ADHD is a relatively common neurological disorder that leads those who have it to have a shorter attention span and difficulty focusing.
Odds are, if you’re reading this, then either you have ADHD or someone you know has it. In either case, you really don’t need me to tell you what it is. What you need to know are some ADHD study tips, so here goes!
Create a Routine
If you have ADHD, the single most important thing you can do is to create a study routine. You probably know that a routine helps you (it helps everybody, really) in the rest of your life, but it’s even more important in your studies.
A regular routine teaches your brain to focus on what you tell it to, when you tell it to.
Make an effort to study the same subjects at the same time each day. If you study at a specific time, your brain will soon begin identifying that time as “study time” and start kicking into study mode, helping you focus a lot better.
Another ADHD study tip is to get organized! Organized almost to the point of ridiculousness (but not all the way there). Get yourself a planner and write everything in it: your study times, homework assignments, tests, exams, events … even put in when you’ll be taking your breaks.
Find a Quiet Study Space
You want to study in a quiet space. That seems obvious, but it’s actually kind of surprising how loud some of our study spaces are. Next time you sit down to study, stop for a second and listen. Whether it’s the rest of your rowdy family in the next room, the cat crawling on your keyboard, the music playing from your iPod or the TV running, there is probably a lot more noise than you realize.
For example, it’s late at night and quiet in the house as I write this. But I can still hear the fan on my computer, the clock in the kitchen, a motorcycle out on the main road and cicadas chirping outside.
Even if you study in a library, try to find a quiet corner instead of that desk right near the front door with everyone coming in and out and the circulation desk phones ringing. Find a quiet place!
There are a lot of places that you can make quiet. Try not to study in your room if you can help it, or if you do, don’t study on your bed. All the experts (who probably know what they’re talking about) say you really should only use your bed for sleep or other relaxing activities, like reading for pleasure. If you study in your bedroom, you may find it hard to fall asleep at night.
Perhaps the best place to study is at the library – they’ve got quiet places, they’re usually pretty nice, they have restrooms and water fountains and free Wi-Fi! Of course, that can be distracting by itself, but if you can control yourself, you can put the internet to great use in your studies. Also, there’s a lot of handy books lying around.
A great place to study is an empty classroom at your school. This can help if you have problems taking tests – studying in the same environment you test in often helps students to recall information. In fact, when I was in college, you could nearly always find a group of students in the classroom the night before a big test, studying away by themselves in their usual seats.
Finally, one great place to study is your local church or religious center (as long as it’s allowed). Most places won’t have a problem with you going and sitting quietly in the pews. It’s a great, peaceful place to study. However, I would advise against bringing your laptop in … that is usually not appropriate. Stick to the books here.
No matter where you choose to study, there will be noise and distractions that you really have no control over. The good news is that you can control most of the things that distract you! It just takes a bit of discipline.
While soft background music does help some students, it usually does more harm than good for someone with ADHD – it’s way too easy to stop studying and start listening. Turn off that music, or maybe get your hands on a white noise recording. (I’m personally a fan of the pink noise recording from SimplyNoise.com).
Same thing with TV, although this one should be glaringly obvious. If you have something there to distract both your eyes and your ears, how on earth are you ever going to focus? Turn off the TV!
Turn off your cell phone! Or at least put it on silent. When you hear your phone go off or even vibrate, it’s ridiculously tempting to pick it up and start chatting or texting with whoever is trying to distract you. Of course, they’re not actually consciously trying to distract you, but the end result is the same: you get distracted. Bite the bullet and turn it off for a couple hours. If you simply cannot bear to do that, at least put it on silent and put it away until your breaks.
Minimize the distractions you can control, and you’ll suddenly realize that the ones you can’t control seem to not distract you as much as they used to.
Find a System
Another great ADHD study tip is to find a study system. Feel free to shop around or invent your own. You want to have relatively frequent breaks as well as intensely focused study periods.
The study system I personally use and that I highly recommend is the Pomodoro Technique. It consists of a 25 minute period of activity, followed by a 5 minute break. You take a longer break every four cycles. You’d be surprised at how much you can get done in 25 minutes and how long and refreshing those 5 minute breaks can feel!
For more information, check out my post on the Pomodoro Technique.
Improve Your Memory
If you have ADHD, you can probably identify with having trouble remembering things. It’s not like you were intending to forget, it just slipped your mind. Learn and use a memory system – it will go far in helping you and your ADHD. One great one is the loci method (no, not Loki… loci – from Latin). For more information on the loci method and some other memory systems, click here to check out my post on memory tips!
I cannot say it enough: you need to exercise! Even if you don’t really care about the health benefits, although I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t, do it for your brain. This isn’t really an ADHD study tip, but even still, science has proven that if you get your blood flowing for just a few minutes a day, your brain works much better and you’ll remember things more easily. Plus, you’ll have an easier time focusing when you sit down to study if you’ve already burned off a little energy!
What do you think?
What are some things you’ve done to stay focused and in study mode? What works for you? What doesn’t? Join the conversation in the comments!