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Underpromise, Overdeliver

This is the mantra I always go back to when agreeing to deadlines with my writing clients. It’s far better to set a conservative deadline and turn something in early than to set an ambitious deadline you won’t meet.

This way of doing things doesn’t always come naturally to those of us with ADHD. ADHD is an overpromise, underdeliver kind of disorder.

DeadlinesWhat I mean by that is that ADHD can interfere with our ability to plan things out in advance. To go back to my writing projects, when I take on a new writing job, I don’t always methodically think through all the details involved.

And I certainly don’t think through how long each step of the project will take. Like many people with ADHD, I have a hard time estimating in advance how long things will take.

It’s hard enough to plan one project well, but when you’re juggling multiple projects, things really get messy — if one of the projects takes longer than estimated, that can affect the timeline for every other project.

Many people with ADHD have a problem with over-committing. When you combine not being great at planning with having a tendency to start but not finish projects, what you get is people who impulsively take on more projects than they can finish.

The solution is just to assume that everything will always take more time than you think it will. And if it doesn’t, great — then you’ll just end up having some extra time.

When you have ADHD, you learn not to put too much faith in your estimates of how much you can get done in a fixed period. Personally, if I’ve scheduled in exactly the right amount of stuff that I think I can get away with, I’ve probably already gone too far. If I’ve scheduled things conservatively and given myself ample room to time things done, I’m probably not going to have as much room as I think.

That’s why underpromise, overdeliver is one of the most effective practical tips I know for ADHD time management. If you’re a natural at time management and can both overpromise and overdeliver, great, more power to you! But if you find yourself over-committing or struggling to figure out how long things will take, try lowering expectations, then delivering the best results you can, and watch some of the chaos leave your life.

Image: Flickr/Clinty Ionescu

Underpromise, Overdeliver

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). Underpromise, Overdeliver. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Oct 2016
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