ADHD and Perfectionism

Finding the perfect system for getting things done can only be positive, you may think. But pursuing perfection can be problematic for adults with ADHD. An “ideal system” can even obstruct you from getting things done. Imagining a perfect system may be stimulating, but coordinating the parts to activate and sustain it can be overwhelming. Consistent effort is a common problem for us.

Subscribing to the notion that you will function normally with a perfect system is self-defeating. Tools should not be more important than their purpose. We can function better with structure, for sure, but creating and maintaining structure is something else. So we browse for the most elaborate system. A simple system might not satisfy our insatiable appetite for perfection. A new Mercedes looks and rides better than an old pickup truck, but it cannot carry a heavy load.

ADDNashville recently examined some popular systems, like those of Marie Kondo, David Allen, and Ryder Carroll. We discussed why some of us find organization gurus unhelpful in the long run. One person suggested that when the gurus capitalize on their great ideas to target a broader audience, the result is systems that are more complex than the original ideas. Herein lies a problem for us: complexity stifles individuals with compromised executive functioning. Simplifying, on the other hand, liberates us.

Can someone else’s system work for you? I think so, but I recommend being confident and defiant enough to find your own way to use it. Claim the parts that appeal to you. Take from them what you will likely use and disregard the rest. That’s what I did with Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal Method. A creative ADHD friend who recommended it was using it for one simple purpose. “Use it however you wish,” she suggested. I began using it to capture and index ideas and titles for writing projects. I took the plunge after reading only the first 25 pages. I’m glad I did that. Otherwise, my perfectionism would have hooked me. I’m capable of becoming more obsessed with a tool than with using it.

Maybe I will read the rest of The Bullet Journal Method, but I will trust my aversion to complexity. I know how my wheels can get stuck. It happened this past winter when my street became a sheet of ice after a deep snow. I abandoned the car.

2 Responses to ADHD and Perfectionism

  • EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love dreaming up new organizing systems. Shopping for new planners, calendars, schedules, notebooks, folders, containers, color-coded labels, label makers, markers, index cards, etc. Walking through my attic is like walking through a wasteland; it’s where organizing systems go to die. Great products and materials, but the system itself never really got off the ground. Yes, so stimulating to put it together. A great deal of focus on the “tool”. As a young adult I played racquetball and worked at the local courts. My coworkers (who were pretty top-notch players) would laugh at the so-so level players buying the most expensive racquets we had. Like that expensive racquet was going to make them significantly better players. A nice “tool” but you need to know how to use it. oy, I keep working on finding simpler, more do-able systems, making progress but…I think part of it can be feeling the weight of past failures and piles of mess and thinking you need something really super to make up for all of that and really get on the right track. Today I commit myself to simpler rules and more action that will make me feel better at the end of the day.

  • Thank you for this reminder! I do love the complexity at times and never do it perfectly. Over time, I’m becoming more consistent with storage of important information to remember, in my phone notes, and realizing that a daily review of my planner, which is currently Planner Pad, leads me to determine what is most important to me, get ahead of deadlines, so I’m not always living in the urgent quadrant, and let go and let flow, trusting that my intuition is guiding me. Better understanding executive functioning is a goal of mine, so that I can be more compassionate with myself and ask for that from others as well.

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