Living with ADHD…Imagine a Life Without Deadlines

by | Nov 19, 2013 | ADHD Symptom Control | 4 comments

So much of my life is spent looking through an ADHD lens I’m amazed at what I see when I get the occasional glimpse of the non-ADHD world. Wow. People really live like that?

This morning when my friend, Cindy, and I were talking on the phone I had one of those glimpses.

Cindy is an amazing woman. Without a drop of ADHD blood in her, she accomplishes more than just about anyone I’ve ever met.

Cindy does more than start projects. She finishes them.

Semi-retired, she gardens and cans the veggies she grows. She even drys her beans. Until I met Cindy I didn’t realize you could dry beans. Cindy sews quilts for veterans. She bakes bread. She grows grapes and makes raisins and wine. She organizes neighborhood yoga groups and throws parties.

If I didn’t like Cindy so much I’d hate her. But she does this all in a very casual, generous, low-key manner.

Anyway, this week Cindy is coordinating a project of gathering bedding to donate to a house for homeless veterans that’s opening in our community.

Today was our deadline for collecting the bedding.

As we were chatting about the deadline and when I’d get my stuff to her house, Cindy gave me a startling glimpse into her non-ADHD world.

Cindy said, “I don’t use deadlines for getting things done. Deadlines stress me out. I use a queue system. I keep a big list. Everything I want to do goes in the queue. I mark things off as I do them and when something rises to the top of the list (front of the queue) I do it.”

Wow, I thought! Imagine not needing a deadline. How do you get your brain stimulated so you can get into action and focus?

I even briefly considered whether a queue system would work for any of my ADHD coaching clients. I don’t thing it would.

ADHD isn’t really a lack of attention. It’s a lack of stimulation. The trick for getting someone living with ADHD into action is to provide their brain with stimulation.

And that’s precisely what a deadline does. It provides our brains with needed stimulation to kick into gear.

What do you think? Would a queue system work for you? I’d appreciate it if you’d share your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. Nicole

    I think it would work if someone could find a strategy to inject stimulation into whatever the thing at the top of the que was, which is ulimatly the real challange. I hate living my life to a deadline the same way your friend does…all it does is give me severe anxiety and stress which seems to only give me two choices, be stressed by my inability to focus without a deadline..or be stressed because i’m always on a deadline 🙁

    • danarayburn

      I was thinking that, too. What if you could make it into some sort of game. Combine the queue and deadline approaches.

  2. Donna

    I have been retired for a month. In that month I have had no real deadlines like I had when I was teaching secondary English for 17 years. Now that I am without deadlines, I am without motivation. It irks me. The only thing I’m really motivated to do now is to get up and walk with my husband and the dog. After that, I basically lounge around the rest of the day. My husband says that I need a “hobby.” Nonsense. I had hobbies and a life before I began teaching. It was a different life I was leading then, and I can’t seem to get back to it. What’s wrong with me? My husband says that I need to make a “things to do list.” He has had those for years in steno pads. I make a list and I promptly lose it. If I make it in a steno pad, like my husband, I lose the pad, too. It seems like I am consciously/unconsciously motivated to lose the list. I don’t know. I’m going to try the list and mark things off as I do them, as the woman you described does. Maybe that will help. Also, I have made lists where I wrote things down after I accomplished them. That’s another possibility, but then some important things will be ignored [I’m great at ignoring things.] I hope to get beyond this frustration and enjoy the rest of my life. . . motivated.

    • Dana Rayburn

      Hi Donna. Retirement can be extremely hard for people with ADHD. All that time. No deadlines. Sounds great, right? Except ADHD brains NEED stimulation to focus and get things done. We also need systems and structure to hold the pieces together.



  1. From De-Motivated to Motivated - Dana Rayburn - […] Life is a lot more enjoyable when you stop struggling and start accepting and living more easily with ADHD.…

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