Those of us with ADHD love the novelty of starting new projects. We’re also notorious for not finishing them. What happens between being intoxicatingly inspired to start something and when we’ve reached about 3/4 for the way to completion? This black hole of initiative may be a question for the neuroscientist. For us, uncompleted projects can be a source of feelings of failure, shame and anxiety.
If we’ve been very successful at getting great ideas started, we might have the good fortune of being able to hand off our partially completed projects for others to complete.
If you’re not quite at that stage and are required to complete a project on under our own steam, here are 7 tips for getting past the devil of the final third.
- Stop and Prioritize
With ADHD, it’s all about intrinsic value—motivation must come from inside. No amount of love or money is going to make up for low initiative if we’re not feeling it. It’s worth taking the time to sort out what is important to you in the wider picture.
Create a priority scale between 1 and 5. 5 is critically important and 1 would just be nice to have done. This will make it easier to see where you need to focus your energy first, rather than trying to work it out between your executive function and what would seem like fun.
If you are 75% of the way through a course that will upskill your resume for a job you really want, as difficult as it may be, making it a level 5 priority will begin to help you build initiative to make progress. On the other hand, re-painting your living room may actually be a level 1 priority, so maybe not where your focus best serves you right now.
- Create a plan of ACTION
Once you have a good grasp of your priorities, you can create an action plan to move priority 1 forward.
Look at a day planner and figure out how many hours you can realistically put towards that project each day—realistically—yes, I said that twice! Avoid ADHD issues with time management by leaning hard on your day planner for structure.
Keep in mind other life essentials like sleeping, eating and spending time with the people you care about.
Break down the remaining steps needed to complete your level #1 priority project and slot them into the time you have designated for getting it down. If this process starts feeling overwhelming, check to be sure you are being realistic about what you can achieve in the allotted time.
- Revisit Original Goals
If you are still not building steam for tackling for last 3rd, re-visit what drew you to the project in the first place. Granted, some of the shine may be off it but if you saw the promise of the project in the first place, chances are that the promise is still real.
Check in with someone who is also on the project, or whom may also be doing a project like yours. This might help you pick up a little of their enthusiasm and remind you of your initial excitement.
- Picture The Finish
Those of us with ADHD tend to only live in the right now. This should make us all Eckert Tolle, but sadly it doesn’t. It just means that as soon as we accomplish something, we pretty much forget about how good it felt, if we noticed at all.
Side step depths of despair (and delusions of grandeur) by getting a sense of what it will be like to finish the final edit, close the last meeting or finish that paint job.
Remembering how good an achievement felt in the past is part of the job of the brain’s Reward System which props up will power and initiative to get things finished. Without an optimally functioning Reward System, we have to consciously remember how good it feels to get it done.
- Look at Progress
Take a moment to look at your progress thus far. Chances are you’ve already done the hard part, after all, you’re more than half way through. When you have a breakdown of what remains to done, check off what you’ve managed to accomplish so that you have a visual representation of your progress. The Red Cross doesn’t hang out signs with rising red levels for nothing. Visual representations of progress work.
- Pre-plan for Assistance
If you are aware that the devil, for you, is in the last third make a plan for dealing with that in advance. Ask a friend or trusted colleague to support you in one or all of the above steps. A career coach can provide accountability and help you set specific goals.
- Adjust expectations
Take stock of what you are trying to accomplish and ask yourself if you need to make adjustments. There is no shame in reconsidering your end game. Those of us with ADHD are good at envisioning and starting projects that might be slightly beyond the scope of a mere human.
Here again, it can be helpful to get someone else’s eyes on the project, who can give you an accurate sense of where you project is at and how to get all the way to 100% done.