If you’re anything like me, you have some trouble focusing on the current task at hand. I have been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, just in case you’ve never heard of it), but I wasn’t diagnosed until my mid 30s. It was great to finally have an idea of why I had trouble finishing anything I started. It could be a household project, writing a blog post, schoolwork, work-work, etc. Pretty much anything I did, except for reading a book or watching a movie/tv would get left undone. Those only get done due to hyper-focusing, another trait of ADHD.
But you have a college degree and are working on your master’s! How can you have ADHD and be successful in school? I have a few tools in my toolbox I’ll share with you. Even though I have these tools, and they do work very well for me, I often forget to use them. Here they are (I’m not sponsored in any way by these companies).
The Pomodoro Technique is an interval time management method. It was created by Francesco Cirillo. Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian after the tomato shaped kitchen timer used as its icon.
Basically you work on a task for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. After four sets of work, you take a longer 15 minute break. Then continue on until your task is complete. Or its lunch time. Or its time to go home…
I use the Pomodoro Timer Lite app for Android.
Brain.fm: Music for the Brain
Brain.fm has several tools you can use, the one I use the most is focus music. There are others like sleep, meditation, relax, etc. We’ll get to some of those in a future blog post.
There is science behind how this all works, I think I have a handle on it, but here is a link to their own explanation of it all. Basically the music has an underlying rhythm that your brain attunes to and reacts in kind. So listening to the focus station gets you focused. I find that in myself, the focus music induces hyper-focus, one way that ADHD can be beneficial.
You can try it for on the website or use the app (Android). This is one of the only apps that I’m willing to pay a subscription for because it works so well for me. Its $15.99 for 3 months. Totally worth it.
Yes, this is a great tool for you if you have ADHD. If you don’t – don’t take a stimulant! First of all, its illegal. Second, it won’t help you like you think it will. You may have energy and be able to study all night until the cows come home, but you won’t really be able to retain anything.
Having said that, how do I use this tool? I take 20mg of Adderall XR, twice a day. Its taken several years to really get this nailed down. I started on normal release Adderall, and it really worked, but it wore off too quickly for me. Then my doctor and I switched to the extended release once per day, it lasted longer, but not long enough to help with doing school work in the evening. So we revisted my prescription and started taking it twice a day, it worked great, but then I didn’t sleep well at all because it was still in my system when I went to sleep. Finally, I started a new medication schedule. I set an alarm and take my first dose at 6:00 am, then go back to sleep. I wake at normal time after that, then take my second dose 8 hours later at 2:00 pm. This lasts me until just about bed time.
Medication isn’t right for everyone, so please don’t expect results like mine just because it worked for me. My son also has ADHD and he hates taking medication, but he still does well in school and his behavior (outside the home) is great.
I have not been through any kind of therapy for ADHD, so this is not first hand experience. If you Google for licensed professional counselors (LPC) in your area, you’re likely to find they list things like ADHD as a specialty. From what I understand, they help you to recognize when you’re mind is straying away from your task (SQUIRREL!!), then re-frame your thinking back under control. This is really very oversimplified, but its the basic idea.
I’m sure there are many other tools out there for helping retain your focus. If you have any tools or methods please share them in the comments.