Like many ADHD-ers, I’ve been given many an ear-full of information about my ADHD. What I should be doing differently, which foods to eat, which vitamins, “try this system,” “no that system,” “no but you have to try this technique!” It can be exhausting wading through all the statistics, sources, and conflicting studies; especially when you have a condition that inherently causes you to have a shorter attention span. After a personal quest to learn how to “thrive not just survive” with ADHD, I have come across some pretty nifty inventions that have honestly changed the game for me as a student. Of these, I have chosen six key things to pass along to any other ADHD-er who is desperate for something – anything – new that might help.
- Time Timer
We ADHD-ers have something called time blindness. Time blindness is a term used to describe our common difficulty with tracking, predicting, and conceptualizing the passage of time. Because of this, we often have a hard time completing tasks on time because what we feel is an hour of work could actually be six (especially if you’re hyperfocusing). The Time Timer is a great tool to combat this because instead of counting down numerically like other timers, it shows the passage of time visually with a decreasing red clock face. This not only helps you circumvent your time blindness by giving a visual cue rather than a conceptual one, but it can also help to train your brain to better comprehend time. It’s easier to visualise in your head what 30 minutes would look like on the Time Timer than going off of what you think 30 minutes feels like. And don’t worry, there is no annoying ticking sound to this clock! It also comes with an alarm on and off switch so you can bring it to the library without any worries of it bothering others!
- Passion Planner
Continuing in the same vein, time blindness can also often affect our ability to properly schedule our days. As an hourly planner, the Passion Planner is a great solution. Because managing our time is so difficult, having an hourly planner provides an external regulator to help prevent you from overbooking or underbooking yourself, and allows you to actually visualize on a piece of paper how you’re spending your time.
For example, it’s easy as an ADHD-er to think that because you have a tutorial and a GP appointment on the same day that you don’t have time for anything else. This is because we tend to backlog time as a fail safe for not being late. Your doctor’s appointment is at 3:00, but you’ll want to budget in 30 minutes walking time to get to the appointment so really your doctor’s appointment is at 2:30, not 3:00. But, you need to make sure you’re dressed and ready to go with all the things you need to bring to said appointment, so let’s budget in an hour just in case you can’t find what you’re looking for. So 1:30. Well, you have to eat lunch before you go right? So factor in another hour for lunch. Actually an hour and a half because you need to do the dishes. So your doctor’s appointment is really at 12:00. But your morning lecture ends at 12:00! So that’s it, your day is shot. Your homework, your errands, your to do’s, etc. will just have to wait until tomorrow because you are packed for the day.
This is a very common mindset for ADHD-ers. However, having a planner where you can actually sit down and write out the times you have activities, and then visually see how much time you have between them, allows you to better use your time. It could mean you actually can say yes to lunch with your friends because you know you have three empty slots in your planner to fill!
- Seam Ripper
Yes, you read that correctly. Weird choice indeed, but just hear me out. Because ADHD is an issue of regulating attention, it causes our brains to have trouble learning which external stimuli to ignore and which to focus on. As a result, seemingly unimportant external stimuli like the temperature of the room, the sound of the lights, or your sock fallen halfway down your shoe can derail your attention completely, making it nearly impossible to focus on the task at hand. One pesikly persistent culprit is your run-of-the-mill, everyday clothing tag. These little buggers can truly be the bane of an ADHD-ers existence. This is where the glorious invention of the seam ripper comes into play. Unlike scissors, which leave behind the tag’s itchy remnants, the seam ripper removes the whole tag. Trust me, keep one of these babies on you at all times. The last thing you want is to show up to the library for a major study session and leave with nothing accomplished because the tag sapped your attention completely dry.
- Chrome Extensions
A tried and true ADHD method is outsourcing any sense of self control completely to another entity. My friends, have I got the extensions for you! First one up is a YouTube dashboard blocker that lets you choose elements of the YouTube website you want to see, and those you do not. This is great if you have to watch a YouTube video for homework but don’t want to get distracted by suggested videos or a notification that your favorite creator just uploaded. This one has been a game changer for me, personally. Next is the Mercury Reader, a great extension for getting rid of onscreen distractions on a website you’re trying to read. Next is Self Control. If you’ve tried site blocking extensions before but never had any success since you could just turn the extension off, you should try this one. Self Control will lock access to any sites you have not whitelisted and will not let you open them until the allotted time is up, under any circumstances. There is no password you can type in, there’s no pausing the lock. It makes the sites completely inaccessible – an excellent one to use if you have a major essay due or a looming exam. It’s also availble as a downloadable app for Mac. Last is My Study Bar. This is available through the University and allows you to highlight, write on, bold, etc. a text you are reading on your computer. It also comes with text to speech capabilities so you can have your homework read aloud to you.
- Alarm Clock
Again, yes you read that correctly. No, your iPhone alarm clock is not sufficient. Heed this advice from a professional napper, the iPhone alarm is dangerously easy to accidentally turn off. Last year, I finally caved and purchased a true-blue alarm clock and I’m honestly mad I didn’t think to do it so sooner. Not only do I not need to keep it on my bedside table (unlike with my phone) but it allows me to turn my phone off before I go to bed – removing any incentive to check it when I should be sleeping. I personally use the Lumie Sunrise Alarm from Argos which I highly recommend. The sunrise technology really does make it easier to wake up in the mornings, and this alarm comes with the option of an alarm sound as well, for those of us who have mastered the art of sleeping no matter the lighting conditions. A sunrise alarm is also great because ADHD-ers are more likely to have a condition known as sleep inertia, something which makes fully waking up in the mornings very difficult. Having a slow transition from sleep to wake can help to manage its effects.
- Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey
This book was recommended to me over the summer by my psychiatrist after I told him that I wanted to learn more about my brain. Like many late-diagnosed ADHD-ers, there wasn’t much time for me to get the full rundown of what having ADHD really meant when I was first diagnosed. Often the later you’re diagnosed, the more likely your life is in some sort of shambles, and I am no exception. The first steps of my treatment were focused on finding the right medications and making sure I didn’t flunk out of high school (as I was on a fast approaching collision course for that very prospect). Now, four years after my diagnosis, I finally have the luxury to breathe. And with that came a desire to know more about myself than just my drawbacks. This book is incredible. I wholeheartedly believe every ADHD-er must read it. Dr Hallowell is not only an ADHD specialized psychiatrist, but an ADHD-er himself. He offers advice on what a lifetime with ADHD will look like and how to make sure you don’t live it by just getting by. It is also an incredibly ADHD-friendly book. It’s designed for you to skip around when reading it, and even has a chapter that summarizes the entire book – letting you learn the essentials quickly and giving the option to go more in depth on the topics that interest you. You can read this summary chapter for free here. Honestly, if you only choose to get one thing on this list, I can’t stress enough that it should be this.
And that’s it folks! I won’t steal any more of your precious attention or energy. If you are a St Andrews student with ADHD, I highly recommend joining the St Andrews Disabled Student Network’s Facebook group for disabled students at St Andrews. It’s a great place to go for further advice and support from fellow neurodivergent and disabled students!