Because of the nature of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), adults with the disorder quickly lose interest in what they’re doing. The ADHD brain gets bored easily and needs novelty (this helps to boost dopamine levels, which are low in people with ADHD).
Of course, this doesn’t bode well for wrapping up tasks.
The need for newness also means that adults with ADHD often start many different projects and simply get too busy to finish them all, according to Sarah D. Wright, a life coach who specializes in working with people who have attention disorders.
Plus, they can get stuck on a task, because they’re unsure of how to move forward, she said.
In order to finish what you start, it helps to have support and get clear on the parameters of your project. Below, Wright revealed how to do just that, along with other specific tips for following through.
1. Work with a buddy.
It’s a lot easier — and more entertaining — to complete tasks when you’re working with someone else. For instance, you might ask a family member to help you do the laundry or cook dinner.
2. Have a body double.
This is a person who works alongside you, but isn’t doing the same thing. Rather, they’re “doing the behavior that you want to emulate,” said Wright, also author of Fidget to Focus. She gave the example of a couple doing household chores on Saturday morning. The wife works on organizing the closet, while her husband works on the yard.
3. Race the clock.
“Set yourself a time limit to get work done,” Wright said. For instance, set a timer for 15 minutes and see how many emails you can get through or how much of the bathroom you can clean. Make it a game to see how quickly you can accomplish each task, she said.
4. Create reminders.
Find ways to remind yourself why you’re doing the task in the first place, Wright said. Why is accomplishing this important? Why does it matter? For instance, as a reminder, you might print out an image or place a sticky note on your computer.
5. Have a clear finish line.
Before you start a project, get clear on what you’d like to accomplish. For instance, “cleaning the garage is too nebulous a goal,” Wright said. Get specific: Do you want to clean the garage so you can park your car? Do you want to create shelving and organize your tools and other items? Do you want to get rid of everything?
In other words, she suggested asking yourself: “What do I want the end to actually look like before I go in there to make something happen?”
6. Start small.
Starting small is a more manageable way to work, Wright said. It feels great when you accomplish something, and it helps you gain momentum. For instance, if you’re working on your garage, again, maybe your goal is to clear off the worktable.
7. Know when to move on.
Sometimes, finishing a project just isn’t worth it. “Sometimes, the best thing is to cut your losses, and move on,” Wright said.
For instance, she invested her time and money in a training program. In order to receive the certification, she had to complete a final project. She realized that she received everything she wanted from the program without needing the certification. So she didn’t do the final project. “This was the first time in my life that I’d chosen not to do something.” And she found it liberating.
When you’re trying to figure out if you’d like to finish a project, consider: “Is this still in line with what’s important to you and in helping you move you forward? Or is it time to cut your losses and move on?”
ADHD makes it much harder to finish what you start. Using strategies like the ones above can help with following through — when necessary.