Silly tips that helped me get through school

I was not yet diagnosed with ADHD as a child, so I struggled quite a lot, but ended up doing reasonably well. I wrote previously about some of the unhealthy coping mechanisms I developed in school. But I also had some that were relatively healthy. Even if they are a bit silly, they work, and I would like to share those with you too, in case you can make use of them. Big thanks to @askelseydoes for suggesting this idea.

So, here are the top 5 tips that I would still make use of if I had to go back to school:

1. Have a notepad for “stuff to remember”

I used to have a spiral notepad, much like these:

I would always keep it in my backpack and write all important info I needed to remember, one per page-ish, as soon as the teachers mentioned it, including:

  • the timetable
  • homework
  • exam dates
  • dates for other events (e.g. field trips, parent-teacher conferences, etc.)
  • stuff I needed to bring on a particular day (a certain book, etc.)

Check it as soon as you get home, make a TODO list with homework etc. for that day, and then put it back in your backpack. This is important, do not let it sit on your desk even for a second, if you’re as forgetful as me!

Once a page is no longer relevant, rip it out so you don’t waste time flipping through it.

2. Gamify everything!

I used to “play freelancer” (funny enough, I work as a freelancer now, it’s nowhere near as fun). I would pretend it’s not homework, but “freelance work” that I need to complete. I would even “pay” myself with peanuts or chocolate when finishing a task.

If you think another fantasy may work better for you, give it a try! Vary them if you get bored of them!

Another thing you could try that wasn’t available back in my day is Habitica, a todo list which rewards you with coins for completed tasks, which you can spend on gearing up your char and fighting monsters.

3. Discover your learning style

One thing I struggled with a lot was memorizing stuff, including poems, formulas and definitions, historical dates, etc. Some people can read and remember this stuff, but for me, it went in one ear and out the other. Flash cards and tricks like that also didn’t work.

Here’s what did:

  • re-writing everything on a piece of paper, in a condensed pretty format (think cheat-sheet). Use diagrams, bullet points, different pen colors, etc. to make it very visual. It was easier for me to remember something if I remembered where on my “pretty page” it was.
  • pretend to be the teacher and explain the lesson out loud to an imaginary person. Having a whiteboard or a drawing pad really helps with this, but if not, just use a piece of paper. Avoid referencing your notes as much as possible, and see how much of the lesson you can explain.
  • pretend to “take a test”. Grab a piece of paper and write down as much of the info as you can remember, then grab a red pen and “correct” your test. It’s ok if you can’t remember much at first, repeat a few times as needed.

4. Buy new school supplies as often as you can afford to

Nothing motivated me to do my homework like having a new pen, pencil or eraser. It was like “ooh, a new thingy! I want to use it now!” and it would be more fun to do something practical with it than to randomly write stuff on a piece of paper.

It doesn’t have to be anything expensive, any cheap under 1$ pen did the trick for me just as well.

I also did silly stuff like writing with an old-fashioned ink pen, and even did homework using a feather I found on the street as a quill!

5. Vary your handwriting

I had a hard time focusing during most classes, I would drift into daydreaming due to the lack of stimulation and even fall asleep at times. Doodling sometimes helped, but some teachers really hated that, not to mention how counter-productive it is if you’re supposed to take notes.

One source of stimulation for me was to deliberately vary my handwriting. Instead of dotting my i’s, I would make a circle on them. Instead of writing the l with a loop, I would write it as a straight line. Once it became a habit, I would switch it back.

Once you get the hang of it, you can go to “advanced mode” and do more extreme variations. Writing while leaning to the left, right, or straight up. Small spidery letters or big bubbly ones. Type-like writing or elaborate cursive where you don’t take your pen off the paper at all during a word. You get the idea.

My notebooks looked like they had at least 10 different students writing in them, but it was a way to keep me stimulated and in the present moment, both while taking notes and while doing homework.

What works best for you? I would love to read your tips and coping mechanisms.

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