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Why Do People with ADHD Tend to Leave Projects Hanging?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodivergent disorder that typically causes us struggles with how we do everyday activities. While our drive to do something can be mostly based on our interest and motivation, concentration and focus can likewise be a constant struggle, particularly when it comes to longer-term goals. We often get distracted by many external stimuli that may affect the quality of our work 😞.
When we aren't fully committed to doing something, there are chances that we will start to procrastinate and find ways to delay our progress. A lot of people with ADHD often struggle to stick with a project for long periods, leading them to leave the project unfinished.
There are plenty of ADHD symptoms that can contribute to this dilemma. Is it because we are impulsive and cannot control our urge to do something new? Or do we tend to leave projects behind because our interest suddenly drops 📉? Countless ADHD factors can explain why we can't finish what we started, but it is essential to remember that everyone's situation is different.
Dopamine and Sustaining Interests
Have you ever wondered why someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder seems to always try so many things as their hobbies? Or do you know a friend who immediately bought a piano last week but hasn't touched it yet five days after purchase 🎹? That's probably because the dopamine they got already withered upon that initial thought, and they've decided to move on to another activity.
Dopamine is a neurochemical in the brain that plays an essential role in our behavior and actions. It mediates reward-seeking activities, like gambling or playing video games 🎮. Some people with ADHD have lower dopamine levels than average adults, which explains their curiosity and interest in new things as they tend to increase dopamine levels.
These neurotransmitters are possibly why we often have difficulty following through with the activities we once started. Probably, we already realized that these tasks are too complex for us to handle or we may be dealing with peer pressure during the moment. Sometimes, we even feel stuck with it, so our only option is to move on to something that can bring us more enjoyment 😅.
All the Projects are Exciting When They are New
Novelty may be something that always makes us enthusiastic. New activities are always deemed a great idea, even if we are already overwhelmed with other projects we started a month ago. There is always a space for us to add these new things to our project list while we are loaded with too many things we cannot even manage 😨.
We often capitalize on the urge to do something new because we think it will bring us more joy and satisfaction than the ongoing project that we already started. On the contrary, when we are presented with ideas or tasks that are routine or mundane, we tend to ignore them and look for other sources that can give us more thrill.
I have this house project that I was too enthusiastic about starting. While I was watching a Korean drama series, I noticed how aesthetic their house was, and I decided to repaint my door 🚪 and room's interior. I immediately ran to the nearest supply shop without finishing what I was watching, looked for the same color combination I saw, and went back to start with my door first. After a while, of course, the interest faded and I ended up having mismatched interior paint for a while.
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The Struggle to Continue Working
Sometimes, it can be difficult to finish everything we started because we experience a slight bump or difficulty along the way. During the course that we began to do new things and up to the time that we were supposed to finish the tasks, a few troubles might have arisen which made us lose interest in completing them 😣.
There are also moments when we need to drag ourselves to complete the task even though we are too bored of doing the same activity for long periods. Have you ever felt the urge to remind yourself to finish a task that you started last year? 😲 Or did you ever think there's no point in spending time on something because you already switched to other projects? That's probably because you grew tired and frustrated in repeatedly trying to complete the same task without seeing any progress.
At first, the door was a bit easy to handle. Repainting it with the color that I wanted delighted me at first. When I realized that I needed to have the perfect thickness of paint, the proper stroke of brushing, and even notice the small details, I knew right then and there that I'd be leaving this task unfinished. I even planned to put an "under construction" sign on it so that people would know I was not done YET. Good thing I found it in me to eventually finish it - after a lot of grief, of course 😅.
Putting Off Little Things for Tomorrow
Some people with ADHD tend to delay tasks, especially when they feel that there's still time to do them in the future. Time blindness, our ADHD inability to perceive time correctly, can hinder us from finishing projects we have already started. We often think that our schedule will create excess hours or days of doing more important things, but we are not fully aware that these "little tasks" will still take time and will still be waiting for us in the coming days 📅.
Another factor that may make us delay doing stuff might be our struggles with organization. Sometimes, a person with ADHD feels that the task is already completed, thus making them rush to start another project again without noticing the minor details that need to be done.
Remember the mini-project that I started about repainting the interior of my room? Well, the door is okay now, but for a long time, it was partially painted. Whenever I tried to finish, I felt that I had already used up my energy, and it was time to watch the video my friend had tagged me in earlier. I probably thought the completion time needed for this project was at an hour at maximum, so I said I can do that tomorrow. I needed to manage my time today, creating another illustration for our Instagram account. You see? My tasks just catapulted from one to the other 🤣!
Adult ADHD Motivation to Complete Unfinished Projects
Since we tend to get overwhelmed in doing projects, the chance of finishing them might be low. We often love the idea of doing them, but we're most likely to get stuck during the process. When we leave those projects behind, if it's not a mess, they may be sitting there for the longest time and waiting for you to pick them up and continue their completion.
When we drop things momentarily to do more important stuff that we feel needs immediate attention, it can be challenging for us to get back on track to the point that it would take months (or even years) to remind ourselves to get back on those tasks. Motivation can be something tricky for a lot of people with ADHD. Sometimes, people might misunderstand us and think we are lazy, but we're just struggling to find our way back to our objectives.
How to Minimize the Number of Unfinished Projects
For many people with ADHD, the challenge can be getting back to doing those unfinished projects or sustaining the urge that we initially felt when we are about to start doing them.
Here are some of the ideas you may try when you have plenty of unfinished projects that need a follow-through:
- An effective way to manage our tasks is by creating a list and breaking them down into small manageable goals ✅. This will give you more clarity on what needs to be done without feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
- Use your time wisely in setting a time limit and schedule them in your calendar 📅. This will help you to keep an eye on the deadlines that need to be met, thus motivating yourself to work faster and accomplish the tasks without hindrances.
- Allow yourself little rewards when achieving milestones. Celebrate small successes to motivate yourself to do more things with enthusiasm 🏆. It's better to be kind to yourself and acknowledge your achievement, no matter how small you feel they are.
- Accept that we tend to struggle to finish tasks and be aware that this might be a part of the symptoms of ADHD. This way, we learn past our flaws and understand our limitations.
Burnout and boredom can be something that might affect our performances and hinder us from finishing our business. It might be essential to create techniques and develop strategies to follow through on these projects to avoid them.
And now that I think I'm done with this article, what do you think I should do next? Another new project, or should I finish the ones I’m still stuck on? Well, I think I'll be writing another article for you guys 😘.
ADHD and Unfinished Projects: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is having difficulty finishing projects a symptom of ADHD?
Officially, it isn’t. However, some symptoms of ADHD may contribute to it. They include being forgetful, impulsive to start another project, easily distracted by the surrounding, and having time blindness.
Do people with ADHD have trouble starting a task or finishing a task?
Some might have trouble with both, probably still due to the symptoms of ADHD.
What are some ways to avoid having unfinished projects?
Understanding your symptoms is one of the best ways to avoid it. If for instance, you become too distracted with noise, it might be helpful to designate a quiet place when doing a project. Having a schedule and sticking to it also helps.