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for Attention Deficit Disorder Adults

Bonnie Mincu

Senior Certified ADHD Coach

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Ellen moves her dresser

I’ve reached the halfway point in my 4-week course, “Procrastination Transformation:  “The Keys to Getting Started”, and I’m not surprised to find that the topic of “Overwhelm” is a recurring theme in our ADD / ADHD class discussion forum.

Just before the course began, I had received an email from Ellen, one of my readers. She wanted to tell me how excited she was that she’d succeeded in a project she had been procrastinating on for a long time;  moving her heavy dresser from one bedroom to another.

It was a great example of how a project might seem simple at first, but can break down at any point.  As ADD / ADHD Adults, our first reaction might be to give up.  But, after viewing my video about having a clear intention for each step of a project, Ellen committed to tackling the project with this new approach.   Her process kept her from succumbing to overwhelm, as she would have in the past.

Thinking what she sent me would make a cool “case study” that readers could learn from, I wrote it up, including each step she broke down, the roadblocks she encountered, and how she worked through each one.

So here it is — a great little example that can be used for any kind of project!

Case Study:  Ellen Moves Her Dresser

SITUATION:  Ellen needed to move her heavy antique dresser by herself from one bedroom to another, without scratching her floors.  She procrastinated a long time, not sure how she would do this.

While listening to my training teleseminar “Procrastination Transformation: Your Roadblocks Point the Way,” she decided to tackle the project with an intentional step-by-step approach.

ACTION TAKEN:  Ellen thought out the steps that would be required, one-by-one.  She ran into a roadblock on the second step, when she found herself unable to remove the heavy drawers, which had become stuck with age.

Instead of giving up (which would have been her habit), she switched gears and emptied the drawers.  Again a roadblock: the dresser was still too heavy.  She got a dolly, now determined to see the project through by dealing with each step, one at a time.

Even though Ellen encountered several roadblocks, by dealing with them step-by-step, she treated each one as a problem to be solved instead of a reason to give up.

Here are the steps Ellen took, the roadblocks she encountered, and how she broke through them:

RESULTS:  The dresser got moved, and both the old and new locations were clean and perfect.


  • Making the decision to take time to think things through allowed the project to get done.  The “thinking” and writing down the steps should actually be a pre-step for the project.
  • Thinking things through allowed Ellen to stop chastising herself for “procrastinating;” once she realized that it really was overwhelm that was stopping her.
  • Breaking a project down into small distinct steps of action broke through the feeling of overwhelm, and made it clear where there might be a roadblock
  • Roadblocks need not be insurmountable barriers.  They can be broken down and treated as solvable problems, step by step.
  • To avoid leaving loose ends (such as clothes lying on the floor), the final stages of a project should be figured into the plan from the beginning.

Have you tried an intentional step-by-step approach to break through ADD Overwhelm?  Please share!

Author: Bonnie Mincu
Senior Certified ADHD Coach, Founder of "Thrive with ADD," Bonnie has been coaching adults with ADD / ADHD traits since 2001. She has developed numerous training programs to help with the challenges of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.


    I love it… especially steps 11 and 12 which include finishing the project into her plan. I probably would have been so proud of having accomplished the move that putting clothes or bin back or washing the other wall, would not have gotten done right away. Putting the finishing steps on the plan and making them part of the entire process is brilliant… especially since those are relatively easy steps and didn’t encounter roadblocks either. But I do think that those final steps are the ones that we ADD’ers often skip.

    Bonnie Mincu

    Absolutely right, we do have that tendency to get to the 95% done point and then stop! I wonder if it’s because we feel as if it’s finished, and then lose interest.

    I resonated with how you broke down the insurmountable into do-able chunks. And the detail was very helpful too. I bet Ellen felt terrific satisfaction! Thanks for this great blog post.


    Great going, Ellen! That’s me, totally. I’m impressed.

    Roadblocks are so much of the reason that I and my ADD friends tend to stop projects and not finish them. It looks like procrastination and distraction, but actually it’s just puzzlement and frustration and “oh why, it’ll be wrong anyway.”

    Bonnie, I’m looking forward to taking your class. I wanted to this time, but finances got in the way.


    I had to set exams in the subject I teach. I absolutely could not get down to it. It involved going through the worksheets I had given out during the term- well I wasnt sure exactly where I had dumped them once the lesson was over or whether I still had spares, working out appropriate questions, assembling the material and ‘pasting’ it onto the papers on screen, some photocopying, accessing very old computer files which had mysteriously disappeared into limbo, correcting them, doing a second version of the same paper for the weaker children in the class, and a third for a learning disabled student.

    The exams were already a week overdue, and I was thoroughly in denial. At 10 o’clock last night I was drinking coffee hoping the problem would go away by itself. In the end, I got going, and worked through the night til 5 am, caught 2 hrs sleep and went in to teach and hand in the exam papers to the secretary.

