This year, I would tell myself every August, is going to be the year I become a good student.
What would being a good student mean?
Paying attention in class. Doing assignments on time – or at all, for that matter. Not waiting until the last possible minute on every single task. Keeping at least one binder that didn’t look like a small tornado had whipped through it.
Of course, my resolution to make the most of the clean slate offered by a new school year never worked. The reason: difficulties with inattention, organization, time management and so forth cannot be fixed with a “resolution” when they’re caused by ADHD symptoms.
So if I were going back to school this year, knowing what I now know about ADHD, I wouldn’t try to will myself into being a better student. I wouldn’t promise myself that this time it’ll be different.
Instead, I would pick one concrete thing, something modest and within my control, to change with the start of the new semester. Some examples of what I might choose:
- I’m going to have a planner where I write down my homework assignments, and I’m going to look at all the assignments I have written down every night.
- I’m going to choose one assignment every week to start at least two days before it’s due.
- Every day, I’m going to do such-and-such amount of homework before doing such-and-such recreational activity that I enjoy.
The point is to choose something specific, measurable, and doable that will make your academic life a little more organized and a little less chaotic. Who knows, if you can build one of these habits, it might even spiral into other good habits – for example, looking at your planner every night might lead you to actually do some of your assignments earlier than you otherwise would, although you don’t need to make that part of your resolution.
This exercise of picking a single concrete back-to-school resolution is something that college students and older high school students can do. For younger students, parents will of course have to play more of a role in setting up this structure.
ADHDers have a tendency to set unattainable “self-improvement” goals because they’ve often been told that their symptoms can be fixed with willpower, self-discipline or “trying harder.” To really cope with ADHD, though, it helps to let go of lofty resolutions to change how your brain works and replace them with specific, practical actions you can take as far as what your everyday routine looks like.