Dr Sabina Dosani, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Clinical Partner in London, offers 11 effective ways you can improve your organizational skills, get on top of all that paper and become a homework boss.
Many teenagers with ADHD have difficulty with homework because of they often have shorter attention spans, experience restlessness and poor concentration. Follow these tips and they may learn some skills that will help them develop a homework strategy that still leaves time to relax and do fun things.
Use a homework book. Minds are great for having ideas, but less good for storing information. There’s no need to rely on your mind to remember what homework you have, and when it is due in. A homework book is much better for that. Use your homework book to keep lists of things to do. Don't make lists on scraps of paper or you may end up losing them or forgetting about them. Get into the habit of completing a list of things to do each evening for what you want to accomplish the next day. Learning to do these two things will ease the stress caused by constantly worrying you have forgotten something.
Set a reminder in a phone to go off before you leave school. Use this prompt to make sure you have everything you need to complete your homework packed in your bag. If there was something you weren’t sure about, now’s the time to check.
Set up an area in your room that is just for doing homework. It’s hard to get anything done if you spend lots of time trying to find things on your desk. Clear the homework space at the end of every session and keep pens, pencils, calculators and other stationary bits and pieces in a drawer. This way you won’t end up using your homework time to get organised. Turn off social media and your phone when doing homework. This will help protect you against being distracted. There are several apps you can use to help keep you focused on the task at hand – such as ‘Forest’.
Get a wire tray. At the end of every day, empty your school bag, pockets, inside pocket, back pocket, sports bag and pencil case of every loose bit of paper into the wire basket. Take out the pieces of paper one at a time and ask yourself what you need to do with it. Chances are you will either need to file it, bin it or act on it. If you need to act on it, you need to decide if you need to do something there and then, or if you need to do that later. If you have something you need to do but you don’t need to do it there and then, put the date you plan to do it in your homework book and store the piece of paper somewhere safe – perhaps in a ‘come back to’ file.
Aim to get all your homework done early in the evening when you are still feeling fresh – better still if it is the summer and there is still daylight. You might not want to sit straight back down to work, but getting your homework finished early enough to allow you some hours of rest, is a great habit to get into. There is also good evidence suggesting that the same homework takes longer in the small hours.
Do your hardest homework or your least favourite subject first. Once it’s out of the way, you’ll feel better. Saving dreaded homework for later often means you’re more likely to dawdle with your other homework and put it off. Plan to take a five minute break every half hour and then get back to work. Again, a time management technique like Pomodoro can really help you keep to time.
Use small index cards to record key facts when you are revising for exams. Making these little cards will help you break information down into small chunks, which are easier to take in and remember. The great thing about these cards is that they are portable. Take them around with you and have a look at them whenever you are waiting for someone.
If you have big projects or coursework, it can feel very daunting and many people are tempted to put those off. The best thing to do for those bigger projects, is to break down into small chunks and make a timetable for completing each item. Keep your timetable on the wall of your homework area so every day you can see and tick off your target.
Befriend some boffins and keep a list of their numbers in your homework area. If you get stuck or your attention keeps wandering, call or text someone who might be able to help you but be careful of getting distracted and remember how great it feels to get all your homework done, so you have the rest of your night or weekend to yourself.
Agree some privileges with your parents as a reward for sticking to the homework strategy. Examples of privileges might be going to the cinema, extra time on the internet, inviting a friend for a sleepover, or credit for your phone.
Clean out your school locker and bag every Friday. Get into the habit of bringing home all loose papers in your locker each Friday. When you get home you can sort through to see what you need and organise the papers. Having a clean locker will help you to stay organised and be prepared.
Q I’ve been working hard to get this stuff in place, but my mum still insists on checking my homework every night. She picks around at it and is really bossy about me changing things. Surely the teachers want to see my homework, not hers. How do I get her to back off?
A It’s probably the last thing you want to hear, but your mum has your interests at heart and wants you to do well. Some mums find it hard to stay out of homework, especially when they’ve been involved in it for years. You might have to do some compromising. Put a deal to her. If your marks improve consistently over the next half term, she agrees to leave you to homework unaided. I think you make a good point about teachers wanting to see your work. When you’re feeling calm, tell her you appreciate her help, but that you want your work marked, not hers. Try to keep her in the loop by asking for her help with revision for tests, and celebrate your homework achievements with her, acknowledging her input.