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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A fresh start: Maximize productivity this semester

Students catch up after break to work on some assignments. Photo by Sayyedeh Ava Sajjadi / Mass Media Contributor.

With the conclusion of winter break, the beginning of the spring semester is in full swing as students return to the routine of attending classes and completing coursework. Students are expected to find the optimal routine to guarantee academic success as they re-adjust to life on campus. However, for students with ADHD, this task is far from easy.

Those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder often have difficulty maintaining a routine. This is due to the impairment of executive functions that regulate necessary cognitive processes such as time management and organization. This executive dysfunction is what can lead students with ADHD, particularly inattention, to struggle academically. [1]

According to the National Institute of Health, people that are diagnosed as the inattentive type “have difficulty sustaining attention during play or tasks,” “find it hard to follow through on instructions or finish schoolwork,” and may even “avoid tasks that require sustained mental effort.” [2]

Unlike the average college student, simply doing work can become a Herculean task for students with ADHD. Still, it doesn’t mean that different approaches can’t be used. Creativity and stimulation are the essential factors that can elevate a routine and maximize productivity. By being creative, even ADHD can become manageable for schoolwork.

Developed in 1987, the Pomodoro Technique is a tool that directly tackles inattention and poor time management by dividing tasks into 25-minute intervals called “pomodoros” with breaks in between. [3]

The Pomodoro Technique works by setting a timer for 25 minutes. This time is dedicated to completing any necessary tasks, encouraging focused work and limiting distractions so that time is spent more efficiently. After the timer goes off, five minutes is taken for a break before another 25-minute timer is set. Every four pomodoro intervals, a longer 15 to 20 minute break can be taken.

Though 25 minutes is recommended for the Pomodoro Technique, the pomodoro and break intervals can be customized as fit for each individual. By breaking down tasks into smaller time chunks and providing a streamlined framework to complete work, this tool can make homework assignments and projects more achievable for students with ADHD that struggle with time management and procrastination.

Focusing on schoolwork is another challenge frequently encountered by those with the inattentive type of ADHD. External distractions and lack of stimulation can result in inefficient usage of time, increasing the time spent on one task and reducing productivity.

Finding a new environment can be helpful to minimize inattention symptoms. If a silent and isolated room is not working, doing work in a place with some background noise like a local cafe or the library could improve focus. Being around other people or studying with friends can also be a source of motivation and accountability—strengthening the desire to perform tasks and be productive in front of others that are doing the same.

Listening to music is another method that can improve focus. By stimulating the mind, students with ADHD can become more engaged in the work they are doing, resulting in better reading comprehension and focus. Depending on the student, various types of music may work better than others.

Similarly, white noise has the same potential to boost focus. Psychology Today describes how, through the silencing of environmental distractions and increase in neural activity, white noise optimizes the efficiency of brain signaling in people with ADHD, reducing the tendency to become distracted. [4] 

While the inattentive type of ADHD is undoubtedly disruptive to productivity, the hyperactive and impulsive type can also present its own issues.

According to the National Institute of Health, people diagnosed with the hyperactive and impulsive type typically “move about constantly,” “act without thinking,” and “have difficulty with self-control,” this coming with “a desire for immediate reward.”

For students with this type of ADHD, sitting down to complete homework may seem like too far of a mundane and unstimulating task, with no immediate benefits. Therefore, engaging in stimulating activities is often the most effective method to maximize productivity.

Taking short breaks to move can help to reduce the monotony of doing work at a desk and make it so that the brain receives the stimulation it needs. Whether stretching or putting on music to dance to, taking a few minutes to be active can make the ongoing task more enjoyable.

Designed for a similar purpose, fidget toys can provide students with hyperactivity-impulsivity ADHD a sense of movement while completing their work. By just adding micro-movement to a homework session, the urge to move is fulfilled and the mind can more easily focus, improving productivity.

Creating incentives for themselves, such as buying a sweet treat or playing video games, can also benefit individuals with ADHD. By setting up a reward after the completion of a certain task, it can offer additional motivation—something that those with ADHD lack due to lower levels of dopamine [1]—to be productive and get work done more efficiently.

Though enforcing efficient routines can prove to be challenging with ADHD, discovering the most beneficial approaches to maximize productivity will make it all the more manageable this spring semester.


[1] https://magazine.medlineplus.gov/article/understanding-adhd-what-you-need-to-know 

[2] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd 

[3] https://www.verywellmind.com/pomodoro-technique-history-steps-benefits-and-drawbacks-6892111 

[4] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychiatry-and-sleep/202305/adhd-white-noise-could-be-an-alternative-to-medication