Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always simple.
ADHD impacts the brain’s executive function. Our friends at Understood describe executive function as “the management system of the brain.” That system includes all the skills we need for studying - setting goals, planning, memory, focus, and much more.
If you’re coping with ADHD, managing and organizing your environment is key. The environment has an extremely powerful influence on your ability to concentrate, remember, maintain motivation, and create ideas.
This has particular importance to those students with ADHD - this is your space for success. In this guide, we’ll go over some key elements of a study space so you can fine tune yours and set yourself up for a great semester.
Your study space should be intentional. While it might feel easiest to plop on the couch with your notebook and laptop, guess what our mind associates the couch with? Movies, TV, gaming… Our brains are creatures of habit. Even if you tell yourself this is study time, your brain knows this is also a place where we relax.
Thinking about moving to study on your bed? Brain knows that’s where we sleep. Even worse, you can cause the OPPOSITE to happen. We start associating the bed as a place where we study, so when we attempt to call it a night, we might begin thinking of our assignments and anxiety associated along with them. Yikes!
There are some likely constraints to having your study space be just your own or fully protected; you might have roommates that dominate the common rooms, or you may share a dorm room with someone else. In these cases, there are some small adjustments that you can make to try to keep school and leisure separate.
You’ll also need to protect the space from known distractions, like your cell phone or passersby. Think in advance about what might derail you from your task and how you can prevent it from happening or do once we start getting off-track?
Creating your own ADHD-friendly study space will make ADHD management a heck of a lot easier.
Not all spaces will work for all things. If you need to bust through a piece of literature, you might find yourself craving a cozy chair to kick back in. If you need to write a research paper, you likely need a desk to support your laptop and various notes. Need to look at things in the big picture? Maybe you need a large board to write and map down ideas as you go.
Look for alternative options that suit what you need for your particular task.
Cluttered desk = cluttered thoughts. Clutter is a huge visual distraction. It’s a reminder of all the unfinished tasks that are left to do.
With ADHD, it’s difficult to sort through all the competing stimuli to focus on what’s most important and urgent. So, by keeping a clean space, you give yourself less stimuli to be bombarded with later on.
The expectation isn’t that the desk never gets messy! While that may be ideal, it might not be realistic. Start with goal of just being organized when actually getting ready to sit down and do the work.
Staying motivated with ADHD can be tough; our brains need different fuel to function. One thing that can be helpful with staying on task is having something serve as your anchor to motivation - like an item that you can see that reminds you why you want to be successful, or a quote that makes you feel inspired.
Some examples might be:
💡Lighting: If you need to do any readings or online work, be mindful of the lighting to avoid eye strain and fatigue. You want brightness to keep you awake and alert!
🎧 Sounds: Do you work best in silence where having a pair of noise cancelling headphones would help keep you in rhythm? Do you need some background noise to get motivated? Are there songs that you know get you pumped up that would be great for a homework playlist or “getting started” playlist?
🌡️Temperature: If it’s too warm in your space, you might find yourself getting sleepy; if it’s too cold in your space, you might feel distracted or jittery. 🥶 This might mean putting a jacket in your backpack in advance if you know the library is kept cold, or having a little personal fan for those warmer days.
🌈Colors: Did you know colors impact your productivity? Here are some color facts!
Want even more tips? Check out our article on setting up a space for ADHD productivity at work. You’ll find even more examples of coping skills for ADHD that are just as applicable for school. Or, better yet, try out ADHD coaching with us here at Shimmer! Managing adult ADHD doesn’t have to be a solo mission. Hook yourself up with a Shimmer ADHD coach to craft a solid study plan tailored just for you.