ADHD Homework

Getting On Top of ADHD Homework: Strategies for Success

To effectively tackle homework with ADHD, it's crucial to create a structured and distraction-free environment. Implementing consistent schedules, breaking tasks into manageable parts, and using timers can significantly improve focus and productivity. These strategies, tailored to the unique challenges ADHD presents, are key to transforming homework from a daunting task into an achievable goal.

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Struggling with ADHD and Homework? Let's Work It Out Together

Have you ever felt that, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to hand in your homework on time, or get completely overwhelmed by the workload? Or maybe you’re like I was, you’d get it done - but 10 minutes before the class started.

It’s not just you. Many of us with ADHD struggle with our academic responsibilities, whether that’s homework or making it to class on time. Today we’ll suggest some practical strategies so that you can take back control of your education. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss:

  • Why ADHD impacts our ability to complete homework.
  • The common challenges faced by children, teenagers, or students with ADHD.
  • Practical tips for improving focus, productivity, and time management.
  • Plus, plenty of stories from my own school experience.

Let’s find out how to make homework time less daunting and more manageable.

ADHD and Why We Can’t Just ‘Try Harder’ with Our Homework

Homework is difficult for many people with ADHD. So if you’re struggling right now, just know that it’s not you - it may just be the neurodevelopmental condition you live with. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex disorder with a long list of potential symptoms, each different for everyone. According to research, the most common symptoms typically originate from executive dysfunction

Our executive functions are the mental processes that help us plan, organize, and remember details. These executive functioning skills include working memory, flexible or critical thinking, and self-control.  

Sounds pretty useful for homework, right? 

Research shows that ADHD is linked to alterations in the early development of the brain, notably impacting areas like the prefrontal cortex, which is crucial for executive functions. This can explain why individuals with ADHD often find challenges with memory, organization, and time management, among other executive tasks.

That’s why we can’t just ‘try harder’ as teachers and parents may suggest. We need proper treatment and management strategies to support us, especially in these early school years. 

You Asked…

Does ADHD make it hard to do homework?

ADHD can make focusing on and managing homework tasks more challenging. Supportive strategies and structured help are essential for students with ADHD to successfully complete their assignments.

To put these struggles into context, let me tell you about my experience at school and beyond…

My Story of Homework & Undiagnosed ADHD

I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was 29, so my student years were difficult and confusing. I didn’t understand why I struggled with things like homework and lack of focus, while the other kids didn’t.

What I didn’t know was that my ADHD symptoms were affecting how I studied, interacted with people, and performed academically.

Homework was especially tricky because it relies on focus, time management, and organization - three things the ADHD mind doesn’t always allow for.

Sometimes, I’d be too busy daydreaming to even hear that there was homework (this was before many schools had online portals for this kind of thing). 

When I did know I had homework, I’d leave it unfinished until the day (or hour) it was due. I would do literally anything else. I loved to watch TV or play a video game, but I’d even do things I didn’t enjoy, like chores, just to avoid homework. It was pure procrastination.

And even when I was doing something fun, I couldn’t properly enjoy it with the guilt of not finishing my homework or coursework at the back of my mind.

I couldn’t get interested or motivated enough to do my homework until it was the last minute and the deadline was quickly approaching. Only then would I somehow get the extra energy I needed. 

Studying in general was a bit ‘hit or miss’. I had certain subjects I was more interested in, like art, music, or science, but ask me to solve math problems or watch a history documentary and I’d be watching the clock, waiting for lunch.

When I did sit down to work, it would often take me much, much longer to complete a task because I was constantly getting distracted or completely overwhelmed by the time pressure. Or I’d suddenly work at a superhuman speed (hyperfocus). It all depended on how interested I was.

Unfortunately, I experienced what many people with ADHD do: I was labeled ‘lazy’ or ‘wasting my potential’. These things could be devastating to hear, especially when I was trying my hardest. Comments like these can quickly lead to low self-esteem and even develop into mental health disorders.

Instead of positive feedback and constructive criticism, we often get judged due to misunderstandings. It’s sad because ADHD students deserve proper support for the struggles they face every day, not judgment and labels.

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Homework and its Most Common ADHD Challenges

The ADHD struggle with establishing and sticking to a homework routine is linked to a few key ADHD symptoms.

Now or Not Now: Procrastination & Time Management

It’s often said that people with ADHD have only two concepts of time: now and not now.

