Organization Tips for College Students with ADHD

Eileen Bailey | Aug 16, 2016

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What the science says

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College students with ADHD often have a difficult time getting organized. When these students are helped to create an organizational system for their work, many find their ADHD symptoms and grades improve, according to a recent study.

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Although every student with ADHD is different, the following organizational strategies can help to make each day easier.

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Take time for tech

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Use your electronics to help you remember. Use your device’s calendar or download one and keep your school, work and recreational activities all in one place to avoid time conflicts. You can use it to remember due dates, tests and exams and long-term goals.

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Don't bite off more than you can chew

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Break assignments down into manageable chunks and give yourself interim goals. For example, with a long-term reading assignment, give yourself a due date for each chapter. Include these dates on your calendar.

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Make use of alarms and reminders

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Cell phones and tablets also have built-in alarms. You don’t need to use these only  for waking up. Use alarms to remind you when you need to move to your next task, when you need to be at class or when to meet your friends for dinner.

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Make things visual

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Keep a large wall calendar in your room for assignments and tests. You can easily see both your short- and long-term assignments.

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Keeping track of time

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To help prevent running late for class, hang an extra-large clock in your room.

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Free up some time for yourself

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Keep a basket by your door or use an over-the-door organizer as a launch pad. Put your room keys, tablet, notebooks, pens, cell phone and any other items you will need in the organizer. That way, you won’t waste time in the morning gathering or looking for your items.

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Practice makes perfect

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Keep a consistent daily routine. Although class schedules might be different, try to wake up and go to bed and eat your meals at the same time each day.

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Create check-ins throughout the day

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Schedule your time throughout the day. Set aside specific times for studying, relaxing and spending time with friends. Having a schedule can increase your focus. Set aside ten minutes each morning to review your day and create a to-do list.

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Reduce unnecessary distraction

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Decide where you want to study. If you are constantly interrupted when studying in your room, find a quiet room or a corner of the library. Use the same area as much as possible to increase concentration.

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Pay attention to your habits

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Schedule classes based on the time of day you are most alert. Some people prefer morning classes, others find they focus better in the afternoon or evening. Think about when you are most apt to learn and base your schedule on what is best for you.

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Use playback to learn at your pace

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Request permission to record lectures. Many people with ADHD have a difficult time listening and taking notes at the same time. Recording lectures leaves you free to attentively listen without worrying about missing important details.

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Get creative

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Plan something constructive to complete in between classes. Use this time to work on a project, read a chapter or get caught up with homework.

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Connect with others to increase accountability

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Join a study group. Getting together with other students can help keep you on track.

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Reduce possible distractions

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Plan distracting tasks, such as checking email, Facebook or Instagram, for after all your classes and assignments are completed. These types of tasks can be consuming and before you know it, you have spent hours without getting any schoolwork accomplished.

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Treat yourself

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Use rewards to help you stay on track. For example, study for two hours and then meet friends for coffee. Having something to look forward to can help you focus.

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Don't be ashamed to ask for assistance

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Seek out help when needed. Check with the disability services office for possible accommodations, such as written notes, recording lectures or priority registrations. You can also consider working with your advisor, a counselor or an ADHD coach for help with organization.

NEXT: ADHD and Success at School: A School Psychologist Q & A