Study Tips to Stay Focused, Interested and Organized

Marshall Findlay

Generally, our featured guests have something important to say to the parents of kids with ADHD. Occasionally, we have an opportunity to have our guest speak directly to your kids – and this is one of those rare moments. Marshall is an experienced tutor with Applerouth Tutoring Services, so he speaks your kids’ language!

We suggest you print this out and share it with your children in that “Wow, look what I learned! You’re going to love this – this guy says you should take lots of study-breaks during homework!” kind of way.

If you’re a student who struggles with ADD/ADHD, you face many challenges that other students don’t face.  One of my students a few years back noted that she had to work 5 times harder than everyone else in her class, and I believe she was right.  If you:

  • Lose focus easily
  • Have difficulty remembering things
  • Struggle with boring or demanding tasks, and
  • Procrastinated due to fear of failing at an assignment

… you are not alone, and this can help you!  Here are some really useful study tips to help you stay focused, interested, and organized.

How you can stay focused.

  1. Both in class and while studying, eliminate as many distractions as you can.  If you find that students running around outside makes you lose focus, try sitting away from windows. If a classmate is doing something distracting, change your seat.  The more distractions you can eliminate on the front end, the more you’ll be able to focus on what you need to learn.
  2. While studying, stay aware of the time.  Set a timer on your watch or phone to let you know when 10 minutes have passed.  If you find yourself spacing out while reading, a timer can help you review the past 10 minutes and what you’ve just read.
  3. Take mini-breaks often.  Make it a routine that after 30 minutes of studying (3 10-minute increments), take a 5 minute break.  Get up, stretch, get some water, use the restroom.  This can help with making the most of your time.  Turn it into a game.  Try to get 5 math problems done before your 5 minute break.  The goal of these breaks is to step back, relax your mind for a second, and then step back in with renewed focus.
  4. No cramming allowed!  Break your studying into 15-20 minute sessions for a couple of days leading up to a test.  You’ll be able to stay fresh and focused much more easily than one 3-hr session the night before the test.

How you can stay interested.

  1. Some students find it helpful to create a “reward” system.  Essentially, you reward yourself for study accomplishments.  The “reward” can be as small as “letting” yourself post on Instagram, or as large as “gifting” yourself an afternoon to do your favorite activity.  This can help motivate you to reach your goals.  It’s important, though, to be a fair judge.  If you didn’t make your goal, set a new one, and don’t reward yourself until it’s done.
  2. Find a study tool that you enjoy.  Some students prefer flashcards to copying down notes.  Others like to talk over information with others; some even like to move around while studying.  If you’re more of an active type, try writing your notes on flashcards and taking a walk while reviewing the information.  If you’re more of a visual learner, try drawing a fun picture that incorporates your information.
  3. Mnemonic devices can be a fun way of remembering otherwise impossible information.  My Very Easy Method Just Set Up Nine Planets can help you remember the order of the planets.  King Phillip Came Over For Good Spaghetti can help with the classification of organisms.  And we all know Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally!  The funnier and more creative, the more easily that information will stay in your mind.
  4. Don’t neglect the body!  Studies show that physical exercise is very helpful for learning.  Take a walk or hit the gym before or during your study session.  On a similar note, if you find you’re bored or apathetic in class, check your belly.  If you didn’t have a large breakfast, you may not have enough energy to get interested in the subject.

How to stay organized.

  1. Get a planner and put everything in it.  The more you can put in the planner, the less you’ll have to occupy your mind with tiny pieces of information.  It’s extremely helpful to “map out” your day, spending 5 minutes over breakfast looking at your planner, going through the day’s events. A lot of people are switching to digital planners, and that’s fine too. Just make sure to get all the little details out of your head and recorded somewhere that you can see them.
  2. Set realistic expectations.  We all think more highly of our abilities sometimes than we should.  If you know that you barely scraped through this past semester’s 2 AP classes, don’t bump it up to 3 next semester.
  3. Ask for help.  Seriously, there is no shame in asking for help! Ask your teacher to help break down a big assignment with you.  See if she can give you an outline or summary of her class lecture the day before so you can be prepared in class.  Review upcoming assignments with her or a classmate to make sure you copied them down correctly. You have to do your own work, but you don’t have to do it all alone!

So, you remember my student who had to work 5 times harder than the other students?  She had to wrestle with staying focused, interested, and organized. But, she also learned 5 times more about herself than her peers! Now she’s in college and doing great, all because of the things she did in high school to set herself up for success.

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