Q: I was wondering if you all had any tips for studying with ADHD?
A: This is a common and excellent question and I’m happy to share a few tips that many of my clients with ADHD have found to be helpful over the years!
First thing’s first, there is nothing more important than your health. Healthy eating and sleeping habits and getting some daily exercise will allow you to be in the best shape possible, both physically and mentally. If you make your health a priority, it can only help and if you don’t it can only hinder your performance.
Next, consider your environment. If there are a lot of activities and distractions available to you in your home, consider going somewhere else that is quiet and distraction free. The more your distractions are out-of-sight, the more likely they will be out-of-mind.
Next, create a plan that includes both milestones and realistic studying intervals. Consider setting timers and alarms for both the study intervals and the breaks during your study-time. Set the timer for the amount of time that you estimate that you can stay focused and then recharge during your breaks. Resist the urge to use any devices during your breaks since they can be a slippery slope for distraction.
Another great study technique is creating flashcards. The physical act of writing can help promote your slowing down enough to pay attention to what you are reading. Additionally, flashcards engage a mental faculty called “active recall,” which is a principle of learning where you stimulate memory during the learning process, as opposed to “passive review,” where you are at risk of simply reading something but not taking in the content. Flashcards also allow for repetition and for you to turn them into games with rewards.
There are many resources available for students with disabilities. If you are attending a university, reach out to the Office of Disability Services. You may qualify for accommodations such as a reduced distraction environment for tests, exams, and quizzes and/or additional time/breaks for tests, exams, and quizzes. These accommodations could mean the difference between passing and failing.
Finally, you should know that ADHD is very common and that if you set your mind to it, you can overcome your studying difficulties. Don’t be afraid to experiment to figure out what works best for you and talk to your therapist about it. If you’re able to identify both your triggers and coping skills, you are on the right track to improvement. You may also want to explore any patterns in your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviors, as this may help lead you in the direction of some possible solutions. Also, if you’ve ever experienced any trauma that you’ve not addressed in therapy, make sure to mention this to your therapist as sometimes PTSD can disguise itself as ADHD. I hope this helps!
Heidi Faust, LCSW