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Sticking to the Plan With ADHD

The best-laid plans of ADHDers often go awry.

You might’ve heard that people with ADHD sometimes don’t plan ahead well. That goes along with the delightful bouquet of executive functioning and self-regulation deficits that we carry with us.

But the other side of planning with ADHD is that even when you do make a plan, you don’t necessarily stick with it.

PlansIt happens when you start a new project and plan out how you’re going to do it, but then drop the project almost immediately.

It happens when you plan out how to divide your time efficiently between the tasks on your to-do list, but then end up sinking all your time into one task or procrastinating anyway.

It happens when you tell yourself not to rush into anything or hurry a big decision you have to make, but then find yourself impulsively charging ahead at the first chance you get.

Why do people with ADHD deviate from the script in this way, even from a script they’ve carefully written?

Just like making thorough plans requires keeping your impulses in check, thinking through long-term consequences, and critically monitoring your own behavior, following plans once you’ve made them does too. People with ADHD have a knack for getting caught up in pursuing immediate rewards at the expense of more distant goals, or they might get thrown off course by momentary emotions that put their initial plans to waste.

One way to deal with this tendency is to be aware of it, and incorporate it into your plans themselves.

When you make plans, think of the different ways those plans might get undermined in the moment when you start executing them. Other things that may crop up to distract you, emotions that might arise to challenge your plans, events that could require you to readjust. And plan out how you’ll deal with those different scenarios.

There’s no doubt that it’s frustrating to find you got the plan right, and then for some reason you weren’t able to follow through on it. But remember to complement that frustration with some self-compassion because just like failing to plan ahead is part of life with ADHD, so too is making a plan but having trouble sticking with it!

Image: Flickr/Barbara

Sticking to the Plan With ADHD

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. (2020). Sticking to the Plan With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Aug 2020
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