Hello, fellow ADHDers. I’m in the verge of despair and irreversible frustration.

Here is my situation. I’m trying to prepare to pass a competitive service exam in Spain, Europe. I’m from Spain, by the way. So, because it’s a competitive service exam, there is always a ratio of 30 or 40 people per job offer. So, if there are 1.000 job offers and 40.000 people to pass that exam, I need to be among those 1000 best marks.

Anyway, because of that, I need to study like 10 hours per day, 6 days per week. I put one day to rest because I don’t like to be burnt out. But what happens? It happens that I’m only able to study 2 hours per day, or barely 3 during my best days. And the rest of the day, I procrastinate or do useless stuff, even when I want to study with all my strength.

I tried caffeine two weeks ago, and until today, it worked for 2 or 3 days, allowing me to study during those hours. But other days, maybe I was able to study for 4 hours, or even 5.

So, if you struggled like me and you were able to succeed, how did you do that? How can I force myself to study for 10 hours per day like normal people do with no issues?

PS: I’m not allowed to take any ADHD stimulants. No Concerta, no Elvanse… I only take atomoxetine, since March 2023.

  • @sramder
    24 months ago

    I don’t think studying for 10 hours straight per day is a realistic goal. Especially not for someone with a focus disorder and no stimulants – not that the stimulants will magically fix it, but not having them won’t help.

    I think you need a study plan that has more variety and built in breaks. There are real limits to what the human brain can absorb, process and, retain in a given amount of time.

    Give yourself built in breaks, add some variation by testing yourself and breaking up the material. Study for a bit, do something low stakes or relaxing if you can and then do more study. Try to cycle between learning/cramming and other activities throughout the day. Your brain (and everyone else) has limits, work with them for best results, not against them.

    Good luck :-)

    • IgnacioOP
      24 months ago

      I use the pomodoro technique. My plan per day is to study in 20 pomodoro sessions of 25 minutes each, with their proper breaks between them.

      I’ve been trying to pass such exams since 2018, but I got diagnosed last year, so until then I didn’t know why I couldn’t do anything. Then I didn’t have any tools. Now that I have the tools, those are fault.

      As reference, my brother, who doesn’t have ADHD, is able to study for 12 hours in his peaks.

      • @sramder
        24 months ago

        I suppose first I want to understand why you can’t take your medicine? Is this a condition of the exam? Because that doesn’t seem fair…

        I’m glad you have a plan to break it up but I’ll be more blunt; you may not be able to study for 12 hours straight, I certainly can’t. And I’m fairly sure there isn’t much benefit to doing so, but it’s been a few years since I researched it… not the type of thing one generally finds consensus on anyway. But there’s a limit to what anyone’s brain can encode into new long term memory in a given amount of time.

        You have to learn to work with what you’ve got, to keep adapting your methods until you find something that works. It takes time and it’s probably going to be different than what works for someone else.

        It’s important to understand that the drugs don’t fix your executive function they just sort of overclock your brain, at least that’s the way I think of it.

        It’s hard to give specific advice without being familiar with the exam material, but I would try to find different ways to study. Some kind of practice work that you can do in addition to the route memorization. Anything to vary the type of work and keep your mind from wandering. But more importantly if you can’t get back to studying do something else… but give your brain the rest and time it needs to absorb the material, then strengthen the memory by exercising your recall.