Exams are looming and if you are a dyslexic thinker you may be experiencing some anxiety surrounding studying and revision. This article will give you five recommendations for settling the mind so that you can be more focused, calm and be able to absolutely nail what you need to do.
What are the challenges of focusing that dyslexic mind?
What many people don’t really understand how hard it is to study for someone with dyslexia and what makes it challenging to understand is that dyslexia presents differently for different people. Common challenges associated with reading when studying centre a lot around being able to process text. For some, the text is just extremely difficult to read due to problems with visual stress. The letters and words seem to jump around or do weird things on the page. This makes reading extremely to focus on. Equally one might be experiencing a challenge with processing information. In my own case, I can feel really motivated to study up on the latest techniques in counselling and have every intention and commitment to do so, but when I start reading, I find that the meaning of the text just doesn’t register in my mind. I can read really well, I just seem to have huge challenges with actually digesting the information. The net result of this is that reading any text requires a lot of effort, resulting in limited benefit. This realisation brings about another challenge, I know that this is happening, so then it makes me dread spending time trying to study. This then means that I always need to find a higher level of energy to motivate me to do that studying than perhaps someone who is neuro-typical who can simply rock up to a text book and consume the information.
Other people with dyslexia will also be aware of challenges with memory. Lets assume that you don’t have visual stress and that you can read and consume the information well, but then you simply don’t commit what you read to memory! You want to , but for some reason the information simply doesn’t stick. It is no surprise then that the prospect of exams instils a feeling of dread in a dyslexic student.
As I said earlier, a dyslexic student will have a greater or lesser challenge experiencing some of what I have described but these challenges then lead the mind to actually desire stimulus in a way that the study material simply doesn’t deliver and so then problems associated with procrastination kicks in. In my own experience, I frequently struggle with sitting down to do one thing and somehow I get distracted and I realise I have lost valuable time doing something that has nothing to do with the studying. It would seem that my study process has been derailed by something more bright and shiny!
Five Ways To Focus The Mind When Studying
So hear are my top five ways to focus the mind when you know that you need to make that period of study count!
Schedule Studying For When You Are At Your Cognitive Best.
Have you ever noticed that there are times when studying is focused and other times when the focus has all been about trying not to procrastinate?
Everyone is different, but it would be worth noting when that battle with focus is happening as it is probably happening because your energy for processing information is at its lowest in that period. If you are able to identify a trend for when you are finding it the most difficult to study then this is valuable information as you can then seek to reschedule your studying or revision for another time of day.
Personally, I can focus well between 6am and 12 noon after a good night’s sleep. Then 13:00 to approximately 17:00 I struggle and then if I wish I could then take advantage of a ‘second wind’ where I can focus between 18:00 and 22:00 (there are a lot less distractions coming my way in that period).
So for me, I schedule activities that require less of my cognitive energy for the afternoon and for cognitively heavy tasks such as revising and studying, I schedule for when I know I have more energy to study.
When are those periods for you?
Prepare The Way For Studying.
A trap that so many students fall into is that they set themselves time to study and then when commencing they decide that they want to tidy their study area or prepare what they need so that they can study and in doing that then realise that they have exchanged their studying time for something they didn’t set out to do.
So if you know what environmental factors help you to study more effectively, then plan in time to get those factors in place and don’t let that process derail your actual study time.
Factors that help could be having a tidy desk to work from, a comfortable chair, enough water for hydration, gum to chew, colourful pens and paper to creatively study with. For me the big one is turning off those pesky notifications that ping and distract. Put that phone on silent or (preferably) in another room.
These strategies take time to get together, so do it before you actually start studying.
Chunk It! Hours Of Study Doesn’t Equal Increased Academic Benefits.
Let me get this straight, if you set yourself up a six hour mammoth study or revision session, you are not going to study straight for six hours and the thought of it might actually be quite overwhelming. In fact you might find that you just end up spending a good chunk of that time looking at the latest video of cats and cucumbers on YouTube (oops, sorry, is that just me?)
For students with dyslexia, hours of studying is unrealistic in terms of overall benefit as the process will be incredibly tiring. So like all massive hurdles, they all work better if we can break them down into small chunks with clear goals and measurable outcomes.
For example, for most people (dyslexic or not) a 20 to 30 minute study session with a short break at the end will be more effective than that of an hour. With ‘chunking’ you get to take away the overwhelm and focus on what you need to do with refreshment stops on the way.
An example plan for a revision session could be something like the following:
18:00 to 18:30 - Answer five revision questions.
18:30 to 18:40 - Get up from the desk, drink some water and have a stretch (DON’T CHECK FACEBOOK!).
18:40 to 19:10 - Do the next five questions.
19:10 to 19:20 - Another break (DON’T CHECK FACEBOOK)
19:20 to 19:50 - Read / Review content for a particular subject.
And so on…..
What’s important here is that you know what you are setting out to do and what the outcome should be. That really is your lifeline here as you can then remind yourself of what needs to be done should your mind start to wander…..
One of the problems with being in education is that there are often expectations shown about how to study but the reality is that when you are at home you can study in whatever way you choose. Personally I love drawing mind maps with multiple colours and cartoon writing. Whilst the cartoon writing is slow, my mind is processing the information and it seems to stick.
Studying at the best of time is challenging for a dyslexic mind so you might as well do your studying in a way that you will find enjoyment and capitalises on your natural creative strength. Make the studying or revision fun, we learn better when we are having fun (it’s a shame that schools don’t quite get that).
Show Yourself Some Love.
This is important. You are human and you have a brain that doesn’t necessarily find it easy to study. When at college it is so easy to compare ourselves with others especially when things are not going easily. When experiencing this, it is highly likely that we will become our biggest critic and that is one of the fastest ways of derailing our motivation to study. If you find that you have a study session that doesn’t go to plan or you feel has been ineffective, don’t sweat it! Work out what happened that delivered that result and use that learning to change what you do next time.
Wasn’t it Thomas Edison that said something about how he didn’t fail 1000 times to develop the light bulb before he actually developed it. He learnt 1000 times how not to do it which then lead to success. By the way, he was dyslexic too :-)
Keep your thinking positive, allow yourself to learn from your experiences and keep striving to unlock your potential. You deserve it!