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Monday, December 31, 2012

Project ADD: What is it? Do You have it?

Though in denial for years, I recently confessed to having Project A.D.D. and not being able to focus long enough to finish a project until there’s a looming deadline overhead. Maybe you can relate? If so, read on. If not, go ahead and make your New Year's resolutions, then skip to the comment section and tell the rest of us your secrets to getting things done.

How do you know if you have Project A.D.D.?

When I was little, my mom would say I always started things, but never finished them. Now I see it in my adult life. My office is piled with writing related projects. Outside my daughter's room sits discarded toys waiting to be donated or sold, in the craft room a half-finished scrapbook project waits, and in my computer is a lonely WIP I have yet to pick up again after a year of two book launches, marketing, freelance writing, and teaching distractions. And did I mention the novella I didn’t finish in time for Christmas?

So many things cluttering my mind waiting to be finished. So why do I do this? Why do you do this? Why do we start projects and bounce around from one to the other? Why can't we just focus on ONE and plow away until it's done? And more importantly how do we battle this project A.D.D. and keep our New Year’s resolutions this year? 

Since we’ve identified the symptoms of Project A.D.D., it might be time to explore the cause and solutions.

No Deadline
When I was a news editor for my college paper, I had a weekly deadline. I also had a full class schedule and was chaplain to 30 girls. How did I do it? Late nights barely making curfew and catching up homework on weekends with no social life, but the news section came out on time because I had a deadline.

Just last this month I turned in two paying freelance articles on deadline even though it seemed like I waited until the last minute to write them because of all the other pressing things in my life. I learned while pressure is not something I love, it does help me finish projects.

Solution: If you don't have a specific deadline, give yourself one and stick to it. Then tell someone you can be held accountable to and send the finished project to them.

No "To Do" List
I know when I make a “To Do” list I spend less time on social media "marketing" and more time crossing things off my list. So why don't I do it more often? Part of me thinks it might take too much energy or time to make a list, but in reality, it helps clear my mind, and helps me focus to accomplish the important things, thus saving me time.

Solution: Instead of a “To Do” list I have a three ring binder where I keep all my ongoing projects. Whenever I think of something else I need to do on a project, I write it down in the correct section. With a resource like this, I should never get off task. Then if one project becomes stalled for reasons beyond my control, I can work on another. Great advice, right? Now if only I’d be more consistent in using that binder!

No Motivation
Let's face it, without clear goals, how can I have the motivation to accomplish anything? Yet, even with clear goals it's not necessarily a given the task will get done. For example, I've needed to work on several scrapbooking projects for years, but there hasn't been a rush. Now with my son graduating high school, I feel the urgency to finish that scrapbook so he’ll have something to display at graduation.

Solution: Reevaluate your goals and prioritize things you want to do in your personal and professional life. What need to get done in the next week? Put those on the top of your “To Do” list.

When a project takes too long or gets stalled, I get bored. That's when I look for another project which isn't always a terrible thing. For example, when I get stalled in a writing project and need a break from the computer, I try and do some laundry or clean my office. I'm still being focused and productive, but if I start gravitating toward Facebook without a plan, then it might be two hours later with nothing to show for it!

Solution: Make a “To Do” list that has different types of projects (remember that “To Do” binder?) and plan for down time. If you like to be on Facebook when you get bored, then put it on your “To Do” list and set a time limit. 

We may never be cured of our Project A.D.D., but if we remember the things that get us off task and prepare for them, I know we can be more productive.

How about you? How do you battle Project A.D.D. and what do you do to keep on task?

Gina Conroy is founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she writes fun, quirky mysteries full of depth. Her first book Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 and her newest mystery, Digging Up Death  is available now.


  1. Me thinks you've been looking over my shoulder. Deadlines are the only thing keeping me on task, and even then I get distracted by other things I think I "need" to do. One of my goals for 2013 is to become better organized and another one is to be a better manager of my time. I bought a day planner in hopes that would motivate me to have a "to do" list every day and check it off as I do each item. Maybe it will help. Nice to know I'm in good company. Have a great year, Gina.

    1. Thanks, Martha! I need to be more organized also. I seem to have duplicate lists of things and I rely too much on my memory and I'm constantly searching emails to find things I vaguely remember committing to. Oh well, baby steps as they way!

  2. Boy are you calling my name! The funny thing is I work well with deadlines. By nature, I will do everything within me to complete the project prior to a deadline. But I definitely can get sidetracked easily.

    I'd love to work at home, but I can't seem to write here as well as when I go somewhere. The Starbucks where I used to write is so busy, I don't always get my favorite chair. I cross-stitched my name on it, but someone snipped all the threads. There's another Starbucks close to home but it's in Kroger's and I can see my grocery list interrupting me.

    So help!

    1. Ane, I've found I write better at the coffee shop and seem to do marketing, blogging, etc at home. I'm going to take that knowledge and build it into a schedule. And here's the clincher... stick to it! Ha!

    2. I'm going to have to. I think it's because I'm a rarity for a writer, I'm an extrovert. Being around people energizes me and fuels my creativity. I'm okay editing at home but the first draft creating requires "going to work." :)

  3. Creating a To-Do list and setting deadlines is the only way I can function! Being a homeschool mom taught me those things and when I applied them to my writing, I suddenly miraculously was able to finish my writing projects. Because of that and the ACFW NovelTrack Writing program, I completed a full-length novel from January to June in 2012 and had it edited by September. I also write for two blogs and the hostesses give me deadlines for when my posts must be submitted. Man, that really helps me to focus and to stay committed! Without these "guidelines" I'd remain A.D.D.!

    1. Sherri, yes other people's deadlines really help me. It's those projects that don't really have deadlines that get me! Must work on that!

  4. Wow, this article sure nailed my behavior and was very helpful. I think my main problem, though, is procrastination. I keep thinking I have plenty of time to get whatever accomplished, and before I know it, I'm rushing like crazy to crunch a week's worth of work into two days.

    Lately, I have come to rely heavily on my Smartphone. I put reminders in there a couple of weeks ahead of the deadline and it at least sets me to thinking about what needs to be done and when.

  5. Patti, I use the Smartphone reminders also, though I've realized I've gotten so used to the reminders I tend to ignore them!!

  6. My nemesis is social media and the Internet, as witnessed by the fact I'm on Novel Rocket instead of adding words to my February deadline--LOL! However, I use the program Freedom ( to shut the internet down for a specified amount of time so I can write without distractions. Despite the website's name, the application is for both PC and Mac.

    1. I might have to give that a try, but then I'd probably have to shut my phone down as well! LOL!

  7. Gina, I agree. I have to consciously check the phone every now and again! Worse yet, I forget to enter the reminder! Is there any hope for us??


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