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The Trap of “Just Once More”

ADHD is a condition where the effects are cumulative. It’s usually not one lapse of attention, one impulsive action, or one failure to plan ahead that interferes with your life, but the sum total of how all these instances combine to take a toll on your job, your relationship and your everyday life.

Sometimes we don’t even realize how in-the-moment behaviors are adding together to create a cumulative problem. All the more so because ADHDers tend to be focused on immediate rewards, to the detriment of considering the long-term picture.

One example shows up is the trap of “just a little more” or “just one more time.”

CandyYou know how this works if you’re a serial procrastinator. You don’t necessarily start off by saying, “I’m going to put off working on this project until the night before the deadline.”

Instead, the way it often unfolds is that you decide to put the project off just one more day, and then you make the same decision the next day, and pretty soon you’re wondering how you let things get so out of hand.

Navigating deadlines, schedules and time in general is a common way the “just once more” trap shows up, but it’s not the only way.

Another general setting where you might encounter this trap is when you are doing something rewarding, but you need to stop doing it – perhaps because you have something else you need to do, because you’re getting behind schedule, or because the thing you’re doing is something that should only be done in moderation.

But you decide it won’t hurt you to keep doing your current activity just a little more. Just once more…

…just one more minute before you go to bed.

…just one more Netflix episode.

…just one more piece of candy.

…just one more drink.

…just one more internet search before getting back to work.

You get the idea. Of course, just one more usually turns into another one after that. This tendency goes back to issues with impulsive decisions, deficits in self-control, and an emphasis on short-term rewards that are so frequently part of ADHD.

One way to fight the slippery slope of “once more” is to set a strict limit for yourself beforehand. Set a bedtime, a fixed number of Netflix episodes you’re allowed to watch. Set how much candy you’re going to eat, how many drinks you can have, and how long exactly your break from work to browse the internet is going to be (either in terms of minutes, or which websites you’re going to visit).

Putting those rules in place for yourself can be a balancing act, because you have to make the rules strict enough to override situations where you might not exercise good judgment, but still realistic to follow. Nonetheless, my experience is that when I’ve been able to find the right rules for myself, it can be a helpful way of reigning in time-wasting or unhealthy behaviors. And finding the right rules starts with recognizing “just once more” for the lie that it is!

Image: Flickr/Julie Jablonski

The Trap of “Just Once More”

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. (2019). The Trap of “Just Once More”. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Dec 2019
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