Hi Kookie! First of all, congrats on going back to school! 🙂 I’m thirtysomething, going back in August, and I’m nervous about studying, too. Here are some tips I’ve picked up while preparing to go back. I’m hoping they’ll work for me this fall, and I hope they work for you too!
1. Exercise. A therapist once told me that exercise is like a bath for your brain. It floods your brain with oxygen and cleans out some of the fog. If you exercise before studying, and maybe even take a few breaks for jumping jacks or stairs (or dancing) in between, it’ll keep your brain more focused.
2. Healthy snacks. I find I can focus WAY better after some protein and good sugars (usually fruit for me). Nuts are also an excellent snack, and chewing crunchy things or gum can help you focus, too.
3. Timer. Our brains digest info better in small bits, so setting a timer for 15 minutes, then taking a 5 minute break to do something completely different, to process what you just read, will help your brain “digest” it. Plus, knowing the clock is ticking adds a sense of urgency to our studying that can help our brains wake up.
4. Skim & highlight. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’ll be able to physically sit down and read ALL those textbooks, cover to cover. In college, my therapist suggested I go through each chapter with colored highlighters. Highlight the main topic sentence of each chapter, section, and paragraph. Highlight any key words, vocabulary, and important supporting sentences. You’ll end up skimming the whole chapter, but only focusing on the most important parts. I tell myself it’s kind of a game, like a scavenger hunt, and that usually motivates me to get through the chapter.
5. Notes. When studying for the test, you can compare your class notes to the stuff you highlighted in the textbook to make SUPER notes. Reading them for 15 minutes a day will keep them fresh in your mind, and the more times you review them, the more likely you are to remember them.
6. Sleep. A lot of folks will pull all-nighters to try to cram in a lot of information. Problem is, your brain processes stuff while you sleep. It’ll move information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory while you dream, so making sure you get enough sleep is so important! For me, it’s 7-8 hours per night. Less than that, and I’ll forget my shoes, never mind trying to remember my notes!
7. Acknowledge the distraction, but don’t let it derail you! Our brains wander like crazy. I heard somewhere that, when you’re trying to focus on something and your brain wanders, just noticing it and mentally labeling it “thinking” is sometimes enough to pull your mind back to the task at hand. If your brain is wandering to ideas, you could keep a notepad near you and make bullet points about the things you want to think about later. If it’s a worry, I use the imagery of a basket. All the things I CAN think about are in a basket. If there’s something I need to focus on and other thoughts/worries/plans keep interrupting, I write them down and put them back in the “basket” to pull out later. Mentally knowing that they’re still there, I haven’t forgotten the important thing and can make time for it later usually helps me stay on track.
I hope that helps! One of my favorite ADHD channels is “How to ADHD” on youtube. She has a video on study skills here: https://youtu.be/PZ4wWpPf-go
And here’s one on note-taking: https://youtu.be/qE9Pmm5yfhQ
Best of luck!