefer to study in a silent environment. Deep-focus music playing quietly in the background can really help you to concentrate. You can find this on apps like BrainFM or search YouTube for a free version. Whatever your preferred sound is, make sure you use it consistently and often for studying. Over time, your brain will make an association between this sound and the need to really focus on your work.
Take Regular Breaks
Make sure you take regular relaxation breaks and exercise (preferably in the fresh air). This is essential to leading a balanced study life and not getting stressed and burnt out. There will be times when you find you simply can’t concentrate; it is okay to leave a task and return to it later. Allow yourself to take full days off too to recharge your mind and body. You will learn more effectively if you are feeling energised and refreshed.
If you find yourself struggling to manage ADHD alongside studying, make sure you seek some support. Find out what your academic institution has on offer for ADHD students and don’t be afraid to reach out to talk to someone.
Our FREE Ebook Practical Tips and Techniques for Students with ADHD also has some useful study ideas.
Please contact us if you would like to find out more about the ADHD assessments and evidence-based treatments available at The ADHD Centre. You can reach us on 0800 061 4276or by email email@example.com
Updated November 2022