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Do any of your projects start strongly and then pale into insignificance?

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Then follow these four simple steps to see them through to completion!

It’s an unfortunate fact that a 100% finished project carries disproportionately more kudos than one which is 95% or even 99% complete. What a shame! We ADHD-ers are full of wonderful ideas and are much more often drawn to the glitter than the nitty-gritty. Think about the projects you have 'on the go' (aka unfinished!) at the moment. How many can you list?

Sorry to draw your attention to them, but see what I mean?

So why is it that we don’t always maintain the excitement of a new project? Because, generally speaking, we dopamine-seekers are drawn to novelty, exciting ideas, new systems and innovative projects. Unfortunately, this attraction often wains and follow-through simply evaporates. Added to this there’s often impulsivity, that rocket-fuelled dynamism which is so often a hallmark of ADHD. These two mischievous traits, dopamine-seeking and response-inhibition work hand in hand. Brain wants, brain gets. As soon as is practically possible. All too often last month’s sparkly idea becomes this month’s chore, ending up creating anything from a neglected tangle of knitting wool in the back of a cupboard to an all-out family row.

So, how can we see our projects through to the end?

By paying attention at four strategic points along the way.

1. Before you embark on your exciting project,

Right there!

Ask yourself: Why do this in the first place? Does it align with my values? What is the trade-off? How much energy will this take? How will I benefit? Will I be paid adequately for it? How will it benefit others?

Of course, the responses will depend on the task itself, but simply pausing and taking stock works miracles. Take a new decorating project, for example. Why do it? How much better will it make me/my family feel? How much disruption will it cause? How much, realistically (!) will it cost?

If it’s someone else’s project, think it through in the same way. If your response is usually to enthuse, say yes impulsively only to regret it afterwards, think about adopting a new strategy before agreeing. Perhaps practice saying ‘Let me think about it and I’ll come back to you’.

2. When you are committed to the task,

establish what the finished project will look like.

This is something people with ADHD have a tendency to avoid doing. Seeing an entire project ahead of us can feel overwhelming to the point of paralysis. It also de-mystifies the task. The fun of exploration and creativity disappears and so the focus remains on the exciting bit within reach, the starting.

But look ahead and get familiar with the project, being as realistic as you can at this stage. Taking the decorating example, ask yourself what will it entail? Do I have all the kit? Do I have the skills? What do I need to know? Am I being realistic about how straightforward the job is? What will the job look like when it’s finished? Will I be happy when the walls are a new colour, or when the window frames and skirting boards have been sanded, washed, undercoated and top-coated?

Now you have a better idea of the finish line, you will avoid many sneaky and frustrating trip-hazards. Now is the time to break the job into manageable chunks and enjoy it! Think of ways to make it even more enjoyable. Does upbeat music help? Could you connect with a friend doing something similar and be each other’s body-double on zoom? Create an imaginative and fun deadline, like a party (or zoom party) for your big reveal! Let your creativity run riot!

3. Spirits flagging? Don’t be daunted!

You are mid-project. The colour scheme is wonderful but you’ve lost energy, you’re fed up with the disruption and you simply want it over. What now?

You have options. Now is a good point to review the vision. Does it still look as it did? If it has shifted, ask why this could be. Are you considering doing more than planned, less than planned or much the same?

If you are aiming for a new 110% version of the original, question where these additional demands originate. Are they realistic and worth following up?

If you decide you want to push on to your original 100%, work out what is getting in your way. Are you unclear about the final steps? Think them through and write them down. What do you need? Who could help you?

If you decide the original 100% just isn’t viable, think flexibly. Decide on your work-arounds, set yourself a revised dream and congratulate yourself on your staying power!

Whatever you decided….

4. Celebrate!

Congratulations! Your project is complete, 100% to your satisfaction. You deserve praise, having overcome stumbling blocks many people can’t even see. Learning the skill of flexible thinking is not at all easy and deserves celebration in itself.

Enjoy the moment! Take selfies! Make a note and keep it in your ‘well done me!’ file so you’ll always remember what you managed to achieve and how you pushed through to your strong finish!

Published Winter 2021

Enormous thanks for inspiration to:

1. Dana Rayburn


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