I’ve been struggling with ADHD my entire life, but since being at college it feels like it’s gotten worse. Do y’all have any advice/suggestions?
Thank you so much for reaching out! You are absolutely not alone, a lot of students find the sudden lack of structured time, paired with a brand-new environment, make their Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms significantly worse. Each person is different, but for me these are some of the hacks I find most helpful for my ADHD…
Problem: Time Blindness, difficulty sensing the passage of time.
Hack: I set alarms for everything, but for showers or getting ready in the morning, I have a series of playlists on my spotify, ranging from 5 to 20 minutes long. This way I know how long I have to get ready or finish something based on where I am in the playlist. Another strategy I use is a timer going on my phone that I can see from where I am (this is better for doing work, but not as good for showers).
Problem: Motivation, difficulty gaining the activation energy to start.
Hack: Dr. William Dodson came up with the theory that for most neurotypical individuals, motivation comes from three main factors: importance, rewards and consequences. However for someone with ADHD, simply knowing that the project is important might not be enough. Instead consider these possible motivating factors: interest, competition/challenge, sense of urgency, novelty and passion. To implement these motivators, you can try to gamify activities. For example: I don’t just do homework, I complete a side quest, or practice writing with my left hand. I also pick research projects that interest me, even if they will be harder.
Problem: Staying focused, difficulty concentrating on one thing at a time.
Hack: Attach time limits to what you do. I guess how long each assignment will take and then try to do it 15 minutes faster. The time limit helps to create a sense of urgency.
Another way to stay focused is with a body double. A body double is someone who will stay in the room with you while you do work for accountability. The 24-hour silent reading room is the ideal body double location because there are almost no places where someone can’t see your computer, so you can always feel peer pressure to do work. Last but not least, take a time lapse video with your phone — for me this can give just enough accountability.
Problem: Keeping your dorm room clean.
Hack: First, I changed my narrative around cleaning from, “I have to clean because I am bad at being a functional person if I don’t,” to, “I am a person who deserves to live in a clean space that makes me happy. I am going to clean up to do something nice to myself.” The other phrase I repeat is, “Don’t put it down, put it away.” For some reason, until I heard this, I was under the impression that the only way to stay clean was to clean at the end of each day, but it turns out you can actually clean along the way.
Problem: Procrastination, a tendency to push something off as much as possible.
Hack: First, try some of the above hacks, but if that still doesn’t work, I opt for productive procrastination. This means if you have to procrastinate you might as well get something done. For me this is usually cleaning my room, or responding to an “Ask the Editors.”
Hannah Sussman ‘25
To send your own submission to “Ask the Editors” you can follow this link: https://forms.gle/sz7VCnGkXTHbjeZi7.
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