There has been an awful lot of press lately about an unfortunate, increasing trend among many high school and college students: the non-prescription abuse of powerful drugs used to treat ADHD, such as Adderall, to sharpen focus and improve academic performance.
The desire to have focused clarity when it comes to academic performance is certainly admirable, but obviously using an unprescribed or illicitly obtained drug to achieve results is not a practice that is safe, much less recommended. So, what can students do to try to sharpen focus and boost performance in a healthy way?
There are a host of tips you can try/teach to see if they help to improve your/your student's focus. Here are 5 that we have found helpful:
- Carry a small notepad in your pocket and write single word reminders on it. Enter important reminders and random thoughts that pop into your head while attending to other tasks. This will allow you to refocus on the task at hand. With today's smartphones, you may not even need a pencil.
- Got a busy day ahead? Map it out. The human brain can manage 2 complicated tasks at once. As soon as you add more, tracking goes out the window and errors start creeping in. Write down the sequence of what you need to accomplish and refer to it as the day moves forward.
- Set a timer. It's easy to let other tasks creep in if your mind wanders, so find out how much time a task REALLY takes you and use that as a guideline in setting your timer. Smartphones are terrific for this.
- Chunk your time. Not all tasks are quick ones, so it may make sense to use the timer discussed above to break a task into 15 minute intervals, with 2 to 5 minute breaks built in interstitially. This may seem counter-productive at first, but by using the timer, you will find that more time is spent on-task in total than if you were to try to accomplish the whole task in one sitting because it is much easier to keep your mind from wandering over a shorter period of time.
- Walk around. Sometimes the very act of getting up is enough to refocus you, especially if your distractability comes with a hyperactivity component. Play around with different break activities to see what works for you.
These tips take practice to change them into habits. Remember that you probably won't be able to utilize them all easily at first and that they will feel "artificial" until they become ingrained.
What are some tips that you have used to maintain your focus? We'd love to hear them.