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ADHD in Women

Finishing Tasks Only Makes Me Feel Worse

I’m pretty sure this is a common issue, but it’s rearing its ugly head lately and I’m not sure what to do about it:

Like everyone else, I have a huge list of things I HAVE to do and a huge list of things I WANT to do. Right now, I’ve gotten into a bad mental space where the two lists are fighting it out in my head until I give up and don’t do anything.

What really worries me is that this weekend I tried to alternate things from the different lists—I decided I would go to the laundromat to do some desperately needed laundry (have to do) and then I could go enjoy some time at the botanical garden (want to do). But by the time I finished the “have to do” part, I wasn’t able to enjoy the “want to do” part because I was so busy beating myself up about waiting so long to do laundry. Does that make sense? I get no relief from doing the things on my “have to” list because it only reminds me of all of the other things on that list I haven’t done yet, or I scold myself for waiting so long to do them when I should have gotten them done (yesterday/last week/last month).

Any advice? I’m happy to clarify if needed, but this is all still pretty confusing inside my head as well. I tried to reverse it today (went to the yarn store first, and then went to buy cat food) and that seemed to go a little bit better, but it’s still very frustrating to get no relief at all (in fact, to only feel WORSE) after checking things off my “to do” list!


Based on your own analysis of: “But by the time I finished the “have to do” part, I wasn’t able to enjoy the “want to do” part because I was so busy beating myself up about waiting so long to do laundry…” I would suggest that you take that knowledge (and write it down on multiple index cards & post-it notes, tattoo it somewhere on your body, spam your inbox, whatever works) so that the next time you’re sitting there watching the battle of Good vs Evil play out in your own head you will intervene in that battle sooner, pull out your sword (or tattoo) and DECIDE to make the “best” choice for you.  Telling yourself repeatedly that unless & until you do the crap you don’t want to do you will FOREVER be various shades of miserable while doing the things you actually want to do should help lots!

“Does that make sense?”—YES, been there & done that…& also KNOW that the above advice will help!

Posted by BC on Jun 30, 2014 at 7:23am

“Telling yourself repeatedly that unless & until you do the crap you don’t want to do you will FOREVER be various shades of miserable while doing the things you actually want to do should help lots!”

Well, no, because if I remind myself to go to the laundromat earlier in the day, I’ll still be unhappy because I didn’t go the weekend before. And if I go the weekend before, I shouldn’t have let the laundry pile up to the point that I needed to go to the laundromat. And if I don’t let the laundry pile up so I can do it in the machine in our building, I shouldn’t be doing so many loads and blocking other people from doing their laundry, and if I get it down to a couple of loads, I should be doing something PRODUCTIVE while the laundry is going and not reading a book or reading articles on the internet.

Which is what I was saying: the reason I put things off is because I feel JUST AS BAD doing them right away as I do putting them off, because there’s always a reason I didn’t do it fast enough/efficiently enough/the way I should have done it. Even if I washed my clothes every day, the instant I took them off, that would be a waste of water and don’t I know there’s a drought right now?

There is no way for me to win because even doing things in a timely way triggers my critical voice to explain why I shouldn’t have done it that way.

Posted by cinegirl on Jun 30, 2014 at 10:49am

Sounds like you’ve got an Inner Critic the size of a gorilla then.  Any idea where/when that came from? 

How does that dialogue go for other household chores, not just laundry?  (Disregard dishes cuz it’s way too similar to laundry…eventually degrades to DRAUGHT).

Posted by BC on Jun 30, 2014 at 11:34am

The only way that I was able to overcome what you are experiencing was to start using Flylady’s methods.  Seriously.

Repetition of the routines means that (eventually) everything that was necessary gets done.  That is a whole lot better than having to make choices.

Most of us would like to be able to just do what we want, the the ugly head of reality surfaces when we have no clean clothing or no dishes or we are out of every kind of quick meals to fix for dinner.

You did not indicate if you were living alone, or not, but that would make a difference, too.  Who is counting on you to get the necessary things done?  If you are alone, then it is you who is counting on you to do these things. 

When you disappoint yourself, you need to look at how you do things; the things you are doing and their priority in your life; then the things that you want to do can be added.  No matter what needs doing, it takes longer when it is let go for too long.  that is why the flylady system works so well.  You have routines that are set up to be repeated periodically, and, over time, not only is everything that needs doing done; it is going to take far less of your time and effort to do it.  That is when you reward yourself and do something that you have on your “Want To Do” list.

Flylady even provides a “Control journal” that you can use to create your own “Control Journal” for your home and your life.  It works!

The great part of the whole system is that you start where you are—no preparation needed!

I hope that helps!  If not, just forget it and try something else to gain control…

Posted by Dianne in the Desert on Jun 30, 2014 at 8:17pm

I’ve tried Flylady in the past and, unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. It actually added to my stress—there was ALWAYS something else I was supposed to be doing. I know the point is to just do one task a day, but just knowing that there were more and more and more tasks I was supposed to be doing that were going to be coming up made me shut down.

Now I feel guilty (again) about having cleaning people come twice a month because I really should be doing it all myself, but if we didn’t have cleaning people, my husband and I would probably be divorced by now. (No kids, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.)

