So, you have ADHD, but for whatever personal reason, you’re opting out of taking medication. There’s no shame in that, and by this age, you’re more than likely familiar with your habits. Studying is not impossible for you, though it does have to deal with every ADHD person’s worst fear: sitting down and concentrating for long periods of time.
You can make it, though, don’t you worry. I have some tips on how to study with ADHD without the help of medication.
Do. Not. Cram.
This cannot be stressed enough. I know you see all these montages of college students cramming late at night. This is not how you should study, especially if you have ADHD. You’re just asking for trouble at that point.
Instead, you should space out your studying to several periods over several days. Why is this important? Because in this way, you actually get some sleep, and sleeping is vital to helping you learn the material.
If you want some tips, try studying twice for 30 minutes every day, one during lunch and one at the end of the day.
Get Some Sugar in You
I hope you’re not on a diet. Believe it or not, a sugary drink can actually do wonders for your performance. How so? Well, a drink like apple juice can deliver glucose, and if you’re low on glucose, you may struggle to perform at your best.
However, this doesn’t mean you should be downing as many sugary drinks as you want. Too much sugar can in fact cause a sugar crash, and if that happens, it can cause a lack of focus and even memory impairment, which is the exact opposite of what you want when it comes to studying with ADHD.
Interact with the Material
Have you ever seen students with multi-colored pens and highlighters that leave their notebooks looking like they were struck by a rainbow? If so, there’s a reason why they do that.
It’s easy for those with ADHD to read over their work and not really take anything in. Just copying down what you read without absorbing the information is almost certain to make you fail. Taking time to interact with the material is what you should do, using different highlighters to point out some of the more important bits. Use pink to highlight key vocabulary, orange to point out certain formulas, and so on and so forth. There are other ways to interact, but that’s the most common method.
This goes hand in hand with the tip around using highlighters and colored pens. In this case, you should also utilize some organizers, like folders, tabs, and a day planner.
Tools like that will allow you to find what you’re looking for far easier. The less time you spend digging around and trying to find what you’re looking for, the less opportunities you’ll have to get distracted or forget what you’re doing.
One thing I always suggest is getting a folder to put all your homework in. That way, when you get home, you can check the folder to make sure you aren’t forgetting any work you’re needing to do.
I also suggest cleaning your bag weekly and getting rid of anything you won’t be needing anymore.
Take Some Breaks
If you’ve decided to dedicate yourself to a rather long study session, you need to take a moment for a small break here and there. A good ten minutes or so between thirty-minute sessions should do you some good. It will give your mind time to process what you’ve read instead of being overloaded with even more information.
A break will also help you get any restlessness out of you. Go ahead and take a walk or look at your phone a bit. It should tide you over until you’re ready to get back to studying.
Build a Routine
It’s important that you learn how to structure your time. If you don’t, you may end up getting into trouble with your studying and running out of time.
If you want a good way to structure your studying, get a timer. You can easily download one on your phone or just buy a cheap one from the store. Bring out the timer, set it for thirty minutes, and then get to studying your first subject. The routine should go like this.
- Subject 1 (30 minutes)
- Break (10 minutes)
- Subject 1 (30 minutes)
- Subject 2 (30 minutes)
- Break (10 minutes)
- Subject 3 (30 minutes)
- Break (15 minutes)
- Subject 3 (30 minutes)
Obviously this is just a basic routine you can follow every day that shouldn’t be too difficult for you. It also incorporates the breaks that I suggested earlier. You can shift it to whatever suits you the best.
Break Up Your Assignment into Chunks
If you want a successful study session, you’re going to want to break up your homework, assignments, and general studying into chunks. Some of this is already laid out for you, such as how most textbooks you’re given contain chapters.
Dedicate a study session to each chunk, interacting with it and looking further into the source material. If you have homework, make sure to break that up into sections so you can take a break in between. Overloading yourself with so much information will not help you to remember more.
Have some Incentives
Sometimes you have to bribe yourself into getting things done. I know I certainly do. Giving yourself rewards for a job well done is key to getting yourself to sit down and focus. Reward yourself for a long day of studying by eating out. If you have a particularly strong taste for sugar, you can give yourself a candy for each handful of questions answered.
Incentives are even a good way to discipline children with ADHD, the method simply works.
It almost seems childish and immature to be bribing yourself like one bribes a toddler into behaving, but if it works, it works. This is about your needs, and if the promise of spending a few hours on your favorite video game after completing a tough assignment is what motivates you, then hey, there’s no shame in that.
Don’t Neglect Your Needs
This is true just in general, but I can understand having a hard time tending to your needs when you’re trying to get into studying.
If you’re trying to focus, but you’re tired, are running on an empty stomach, or are restless and in need of some social interaction, then you’re going to be more easily distracted by those things than being properly focused on the tasks laid out before you.
Get some sleep, drink some water, and make sure you’ve eaten. A body that is not well is less likely to be in a state of learning and retaining information. This is also important for days in which you’re actually in class. You need to focus on the material and everything your professor is saying, so make sure you have a good breakfast and your eight hours of sleep. You’ll need it.
Review Your Notes Before Bedtime
Even if you think you have everything down pat and understand all the information given to you, you should still take the time to review your notes before you go to sleep. Why then? Well, for one, it allows you to sleep on the material.
You need to sleep in order to properly retain information, focus, and understand the material you’re reading. Given your notes are going to be one of the last things you look at before you turn out the lights, it will allow you to properly digest the information as you lie down and get off to bed. It’s important that you not only find sleep, but that you also put your restfulness to good use.
If You Still Aren’t Finding Luck
So let’s say you’ve tried all of these tips and they’re still not working out for you. What then? That’s the million dollar question.
Well, if you’ve tried all you could to fight the whims of your ADHD and still can’t find any reprieve, you may have to face the fact that you might actually need to see a doctor and get medicated.
You’re allowed to be off of medication for any reason, whether it’s for personal preference or it interferes with other pills you’re taking. However, you have to remember that ADHD is absolutely a struggle to deal with, and that if you have the means to do so and you know it won’t interfere with parts of your life, you should speak to a doctor.
There is no shame in getting medicated, and there are many people who benefit greatly from it. It’s definitely something to consider if you have the very real fear that your classes may be on the line. Once again, it is your decision, but if you do, still make sure to keep these tips in mind. People without ADHD can get distracted as well purely out of procrastination from anxiety, so these can still help you out in the long run.