Adults with ADHD: Following Through on Summer Projects

Health Writer

It’s summertime. That means time for household projects.

You might want to paint your house, maintain your garden or plant a new one. Or you might want to fix the fence or remodel the bathroom. For many adults with ADHD, summertime means a list of great sounding projects. But for too many, the end of the summer comes with a sinking feeling because they didn’t get anything accomplished or have a house full of half-completed projects. Fortunately, there are some steps to can take now to help you follow through on your summer projects.

Choose one or two projects

Make a list of all the projects you want to complete. Then, choose one or two to focus on.

Some people like to choose a small project to start, one that can be completed in a day or two. That way, they start off the summer with a sense of accomplishment and it propels them to move to a second project. Others choose one major project to complete throughout the summer in bits and pieces. Once you choose your projects put your list away, out of sight, until you are done with the first project.

Accept you are an idea person and need help on the implementationPeople with ADHD are often** great idea people** -- they might come up with 100 new ideas each day -- but aren’t always good on implementing the ideas. This doesn’t mean you are lazy or “not living up to your potential.” Accept your strengths and find ways to make your vision come alive. You could hire someone to complete the projects or team up with a friend who will help you put your idea into motion.

Remember it’s okay to scrap a project if it isn’t working out

After years of being told that you are broken or lazy because you don’t follow through, you might stick with a project that simply isn’t working out or that you no longer think is right. Let go of your guilt, stop the project (tidy any mess that was created), and instead, pull out your list and choose another one. Some ideas sound wonderful until you get into the nitty gritty. They might turn out to be unreasonable, not worth the effort, or counterproductive to your overall plans.

Break your project into tasks

Each project can be broken up into small tasks. Write down each step for the project and consider each step a separate task. Focus on only one task at a time. If you still feel overwhelmed, break your tasks down even further. Completing even one small step can give you a sense of accomplishment and give you the motivation to move on to the next step.

Schedule specific times to work on your project

Creating a project where you work on it “when you have time,” usually means you aren’t ever going to get around to it. Instead, look over your daily and weekly schedule and set aside time each day or week to work on your project.

Create realistic goals and expectations

If you have a history of being disappointed in yourself because of failed or incomplete projects, it might be because you set unrealistic goals and expectations. Maybe you want to complete projects that require skills you don’t have, or maybe you set up projects that are really meant for two people but you only have yourself. Maybe your goal was to have the project completed in one weekend, even though you only have a few hours Saturday afternoon to work on it. Look at your project and make sure your goals and expectations match your abilities and time.** Quiet your inner critic**

Listen to how you talk to yourself. Do you regularly tell yourself, “I never finish projects,” “I am a failure,” or “This is never going to look good?"

These types of thoughts might be contributing to your lack of follow through because you don’t really believe you are capable of completing the project. Pay attention to your inner critic and deal with your self-criticisms** before** starting the project.

See more helpful articles on living with adult ADHD:

10 Tips for Living Better with Adult ADHD

How ADHD Symptoms Manifest in Adults

Strategies for Managing Adult ADHD

8 Things to Do When Diagnosed with Adult ADHD

25 Tips for Time Management for Adults with ADHD


Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHDIdiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral TherapyEssential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbaileyand on Facebook at eileenmbailey.