Do you spend more time studying than your peers, but your grades don’t reflect your effort?
While everyone’s experience of ADHD is unique, most students with this condition struggle to stay focused, meet deadlines, and remember details. These ADHD symptoms can affect how well they learn and perform in exams.
It’s important to note that ADHD does not impact intelligence, nor does it mean you can’t do well in school. Countless ADHDers hold advanced degrees and have impressive careers. It just means you need to find the strategies and available support resources to help you achieve your goals.
However, students with ADHD often have to study harder and longer to keep up with their peers. Which is not only stressful, but can lead to students limiting their goals or doubting their abilities – but that’s simply not right.
Various study strategies can help reduce distraction, boost your motivation, and improve how well you absorb and remember information.
By implementing these techniques, you’ll be able to make the most out of your study time and achieve your academic goals!
The Challenges of Studying Posed By ADHD
The first step to creating success-oriented study habits is identifying areas that need the most improvement. Reflect on your biggest struggles as a starting point to find the tools and techniques that will help you the most.
Some of the most common challenges students with ADHD face include the following:
- Poor focus: ADHD can make it harder to concentrate on your studies, especially if the topic doesn’t interest you. You might also struggle to pay attention or participate actively in your classes. Tasks that are slow-paced, like reading, or repetitive, like completing math practice questions, tend to be the hardest to stay focused on.
- Procrastination: A person with ADHD might procrastinate for various reasons. They might avoid studying topics that they find boring or overwhelming.
- Lack of motivation: The ADHD brain processes motivation differently. This is due to the disruption in the pathway of a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine. Without short-term rewards or gratification, it can be difficult for a student with ADHD to feel motivated to study.
- Lack of time management: ADHD might cause you to have a weaker perception of time. You may underestimate the time needed to complete assignments or study for an exam. You may also have trouble prioritizing your study tasks, causing you to focus on what’s interesting instead of urgent.
- Poor memory or forgetfulness: Keeping track of important things like exam dates and due dates can be challenging with ADHD. This can also affect your ability to remember information and details because your brain processes and encodes information differently.
Self-awareness of the areas that need improvement will give you a huge advantage. It can help you create targeted strategies to overcome these challenges and unlock your true capabilities.
ADHD Study Tips to Enhance Your Learning and Productivity
While most schools offer accommodations and resources for students with ADHD, there’s a lot you can do to empower yourself.
Here are some tips on how to study smart with ADHD.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool that helps you stay focused by breaking down your work into intervals. Here’s how you can implement this technique:
- Prepare your to-do list.
- Get a timer, preferably not your mobile phone.
- Set the timer to 25 minutes, then start it.
- During this 25-minute time block, focus on one task.
- Once the timer rings, mark off one Pomodoro.
- Set the timer to 5 minutes, and give yourself a break.
- When the timer rings, set it to 25 minutes again and repeat the process.
- After four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break for 15-20 minutes.
This study technique for ADHD is helpful because it prevents you from getting distracted by other non-related tasks. You can also avoid hyperfixating on one task for too long.
Plus, our attention span is limited, even without ADHD. So, breaking down your tasks into 25-minute, focused blocks can help improve productivity.
Some people with ADHD might take longer to shift into focus mode, so 25 minutes might not be sufficient. On the other hand, others may find that their attention dwindles after 15-20 minutes. Experiment with different time durations to see what works best for you.
Implement Multiple Learning Methods
Re-reading paragraphs of text to memorize information can be challenging for anyone.
Because the ADHD brain thrives off stimulation, reading information passively can get boring quickly. Instead, try using one or two of these active learning techniques in your study sessions.
- Flashcards: This study technique encourages you to actively recall information by answering a set of cards with questions and checking your response with an answer on the back. Students who use this method gain a deeper understanding of the topic, retain information longer, and apply their knowledge better. You can create your flashcards or use a flashcard app like Anki.
- Spaced repetition: This involves reviewing and recalling information at intervals instead of cramming your study sessions into one last-minute crunch. At the start of this process, the gaps between each review are shorter but gradually increase. Spaced repetition promotes better long-term learning and improves memory and problem-solving.
- Retrieval practice: Retrieval practice involves deliberately pulling out information from your memory and applying it. You can do this in various ways, including doing past-year practice questions, creating your own questions for self-testing, or using flashcards.
- Feynman technique: The Feynman technique is a study process that involves learning a concept and trying to explain it as you would to a 12-year-old. It’s a great way to practice distilling complex topics into simpler language and ideas that are well-understood.
- Mindmapping: A mindmap represents the connection between different information and concepts in a visual way. Mindmapping can help your brain process information in a more organized fashion. You can start by reading through a topic. Then, put your books away and try to draw a mindmap that connects the ideas you’ve just read.
Switching up the way you study also gives your brain a dose of novelty, making your sessions more fun and exciting.
ADHD isn’t actually an attention-deficit disorder. It can be more accurately described as an abundance of attention – with a lack of control over it.
It can be challenging to channel this overflow of attention to a single task, especially if it’s uninteresting. The ADHD brain is always looking for something fun, new, and exciting.
But once you learn how to rein in your focus and direct it to the right thing, the abundance of attention that comes with ADHD is, in fact, a superpower.