    I REALLY DONT WANT TO BE DOING THIS!! But all the logic in the world didnt stop it happening. Am I in the wrong kind of job? I enjoy my teaching work , but oh boy does it put a strain on my life and relationships…HELP!!

    Bonnie Mincu

    Rose, you’ve presented a great example of classic ADD procrastination that likely stemmed from a bit of overwhelm and ambiguity!

    First of all, I do NOT think you’re in the wrong job. You have an excellent grasp of all the specific steps required to do your exam project. I think a lot of your procrastination was due to disorganization. I’ve bold-faced the two points you made on that subject:

      “wasn’t sure exactly where I had dumped them”
      “which had mysteriously disappeared into limbo”

    You must have been a bit daunted at the fear that you maybe would not find these important documents and files! Or at least at the tedious quest that finding them might involve. I believe that if you started establishing firm rituals of putting your documents and files away in a logical place where you would find them — NO MATTER WHAT — it would eliminate those dreaded steps of having to search for them later.

    If you didn’t have to search for documents and files, then the steps you needed to take were pretty straightforward. I’d suggest for the future that you lay out the steps of a project, and then schedule each small step. That way, nothing is really very daunting. Personally, since I’m a “cafe” person, I would take a folder of the worksheets to my favorite cafe and work out the questions there, in a pleasant environment. Then, maybe in a separate work session, I’d do the assembling. And perhaps yet another session could be for creating the different versions.

    You would be a great candidate for my Procrastination Transformation class! It’s not too late to catch up.


    The dresser story is a good one. What happens also is that the person wanting to move the dresser may have a hard time convincing anyone in the house the this is important. We seem to also run into conflict when others in the home don’t want anything different.

    The bedroom is often the dumping ground. For some reason it has been for me for reasons I can’t quiet explain. Then recently I read an article where a woman said that when we clean our homes we should start with the bedroom. It is where your life waking and resting moments begin. It should be a special place.

    I am in the process of using Bonnie’s method to detail the steps and roadblocks. It is a slow process but now it is important. I only want a bed, furniture and a comfy chair in the room (clothes in closets, etc.). So anything that does not fit a wonderful, peaceful, bedroom has to be moved out. Once you find the vision of what you want, Bonnie’s method will move it forward. Might take several attempts but she recommends celebrating the progress too!

    Bonnie Mincu

    Anne, it sounds like you’ll end up with a wonderful bedroom. And you should also celebrate your patience in the process!

    I’ve come to believe that many ADD / ADHD adults are undermined by their lack of patience. They learn solutions, but don’t take the time to implement them or have the patience to think about what worked and then tweak it until it’s right. Just getting information of “HOW TO” do something isn’t enough to make it work for you.

    Hmmm, that sounds like a good blog post topic.

    The part about breaking projects down into small parts I learned long ago. My problem is finishing things. I’m pretty good at starting one project then starting another, … etc. Finishing is almost unknown in my world. In my defense I can say that I do finish a fair number of my projects to the point of being functional (like building a wall, putting sheet rock on and never painting it).

    I have a room I started building onto my house shortly after we moved in in 1977. As of about 2 years ago it’s a functional room, a nice one though the walls aren’t painted…yet. I’ve found that over the years I can revisit many of the started projects and eventually get many of them almost finished! 🙂

    Bonnie Mincu

    Ah, it’s those words like “eventually” and “almost” that kill us! Following through 100% is hard. Most of us get to about 85-90%.

    Karen Preissler

    Thanks! I think positive reinforcement is critical to each step of any size I’m able to recognize and take action on. When there’s a roadblock that ‘overwhelms’ me into a non-active state, I need a lot of refocusing and cheer-leading to get on track again. I’ve been in a modified Dialectic Behavior Training/Support Group for a couple of years now. This has helped me to be more aware of being in the present time, the present space, increased patience, some increased tolerance to the stress that can often develop from “procrastination,” and more self acceptance without labeling/judgment of who I am with ADD. Yes, so important not to give up! I’ve been able to realize and slowly practice, somewhat like Ellen, that making tasks into little steps and creating new steps along the way keeps a path in focus.

    A working ‘ritual’ is a good concept Bonnie. Also, when I stall out I need to STOP for a reality check. To get objective from being sucked into my roadblock. Yes!– actively writing down another new step to activate! For it is very risky for me to get into my timeless, endless, spiraling thinking. I also need steps to give praise to myself and be over all thankful for whatever progress I do make. With positive attitude, every breath is an accomplishment.

    Bonnie Mincu

    Karen, you’ve got it! Breaking down projects and actions into steps, simple and mundane as it sounds, can be THE breakthrough to getting things started… and finished.

    Stopping for a periodic reality check is pretty important as well. So often do we forget to do that.

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Bonnie, there are no words to express how deeply I’ve been affected by your blog! I’ve only read a few things, but they have created such a complete mind shift that the tears shed have washed away my struggles forever!

For the first time in my life I feel understood and hopeful that I can put some tools and systems in place to help me overcome!”

—Michelle near Seattle

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