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5 More Strategies to Achieve Meaningful Goals When You Have ADHD

achieve meaningful goals when you have ADHDWhen you have ADHD achieving your goals likely feels daunting. You might have a hard time with everything from planning to completing tasks. Your attention waxes and wanes, you tend to be disorganized and you get bored easily.

You also might have years of experiences in not accomplishing what you want, said Linda Anderson, MA, MCC, a master certified coach who specializes in working with adults with ADHD in business and professional settings. You might have years of criticism — if you’d only try harder! –stuck in your head, intertwined with your own negative thoughts, she said.

Maybe you think you have an issue with willpower — that is, you don’t have any. But the issue isn’t with your supposedly wilting willpower. The issue is that ADHD impairs executive functioning, which makes it harder to start and follow through, even with goals that are meaningful and important to you. That’s why it’s helpful to try strategies that address your specific challenges.

We’ve already shared a list of suggestions in another piece — everything from picking significant and realistic goals to identifying your distractions. Below you’ll find five more tips.

Know your brain.

Anderson recommended understanding how your brain works and exploring the ways that you learn best and approach problems. Which is different from people without ADHD and might be different from people with ADHD, too. After all, different strategies speak to different people. Plus, you have different strengths, preferences and needs. Working with a therapist or coach who specializes in adult ADHD can help.

Make time.

This sounds obvious. But many people come to ADHD coach Dana Rayburn wanting to achieve goals that they’re just not making time for. She stressed the importance of rearranging your schedule and saying no to commitments that take time away from working on your goal.

For instance, she’s working with a doctorate student who works full-time and has a family. To make time for her dissertation, she gets up earlier on Saturday mornings to write — when her family is either sleeping or watching TV.

Explore what’s worked in the past.

Anderson often asks her clients these questions: Did you change anything in the past year? Something you did differently? A goal you accomplished? Then she suggests they make a detailed list of everything that happened in order for them to make that change.

Try creating your own list. “Then use it to give yourself credit for changes that you’ve made and to create a rough draft for a plan.” Anderson also underscored the importance of play. For instance, you might create a mind map to device your plan. In fact, think of other ways that working on your goal can feel fun and become an adventure.

List your goal’s big steps.

Another option for drafting your plan is to list the big steps your goal requires, instead of filling it with too many details, said Rayburn, who leads private and group ADHD coaching programs and penned the book Organized for Life! Your Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide for Getting You Organized So You Stay Organized.

Also, be flexible with these steps. “Know the direction you want to go, but be willing to invent and adjust the steps as you get there.” Rayburn shared this example:

  1. Assess my strengths and weaknesses.
  1. Research the types of careers that meet my strengths.
  1. Conduct informational interviews about these jobs.
  1. Get training, if it’s needed.
  1. Conduct a job search.

Build a team.

You don’t have to work on your goals alone. Build a support network of people who’d like to see you succeed and can help, Anderson said. This might be everyone from a therapist to a family member to someone from school, she said. For instance, maybe you ask your spouse to make dinner on the nights you’ll be working on your book. Maybe you have a weekly coffee date with other grad students to discuss your dissertations.

ADHD affects all areas of your life, so it makes sense that it’d affect the process of achieving a goal. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a hopeless endeavor. Get to know how your brain works, and experiment with different strategies. Remember it isn’t about trying harder. It’s about finding what works best for you.

Goals list photo available from Shutterstock

5 More Strategies to Achieve Meaningful Goals When You Have ADHD

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 5 More Strategies to Achieve Meaningful Goals When You Have ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Feb 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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