Ever felt like you're putting in double the effort in your studies compared to others, only to end up with similar results? If you're dealing with ADHD, that may not be just a feeling. Folks with ADHD often find themselves grinding it out twice as hard just to keep up. It's not just about the grades; it can also cause you anxiety and stress and make you feel bad about your intellect. But why does this happen?
[Why does ADHD make studying more difficult?] Why does ADHD make studying more difficult?
Understanding why ADHD introduces additional challenges to the study process is crucial. While ADHD manifests itself differently for everyone, most students with ADHD struggle with certain aspects of the learning process . Identifying these challenges can become your compass, guiding you and helping you figure out how to refine your studying routines and, more importantly, start enjoying learning again.
Trouble focusing and losing interest
Studying almost always requires meticulousness and prolonged focus. There’s no doubt that folks with ADHD can show intense concentration when they are deeply passionate about the thing they are doing (Hello, hyper fixation!). But in the study process, you often have to deal with lengthy, repetitive, or outright boring tasks you are not interested in. That’s when the interest-based nervous system, inherent to people with ADHD, makes it challenging. Balancing the need to focus on less engaging tasks becomes a unique hurdle in the learning process.
Bad time management and procrastination
ADHD can mess with your perception of time, so estimating the time needed to complete the tasks or prioritizing the urgent tasks over more fun ones may be hard. Students with ADHD may find themselves leaning towards the thrill of working under pressure and tend to wait until the last minute before taking up their assignments. Let's be real—we know you’ve been there, hitting the grind the night before a deadline.
It’s not unheard of that students often have trouble memorizing their learning material, schedules, or appointments. Unfortunately, people with ADHD are more likely to suffer from deficits in working memory, adding an extra layer of difficulty to this common struggle .
But relax: having ADHD doesn’t necessarily mean you’re essentially bad at studying, nor does it indicate a lack of intellectual abilities. People with ADHD often demonstrate exceptional intelligence and carve out impressive academic careers.
[Study Tips for People With ADHD] Study tips for people with ADHD
There’s no one best way to study ADHD, but there are ways to improve some of these areas of executive function. Here are some tips for studying with ADHD that may just be the game-changers you need.
Plan before plunging into work
When getting a new assignment, people with ADHD may dive in right away without properly analyzing what they need to do and then quickly get overwhelmed or, on the contrary - lose their concentration and interest.
If it’s what you’re guilty of, then you can try another approach. Before working on your assignment, whip out your planner, set a deadline, and throw in a basic schedule. Highlight the tasks that need your immediate attention or are likely time-consuming. Don’t forget that plenty of mobile apps can help you track your activity and progress and remind you about the tasks at hand.
During the work on your project, revisit your schedule from time to time to remind yourself about what's next on the agenda. However, remember that your schedule should be a helpful tool, not an additional source of stress. Feel free to tweak, refine, and make it work for you.
Embrace regular physical exercise
It may seem that exercising may be unrelated to the studying process, but there is conclusive evidence  that physical activity positively affects the cognitive functions of folks with ADHD. Any aerobic exercise, be it a stroll, a swim, a jog, or a bike ride, can work its magic. So pick anything that suits you the best.
Fear not if you don’t consider yourself a ‘sporty’ person and even think running terrifies you. You don't need to go full-on sports mode. Climbing up the stairs instead of taking a lift, taking short walks, or stretching during breaks - all these simple activities can boost your brainpower and overall well-being.
Deal with procrastination
All sorts of people tend to procrastinate, but living with ADHD can mean that you’re a bit more susceptible to it . Procrastination can have multiple reasons, but the outcome remains the same - it slows your study progress down, adding an unnecessary layer of guilt and anxiety.
For those moments when starting assignments feels like an uphill battle against procrastination, you may try to set the stage by organizing everything you need for the assignment in advance and by dividing your work into smaller tasks that don’t seem that overwhelming.
Now, let's talk about distractions. Since procrastination can also be caused by little things that divert your attention during work, try limiting the number of interruptions that may pull your focus away. Turn off the social media notifications on your phone and let people around you know you need some quiet time. It's time to show procrastination is unwelcome and reclaims control over your learning process.
Give yourself additional motivation
With ADHD, sticking to a study plan is often difficult, especially when you lack the proper motivation to do something. That’s where rewards come in handy. Consider promising yourself a small treat - perhaps a chocolate bar - if you complete the difficult part of the assignment. Alternatively, tell yourself you can watch an episode of your favorite show after a dedicated hour of uninterrupted study. While these rewards may seem modest in scale, they can serve as effective motivators, sustaining your interest and making the study journey more engaging.
Studying non-stop for extended stretches without taking downtime doesn’t work for folks with ADHD as well as it does for many ‘normies.’ Taking breaks and giving yourself time to relax isn't just a luxury; it can save you from burnout and give your brain the breathing space it needs to process the things you've learned.
Make sure you get enough sleep. While it's sensible advice overall, getting a good night's sleep is especially crucial for your learning process. The lack of sleep not only can negatively affect your focus but also your short-term memory. Yes, the one you use for learning things. So don’t hesitate to nap if your body calls for it.
Studying smarter doesn't necessarily equate to more hours at the desk. Sometimes, it's about a little strategic cheating. How can you do this? Enter multimodal learning - engaging your other senses during studying . Whether swapping reading for audio courses, doodling while taking notes, or embracing mind maps, there are dozens of ways to maintain concentration and absorb information more easily. Experimenting with and combining the different multimodal learning methods may help you find your unique blend and transform your study routine from a struggle to a fun learning adventure
Let other people help
Your learning journey doesn't have to be a solo expedition, consider taking other people along. Connecting with others not only deepens your engagement with challenging subjects but can also boost your motivation. You can share your experiences and struggles with other people and even manage to lend a hand to someone who’s also having trouble with their studies because of their ADHD.
That need to connect to find other people is the reason why we have created Numo - a one-way stop for all your ADHD needs.
Although our app has features galore - from the aforementioned planner to a noise generator - what sets it apart is our squads and tribes. These are the hubs where you can ask fellow ADHDers all your heart desires, including study tips.
Who knows, maybe one of them will become your body double and take your studying mastery to a new level.
Though ADHD can make your learning process a bit more challenging, that doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. Embracing that your brain operates in a unique way and remembering a few simple tips can make studying with ADHD easier and less anxiety-inducing. Making subtle tweaks to your usual studying routines and experimenting with new methods can yield significant improvements.
1 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health. Difficulties faced by university students with self-reported symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a qualitative study.
2 Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology. Clinical correlates of working memory deficits in youth with and without ADHD: A controlled study
3 Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul. Physical exercise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – evidence and implications for the treatment of borderline personality disorder
4 International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research. The relation between procrastination and symptoms of attention‐deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in undergraduate students
5 Scientific Reports. Enhanced Learning through Multimodal Training: Evidence from a Comprehensive Cognitive, Physical Fitness, and Neuroscience Intervention