Posted by cinegirl on Jun 30, 2014 at 8:55pm

Also, I don’t think it’s really a matter of getting things “under control”—in fact, I think a big part of the problem is that I feel like I SHOULD be controlling everything, so if one part breaks down, I feel completely unmotivated to do anything else. Flylady didn’t work for me because it just emphasized that I SHOULD be doing things her way and if I wasn’t, I had failed.

Posted by cinegirl on Jun 30, 2014 at 8:58pm

Oh, and have I mentioned that my (step)mother (who raised me since I was 10 after my mother died) is very OCD when it comes to cleaning? She won’t have wallpaper in her house because she’s convinced that dirt is accumulating behind it that she can’t get to. Even her same-age friends who were raised with similar standards tease her for being such a neat freak.

Posted by cinegirl on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:04pm

Ok, that explains why you have it programmed in your head that there’s a bazillion *shoulds*—I, too, was raised by a step-mom (age 8 after my mom died) with cleaning skills bordering on OCD. 

With a “role model” like that I guarantee you will constantly fall short of this ideal that even her friends her age think is WAY too high (and your Inner Critic jumps in and starts taking you to task for this perceived failure). 

I hope that the similarities of how we were raised only puts a tad bit more credence on the fact that I’ve had to develop strategies to cope with exactly what you’re talking about…and maybe think about some ways to tweak (or expand on) the basic advice I gave.  It is a process that will slowly get better when you “attack” it from the right angles, not a magical instantaneous “cure.”  And you do have to start kind of “back at the beginning”—clearly define in your mind what YOUR idea of Good Enough is (and that will NOT be anywhere close to hers).

The thing that started me on my way toward having my own standards instead of mindlessly adopting hers was when I was pregnant (with twins).  That was a very introspective 9-month period which I spent taking inventory and planning ahead—deciding what I *should* do & would do once I became a parent.  This is what started my rehabilitation: I was adamant that certain things from my childhood would not be what my own children would have to endure.  Absolute TOPS on my list was the philosophy that young children do not give a crap if the floor is sanitary enough that one could technically, safely, dine there.  Young children will not look back on their own childhood and be thankful that Mom was TOO busy mopping the floor to spend quality time having a tea-party on that same floor. 

Does that help any?

Posted by BC on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:41pm

Oh, and FlyLady didn’t work for me either because (as far as I can tell) FlyLady is no different than taking someone else’s ideals & methods and substituting them for my own.  It wasn’t customizable enough for my tastes (the ipone app), and was nothing but a constant nagging reminder of how far behind I might be or…IDK…it works for some people but NOT for me.

Posted by BC on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:48pm

“And you do have to start kind of “back at the beginning”—clearly define in your mind what YOUR idea of Good Enough is (and that will NOT be anywhere close to hers).”

Ah, okay, that makes more sense. When I read your comment last night, I thought you were advising me to raise my standards, do things sooner, not procrastinate so much—IOW, everything I’ve been hearing my whole life! So I was a little confused. What you’re saying now makes more sense to me. The tough part, of course, is believing it. grin

I did manage to make that work when it came to flossing my teeth (which I only started doing after three (3) root canals). I decided that doing a “good enough” job of flossing would at least get me doing it every day and—voila!—I haven’t had so much as a cavity since then.

(I have had two more root canals, but the dentist thinks it was because I was clenching my teeth due to the stress of first my father-in-law’s death and then my father’s death six months later—nothing to do with dental hygiene in that case.)

Posted by cinegirl on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:59pm


I’m 53, and I feel the same thing, with a mother who always found fault and never approved.

When I’m on Ritilin, I feel so much compassion for myself, but when it wears off, I feel inadequate again.

I don’t have any solutions, but I can tell you that you aren’t the only one who has trouble taking pleasure in progress, because it’s only progress and not perfection.

The brain knows that perfection is impossible, but the heart hears some echo from the past insisting only perfection is adequate.

Your feelings totally make sense to me.  You don’t deserve to feel that way, but I’ve responded to perfectionism with the same impact to my self-concept.  Wish I knew a simple answer.

Posted by Idaho Anne on Jul 14, 2014 at 3:40am

I’m sure this has been said but to be totally honest I got through reading the first 2 responses and thought that is not what I wanted to say and I have to get it out before it go away.  You know the bottom line.  and implosive.

Have you tried keeping a schedule. weather it be an app on your phone or commuter a paper calendar or a date book.  Schedule the things you need to do and you will find you have time to do the things you want to do and you will enjoy them more.  For example if you need to do laundry schedule it for Monday and Thursday. pick a specific time you will work on it.  washing it drying it folding it and putting it away.  you can even break these things down and do a little each day.  for example I will put a load in the washer on Sunday afternoon. On Monday before I leave for work I will throw it in the dryer. When I return home on I will fold it while catching up on a DVR show I missed. Then Tuesday when I return form work I will put it away and Wed I will start the cycle all over again. Schedule everything from going shopping for food to calling mom on the phone.  Don’t forget to add your daily activities like school/work.  A few weeks of repeating a regular routine and you should be starting to feel better about getting the things done that need to be done.
With your schedule all ready planned out you can fit in the things you want to do b/c you will have done the things you need to do.  NEVER FORGET the things we “want” to do (fun) stuff needs to be added as well these are things we NEED not just wants. 

Hang in there let me know how it works out for you.

Posted by Jessi818 on Jul 28, 2014 at 1:25am

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