Why "Just Do It" Doesn't Work For ADHD

Nike is famous for their motto “just. do. it.” 

People love it! It's very appealing to think that it takes "just" one step to get the "thing" done, and that by trying hard you will be able to get started and complete the "thing".

I have a big problem with that slogan. Every time that I see it, I am reminded of all the times in my life when I have  tried so very hard to, "Just do it.” It very rarely worked. After fifteen or so years of failing, then trying harder, then failing again, never giving up...I was completely demoralized.

The problem is that the "Just do it" motto implies that:

For a long time, my inability to keep up with very simple tasks was a source of shame. Not anymore, because now I know that it has nothing to do with trying harder and everything to do with the way my brain is wired.

The ADHD Brain Works Differently

Most non-ADHD people can make themselves get started on boring tasks by thinking of the consequences of not doing the task. In other words, the more important the task is, the easier it is for them to start and complete, no matter how boring it is.

The ADHD brain works a little differently in that anticipating (relatively immediate) positive outcomes lowers the barrier to task initiation more than anticipating negative outcomes does. For us, the importance of the task (avoiding negative consequences) plays a relatively minor role in helping us to get started. 

In addition, boredom can be almost intolerable (and for some ADHDers, it is physically painful). This makes it doubly hard to get started on a task that we expect to be uninteresting.

Just Make It Interesting!!!

Why Is Task Initiation Sometimes Easy?

Task initiation is easier when you think it is interesting. While making something interesting makes getting started easier for all brains, it works especially well for ADHD brains. I believe this is partly because not only does task importance not work very well, but boredom itself is a huge hurdle. However, when something is interesting, the ADHD brain has very few difficulties in getting started, and the results can be magical.

Wait, you say, "I get started on tasks I do not want to do all the time!".  I’m not talking about never being able to start a task or activity. There are plenty of times we can do that very easily.

Here are 8 reasons the tasks may have been easier to start before:

What Tips Have Others Found Useful?

Here are 8 tips to consider the next time you have difficulty getting started on something:

Questions To Ask Yourself If It Is Hard To Get Started

The next time you are faced with a task that is very hard to start, ask yourself these 8 questions:

I hope reading this has helped you to better understand what ADHD brains do well at.  What works well for you when you are stuck?  Your answers will give you a menu of options to consider the next time you feel stuck.