Archives for October 2009

ADHD Students

If you would like to listen to this week’s article, click here.

ADHD students face many challenges. You try really hard, but you don’t seem to get the results that reflect the amount of effort you put in. Even if you write a great paper, you might forget the deadline and lose marks because of that rather than the content of your work. You might find it difficult to pay attention during a lecture, or procrastinate over preparing for your exam and then study all night in order to know the information you need.

Even if your university days are over long ago, these tips will still be useful for you in your workplace and can be applied to preparing for a presentation or staying alert in meetings.

  1. Don’t compare yourself to anyone! We all have our strengths, the brain box in the corner, might know the answer to everything, get As and have her homework in on time, but she probably doesn’t have as much creativity and imagination as you. Comparing yourself to others only results in you feeling bad about yourself because you see your weaknesses and not your great strengths.
  2. Lectures aren’t usually the best way for ADHDers to learn. You are far better in an active learning situation. However, when there is no other way, try these five tips:
    • Take notes. They keep you alert and will help jog your memory later.
    • Take a stress ball to class and squeeze it. Having something to do with your hands helps your brain focus on what is being said.
    • Accept that your brain is going to drift off. When it does, simply bring your concentration back to the speaker. Don’t be down on yourself. The more you beat yourself up for not paying attention, the worse you will feel and the less you will concentrate. Give yourself a pat on the back for the 50% you did listen to rather than the 50% you didn’t.
    • Ask a friend to borrow their notes and photocopy them. Two heads are better than one.
    • Ask the lecturer if you can record the lecture. Most will say yes. Then you can listen to the lecture again.
  3. Get into a routine with your studying. I know you might shy away from routine, but it’s a great way to keep on top of your studies and not get overwhelmed. It also helps that constant chatter in your brain about when to study, and stops procrastination. You might decide from 6-9pm every weekday evening you will study. In a very short time you will find that if you are doing everything else besides studying during this time it just wouldn’t feel right.
  4. Develop a “getting into “gear” or transitional period that signals to your brain that you are about to start studying. Just like when you are going to the gym you prepare yourself by driving to the gym, changing, stretching before beginning to exercise, the same is true for studying. For example:
    • Make a cup of tea; take it to your study area (bedroom, office, etc.)
    • Write down your study objectives
    • Plan how you will reward yourself after you have finished (call a friend; watch a TV show, etc.)
    • Begin!
  5. Break big tasks into smaller ones. If you have a big assignment and find it overwhelming, simply break it down into smaller pieces. For example:
    • Write assignment plan
      • Introduction
      • Point 1
      • Point 2
      • Point 3
      • Conclusion
    • Flesh out the plan
    • Complete rough draft
    • Complete final draft
    • Hand in to teacher
    • Celebrate

    Suddenly this overwhelming assignment seems much more achievable.

  6. Noise or no noise?  Some ADHD adults have to have some background noise (usually music) while they are studying. Others like complete silence. Which one are you? If you enjoy music, that is easy to accommodate. Complete silence is a little trickier, but libraries are quiet places. Possibly your home, depending on your living situation. You could also investigate headphones or even a white noise machine that will block out sound.
  7. Active learning not only makes studying a lot more interesting, it also helps you remember the information. Here are a few ways to experiment with active learning:
    • When you are reading, ask yourself questions and try to find the answer in the text.
    • Link it to information you already know.
    • Summarize what you just learned to a friend, or even your dog. Just by trying to articulate what you learned will help you to realize if you know what you just read about, or if you need to go over it again.
    • Draw a mind map. Mind maps can be a great tool to organize your information. Tony Buzzard has many great tips on how to create and use mind maps at
  8. Break your study time down into small chunks. 30 minutes works well for me. Some people find that too long and prefer chunks of 20 minutes. Others can concentrate for 40 minutes. Knowing that the timer is ticking away helps you to concentrate on the task at hand. When the timer rings, stretch, take a bathroom break and go back for your next timed study period.
  9. The first 10 to 15 minutes of private study are always the hardest. Break through that and you will find that you are in the study groove.
  10. Reward yourself! A lot. You get rewards for studying for the time you set yourself, or handing a paper in on time, for sitting a test. Rewards will vary depending on the task and what you consider a reward, but your brain really loves to know that at the end of all the hard work there is a reward waiting!