How to Focus on One Project When Living With Adult ADHD

April 20, 2010 Douglas Cootey

A reader asked an excellent question: "What do you do when you can’t pick one project to be the main one?"

Such a good question. What do you do, indeed? The truth is that the only way to complete goals is to focus on them. If focusing is a problem, then you need to analyze your life and figure out what gets in the way of your focus. I covered how to manage one's projects despite ADHD two weeks ago (How to Work With Your ADHD On Projects). I recommend reading it if you haven't already. However, I can expand on it a bit here.

How to Focus on One Project

Prune Your List Of Projects

When you can't pick one project to be the main one, you'll need to experiment by trial and error. Maybe you are like I used to be and have a list longer than Santa's. Every few months, I would have a big meeting with my wife where I would pace and talk while she would take notes. Each meeting, another project or two would get the axe. Whenever I began to feel overwhelmed, or if I began to feel frustrated with my lack of progress, I knew it was time for another meeting.

Over the course of several years, I pruned my project list down to the bare few that I truly cared about versus the ones that simply interested me. The trick here was to keep asking myself "What did I really want to spend my time on?" In this way, I began to develop the motivation I needed.

Prioritize Your Projects

Part of the meeting's work was to prioritize the projects. Which was the most important? Which was the most fun? Which was only fun, but not truly important? I knew I needed fun projects to keep my sanity, but these meetings would help me clearly see which projects were distractions. I would compare what I spent my time on versus what I wished I spent my time on.

For example, I eventually had to decide between art and writing. If I worked on art, I couldn't work on writing. One had to be the more important project. This was a difficult decision and I tried to do both for some time, but neither progressed. Eventually, the lack of progress let me know which project I wanted more than the other, and I elected to focus on writing. Only then did I make progress in my writing goals.

Train Yourself To Not Add More

If you reevaluate what you are working on every few months and make the hard decision to abandon projects that distract from your main goals, you will find yourself getting better at not picking up new projects. The trick is to close the gap between when you begin the distraction and when you realize it's a distraction. I never dreamed it was possible, but I can now actually stop a distraction while it's still a red hot, burning idea in my mind. My motivation to succeed gives me the focus I need to say "No."

With sufficient motivation, you can put your life through the refiner's fire and steel up your resolve to focus only on a few projects. There is truly only so much time in a day. You will need to experiment on which incentives and motivations drive you to make the hard decisions. After all, you can't do it all even if you wanted to.

I hope this answered your question, dear reader.

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, April 20). How to Focus on One Project When Living With Adult ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

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