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Why People With ADHD Don’t Finish What They Start

To be clear, those of us with ADHD do start projects and actually finish them. Sometimes. But I’d guess that our ratio of projects started to projects finished is a little higher than average.

DisorganizedSo why do people with ADHD have a (well-earned) reputation for starting things and not finishing them? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Losing motivation after the initial excitement wears off: When you have ADHD, both your motivation and your ability to concentrate are closely tied to how interesting and stimulating you find something. You’re a bit lacking in the self-regulatory skills required in “forcing” yourself to focus or to be motivated. Which means that while everything’s well and good when you have the initial excitement of a new idea coursing through your neurons, you can lose momentum quickly once the novelty fades.
  • Endless procrastination: When someone with ADHD drops a project without finishing, we don’t ever necessarily sit down and say, “screw it, I’m done with this.” Often, our plans to keep working on the project simply get pushed repeatedly into a future that never comes. Indefinitely delaying tasks that have become tedious for us is one of our specialties.
  • Failing to take into account what completing a given project actually involves: Planning ahead in great detail isn’t something that ADHDers do naturally. We tend to be disproportionately focused on our short-term impulses and to think of the future in vague terms at best. Which means we’re prone to falling into the trap of starting projects without thinking through the details of what we’re actually signing up to do.
  • Overcommitment: This is related to the previous point about not planning ahead. To put things gently, people with ADHD have on occasion been known to commit to things without stopping to think through what they’re getting themselves into as far as amount of time and work involved. This can lead to overcommitment, and when you have more projects than you can possibly fit into your day, something is going to have to give.

No doubt this isn’t a complete list. In fact, it’s almost like I … started it and didn’t finish it. If you can think of other reasons, feel free to add them below!

Image: Flickr/Beth

Why People With ADHD Don’t Finish What They Start

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. (2017). Why People With ADHD Don’t Finish What They Start. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Jul 2017
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