Here are some tips that can help:
- Install an app or website blocker on any devices you use to study.
- Use noise-canceling headphones to block off distracting sounds.
- Consider leaving your devices in another room when you study.
- Find a quiet environment away from chatter or movement.
- Silence your mobile phone and turn off your notifications.
Another helpful trick is called the “parking lot” technique.
Keep a notepad on hand. Whenever you study and get an unrelated thought, write it down, then let it go and go back to studying. After you’ve completed your session, you can go back to the “parking lot” of thoughts and review them.
Stimulate Your Senses and Movement
The ADHD brain requires more stimulation to stay focused than a non-ADHD one.
You can try the following tricks to dial up the stimulation your brain is receiving as you study:
- Use colors and highlighters to brighten up your notes and make them engaging.
- Listen to white noise or brown noise while studying.
- Get a drink or something to munch on.
You can also try purposeful fidgeting, a mindless activity you do while working on a main task. An effective form of fidgeting doesn’t diminish your focus but could enhance it.
Examples include chewing gum, using a fidget toy, or walking about as you read your study materials.
Motivation Techniques to Reduce Procrastination
The motivation to study might not come naturally for many students with ADHD. However, creating an environment that motivates you to pick up your textbooks and learn is possible.
Here are some tips on how to keep yourself motivated with ADHD.
Set Realistic Goals
Getting started on a task is easier when you have a specific and achievable goal. Without a plan or goal, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. It’s also really helpful to have a goal for each study session so you can spread out the work and know when to stop.
Here’s what you can do:
- Keep a list of all the study tasks and assignments you need to complete. Prioritize those tasks based on urgency and complexity, and update this list daily.
- Break down significant study topics into smaller and more manageable sections or subtopics.
- Ensure you have a specific and quantifiable goal for each sub-task. For instance, your goal may be to read and create flashcards for the first five pages of a chapter before 6 p.m. on that day.
- You can also create deadlines for these sub-tasks to ensure you can cover everything before the exam.
- Try gamification. This strategy leverages the different elements and concepts of video games to challenge students to achieve a study goal and reward them for it. Plenty of apps can help you do that, such as Habitica and the Forest app.
Try Body Doubling
Body doubling for ADHD involves having someone else sit by you as you work on a task you need to complete.
Your body double could be working on a similar task, for example, having a buddy do their studying alongside you. Alternatively, they could do something completely different, like reading or listening to music on their headphones.
The body double becomes a source of motivation, support, and accountability and acts as a model of calm focus.
If you can’t get someone to be physically present beside you, a virtual body double may be just as effective. Enlist the help of a friend or family member, and hop on a call with your cameras on while you each perform your tasks.
Apart from body doubling, studying with friends is another way to create accountability. You can also agree to exchange study notes with a friend and have a deadline for both of you to trade notes.
In general, the ADHD brain requires stronger, shorter-term incentives to encourage certain behaviors. This difference in brain chemistry is why rewards may play a significant role for many students with ADHD.
Celebrating big and small wins is a great way to boost your motivation and confidence. Your reward for each goal should be practical and reasonable yet personally fulfilling.
- Giving yourself time to enjoy a hobby like gaming or reading
- Working on a personal project like knitting or gardening
- Having a snack or a meal you enjoy
- Running a bubble bath for yourself
Experiment to see which rewards excite you the most, and try switching them up occasionally for an extra boost of novelty.
How to Study with ADHD Brain Fog
Some people find that their ADHD contributes to brain fog – when your brain’s ability to think and process information dwindles.
This can affect how well you learn and remember information, making studying more difficult. The following are some ways to combat an ADHD brain fog:
- Practice a healthy lifestyle. Ensure that you eat well and stay hydrated. Studies have also shown that exercise can improve attention and cognitive function in those with ADHD.
- Make time in your schedule to include these stimulation activities. Try listening to music, playing your favorite sports, or chatting with someone you love.
- Address any sleeping problems. Strong research evidence shows that adults with ADHD are at an increased risk of sleep problems. You should discuss any sleeping issues you have with your healthcare provider.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Ensuring you have a comfortable sleeping environment at home, removing distractions from your bedroom, and having device-free time before bed may promote better sleep. It also helps to avoid long afternoon naps and have a fixed sleeping schedule each day.
- Try mindfulness meditation. Research has found that mindfulness meditation can help improve symptoms of ADHD, attention, and sleep. You can learn how to do this by attending mindfulness meditation training or reading up on resources online.
It’s important to show yourself patience and self-compassion. Pushing yourself too hard can lead to mental fatigue and burnout, so ensure your mind and body get enough care and rest.
ADHD Is a Speedbump, Not a Roadblock
ADHD can make your learning journey choppy and challenging. However, it does not have to define your end goals or the level of success you can achieve.
Start by applying a few tips discussed above, and take time to experiment to see which strategies work best for you. Set big goals and learn to harness the ability of the ADHD mind to hyperfocus and think outside of the box.
And remember, success at college is about more than just academics. Check out our Virtual Support Group for College Students with ADHD for practical strategies to help you thrive academically, socially, and personally while you connect with people who understand you! Additionally, you can connect with other students who understand you.
With targeted study strategies, proper treatment, and the right support, academic success is within your grasp.
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