How to avoid your study plans veering off-track
Although Derailment can be the ultimate result if the other three problems are left unchecked, it’s also a problem on its own.
The dictionary defines “Derailment” as:
- to cause (a train, streetcar, etc.) to run off the rails of a track.
- to cause to fail or become deflected from a purpose; reduce or delay the chances for success
Two big (non-academic) ways ADHD students often get tripped up are 1) unexpected roadblocks, and 2) perfectionism.
DERAILED by Unexpected Roadblocks
Anyone who waits until the last minute before beginning an assignment needs to count on everything going well, with no unpleasant surprises.
Unfortunately, many ADD / ADHD students don’t even look at the assignment until the night before. At that point, you can’t afford to have anything go wrong. But how often does that happen?
At the very least, the paper is likely to take much longer than you thought it would. But there are a number of other possible roadblocks:
- You have questions about the assignment and can’t reach the professor.
- You find that some preliminary work was required.
- You can’t find your notes and handouts from the class.
- You can’t access the study environment or library materials that you need.
- You suffer a laptop or internet connection breakdown.
Any of these not-uncommon conditions can keep you from turning in the paper on time. That can affect your grade. If enough instances like this happen, you could fail the course. And this kind of habit is what derails you from reaching your academic goal.
As a ritual, make it a point of performing these “pre-steps” for every assignment before you plan to begin the work.
- Look over the assignment in advance.
- Be clear about the different action steps required to fulfill it.
- Estimate how long each step will take.
- Get your materials ready.
- Plan in your calendar when you’ll do each step.*
*Even if you don’t begin working on it until the night before, if you’ve done Pre-Steps 1 through 4, you won’t be derailed by unexpected surprises.
The second reason for derailment is a tendency I find in many people with ADD-ADHD: Perfectionism! I don’t know what percentage of ADD students could be called perfectionists, but it’s a challenge for at least 75% of my ADHD Coaching clients.
If you tend to be a perfectionist, you’re probably spending much more time on each assignment than the professor intended. So you can run into problems in getting all your work done. This tendency, when compounded with a habit of not starting until the last minute, provides a perfect storm of all-nighters.
Before you make yourself crazy over every assignment, ask the professor for pointers on how to determine what is actually required, and where you’re going into overkill. If you fall into hyper-focus over unimportant details or excess research, set a timer for intervals to work rapidly and try to get each step finished before the timer goes off.