If you’ve ever watched someone with ADHD put off something for hours or days, only to rush through it the night before the deadline, you’ve seen this in action.

Procrastination is when a person decides to delay or avoid doing a task that needs to be done even though they could do it now

This delay usually results in more distress as you get closer to a deadline. Procrastination is also commonly associated with laziness by people who don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes of the ADHD brain.  

People assume we’re neglecting our responsibilities because we’d rather enjoy ourselves at the expense of our responsibilities like homework or after-school activities. But in reality, we often think about these tasks, even to the point of stress and anxiety, but just cannot start because our brains aren't ready to face them yet. 

For children, time management can be a struggle, especially with things they’re not interested in, like his or her homework. By rushing to get this done outside of homework hours and before the deadline, there’s a risk of careless mistakes and negative results.

Parents may need to help with their child’s time management. For example, offering homework help at a set time might help them create a routine. Otherwise, they’ll have to tackle it themselves, without your help.

Overwhelm and Lack of Emotional Control

Once you’ve finally overcome procrastination and have gathered enough willpower to sit down and tackle your homework assignments, you may meet your next obstacle: overwhelm

When faced with a big project, like coursework or an essay, we may immediately get overwhelmed before even thinking about what needs to be done. I get this now, even in a work environment. I automatically assume there’s too much to be done, and it’s not possible before the deadline, often leading to genuine (but temporary) panic.

This can spiral into an emotional outburst, especially if you’re easily frustrated or tend to put a lot of pressure on yourself academically. Due to people with ADHD typically suffering from emotional dysregulation, it can be hard to ground yourself in these moments. 

The trick here is to fully break down your homework assignments or projects into each step that needs to be done (e.g.: research x, write a persuasive title). For an essay, separate it into sections: title, angle, introduction, point 1, point 2, and conclusion. Create a plan first (as a separate task) to make sure it’s cohesive, then tackle each section individually.  

While your list may be longer, you can properly judge how quickly certain tasks can be completed, usually making it less overwhelming. 

Brain Fog, Distractions and Difficulties Focusing

You’re ready to work. You have everything broken down into actionable pieces. But then the brain fog sets in. Your mind gets clouded, your thoughts aren’t as clear as you need them to be. 

When completing tasks that require sustained mental effort (like most homework does), you need focus. The problem is when the ADHD brain simply doesn’t want to. Students with ADHD know how elusive focus can be. Even if you stick to a homework routine, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to focus enough for it to be worth it.

If you’ve ever tried to force yourself to focus when you’ve got brain fog, you know how exhausting it is. Often, for me, it leads to physical headaches and makes it difficult for me to think or function properly afterward. 

Sometimes you’re simply more prone to distractions than other times. This might be linked to the time of day, how much physical activity you’ve gotten, or how much mental energy you’ve already used. Some ways may increase your executive functioning (like physical activity), but you need to have them in your toolkit first.

Organizational Challenges: Losing or Forgetting Your Homework

Back at school, loose papers were my nemesis. If I didn’t lose them or leave them in the wrong exercise book, something would almost always happen to them. I can’t count the number of times I spilled a drink over something important (and the rest of my book bag). 

Forgetting homework is a big one. Imagine overcoming everything we’ve talked about above, only to leave your homework at home and get in trouble anyway. 

You Asked…

Do ADHD people get bored easier?

Yes, individuals with ADHD often require more stimulation, which can lead to quick boredom. Implementing engaging and varied activities can aid in sustaining their interest and focus.

Practical Tips for Improving Focus and Productivity as a Student

From early childhood through to adulthood, we can be students with ADHD at any age. That’s why we must find ways to make studying and homework-like tasks easier.

We know most children with ADHD prioritize tasks and activities that are interesting to them. So if the only time homework feels ‘easy’ is when we’re interested, how can we make homework and school time more exciting and see it in a positive light? It all starts with the right mindset and building good study habits. 

The first reminder I want to share with you is to be kind to yourself, always. ❤️ Remember that we struggle with our ADHD brains every day and are doing the best that we can. The most crucial part is that we should work with our brains and not against them.

Here are some other techniques that might help:

  • Create a designated homework space that can accommodate all homework routines. It doesn't matter if it's a study table or kitchen table, as long as you can focus on doing your tasks. This space will help you focus on your homework and avoid distractions.

  • Set the ambiance or mood that you are comfortable in working. Do you function well with no background noise, or are you okay working with white noise? Sometimes, these little details are essential to note because they can help increase your focus.

