Staying Focused On Homework With Add

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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Recently, a SOAR® subscriber asked for tips to help her daughter stay on-task with her homework. Just last night, a student in my Homework Action Group complained of the same problem. “I have a hard time staying focused on homework. It takes me forever to do it!”

I also remember, as a young student, sitting at my desk, wriggling and squirming.Soon, I would need a drink, or snack, or pencil… After getting lost in the kitchen and sucked into a TV show, it would be another hour before I returned to my homework.

It would get so late, I finally had no choice but to do my homework. By that time, I was irritable, annoyed, and impatient. (Don’t laugh, Mom!) That made homework even worse.

Why did I do this?

I didn’t like homework. Obviously. I didn’t know how to do it efficiently. I didn’t have the discipline to do it quickly.

But, I’ve learned a lot since then…

There isn’t much I can do to help anyone “like” homework. I can teach strategies for completing it faster, but that takes 150 pages. So, this article will help you improve your self-discipline.

“Self-Discipline Does NOT Sound Fun!”

Yes, I know… self-discipline sounds dreadful. But, it’s time to change your perspective. Just past the point of resistance is an amazing feeling of accomplishment and a big pay-off.

Self-discipline is what motivates athletes to win championships and wealthy people to earn their riches. One of the world’s most successful marketing campaigns was created on the concept of self-discipline; NIKE inspires athletes to “Just Do It!” Apply that attitude to homework, and great things will happen.

Action Plan for Staying Focused on Homework

“Just do it!” is a little easier said than done, especially when it comes to homework. However, the following tips will help you get started:

  • The hours between 3-6 p.m. are typically the most wasted of a student’s day. Make them your most productive by doing homework within one hour after school, when possible. You’re most alert at this time, so homework will be easier than doing it later.
  • Find small sections of time for homework before you get home… on the bus, before basketball practice, or even during school. (There is a lot of “down-time” in classes, such as when teachers take attendance.) The less homework you have when you get home, the more motivated you will be to finish the rest quickly.
  • Reward yourself. Challenge yourself to do all of your homework before a specific time. Then, you’ll have plenty of time to watch Netflix, play video games, text friends, etc.
  • Fill a basket with supplies you need for homework: pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, stapler, paper, scissors, markers, glue, ruler, etc. Keep the basket next to you so everything will be right at your fingertips. One trip across the house for a stapler can cost you hours when you get sidetracked by the refrigerator, TV, or computer. Every sibling should have their own basket. If you live in two homes, keep one basket in each house.
  • Eliminate distractions. It’s tempting to watch TV, listen to music, and text friends while doing homework. However, the human brain is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your attention constantly shifts back-and-forth. Sometimes that shift happens so rapidly, you don’t even notice it. However, you will be:doubling your homework time, increasing errors, and completely destroying any learning that might happen while doing homework.
  • Use an electronic timer. Before you begin an assignment, determine how much time it should take to complete. Add five minutes and set the timer. Challenge yourself to finish before the timer goes off. This is great way to develop motivation (a.k.a. self-discipline) because it becomes a game to play against yourself. For younger students, parents can offer small rewards for each assignment that is done before the timer goes off.
  • Parents: Do your “homework” while your child does their homework. You have bills to pay and school papers to complete. Do those chores during “homework time.” It helps them feel like they aren’t “missing out” and keeps them focused.


Homework is usually NOT fun. But, you can make it much easier if you follow Nike’s advice and “Just Do It!” Your evenings will suddenly have more free time.Your grades will improve as you learn information while doing homework.

Before long, you’ll develop a much better attitude towards homework because you will have taken control of it, instead of your homework taking control of you.

To get more simple ways to easily “Just Do It,” check out our dynamic and interactive app for students.

To your success,

Susan Kruger


EB 090617

Filed Under: StudentsTagged With: homework, students

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