  • Keep everything you need within reach. If school books are essential in doing   your homework, make sure the correct books are nearby. If you need to highlight specific phrases from your notes, make sure certain colored pens are at arms' reach or organized in front of you. Likewise, keeping distractions away can enforce focus and give better productivity.

  • Establish a routine or schedule for homework time. This can help the mind get used to the activity and eventually minimize procrastination. Making a regular schedule for the school year, posted on a visible weekly calendar can remind you of the tasks that need to be finished.

  • Break down big tasks into smaller and manageable chunks. This way, it won't look so daunting, and you can focus on one thing at a time. Dedicating a specific amount of time to each chunk can also help you stay on track, especially for uninteresting subjects that make your regular schedule challenging to accomplish.

  • Taking breaks is essential and considered to be part of homework strategies. Break time can also minimize the effect of burnout. You can walk around, drink water, or do some stretching exercises during these times. Anything that can help you release the tension and give your eyes a break from staring at the screen 💻 or books for long periods. 
  • Write down what's distracting you. This way, you can address the root cause of your distractions and find ways to avoid or minimize them. It can be a good idea to talk about this with someone who can help you so that they will be aware and give support when needed. Updating new routines to make things work can help achieve better focus and concentration.

If your child has ADHD and is struggling with their homework, remember to provide positive feedback when you see your child work at a reasonable time. Homework will struggle to hold your child’s attention, so you may need to provide extra help to create good study habits for your kid’s benefit.

If you haven’t already, it’s worth having an honest conversation with every teacher that works with your child to let them know that they might forget their homework sometimes, and not to be too hard on them, especially if they can bring it in the next day. I remember feeling so much shame from this, and many teachers simply didn’t understand. However, a positive, supportive learning environment can make all the difference to your child and their future success. 

You Asked…

Why do people with ADHD do well in school?

Students with ADHD can excel academically when their learning environment includes specialized support and resourceful strategies that align with their inventive and quick-thinking abilities.

Ace Your Homework with the ADHD-Friendly Pomodoro Technique! ✨

Tackling homework can feel overwhelming, especially for those with ADHD. Enter the Pomodoro Technique: a simple yet effective method that breaks homework into 25-minute focused sessions with 5-minute breaks to prevent burnout and boost productivity. 🍅

Set a timer for each session to maintain focus and enjoy short breaks to recharge, making homework less daunting and more doable. This structured approach enhances concentration and provides a sense of accomplishment as you progress through tasks. ⏱️

Try our free ADHD Pomodoro Timer - 4x25 minutes [Lofi - Chill🎵] video, designed to blend focus with relaxation, acting as your virtual study companion.  

Key Takeaways

  • ADHD presents unique challenges such as difficulty with focus, time management, and organization, which can significantly impact homework habits.
  • Procrastination is a common issue among individuals with ADHD, often misunderstood as laziness.
  • Overwhelm, emotional dysregulation, and distractions further increase homework difficulties, leading to feelings of frustration and inadequacy.
  • Practical tips for improving focus and productivity include creating a designated homework space, breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, and developing a routine to minimize procrastination.
  • Remember to take breaks, address distractions, and practice self-compassion to maintain focus and avoid burnout.
  • Parents and educators should provide understanding and support, avoiding judgment and fostering a positive learning environment.

There will be days when we can't seem to focus no matter how hard we try. And that's okay. Pushing too hard on ourselves will only lead to frustration and less productivity. School day and homework can be challenging, but we can get through it with the right mindset and strategies.

What’s Next?

If homework is something you or your child struggles with, you may also find these articles useful:

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it usual for many people with ADHD to struggle with their schoolwork and assignments?

Many children (and even adults) with ADHD truly struggle with homework. This is largely because of their symptoms, like getting easily distracted, experiencing sensory overload, and being unable to focus.

Why do many people with ADHD procrastinate?

Many students with ADHD procrastinate because they do not find the task interesting enough. However, please note that reasons for procrastination can vary. An ADHD or even a neurotypical person might procrastinate because they are tired, anxious about another thing, or not motivated well.

How can we boost our productivity when it comes to schoolwork?

The first step is to be kind to yourself. Please don’t associate your procrastination or inability to accomplish your tasks on time with laziness. Your ADHD brain just works differently. Next is to tackle the problem one step at a time. For instance, if you don’t do well with distractions, try to have a dedicated workspace where it’s quiet.

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