Seeking perfectionism is, of course, not always bad. It can push anyone to achieve their best results or create their best work or even be their best self. But when perfect is the both process and the desired outcome then it can be all-consuming and take over any sense of completion or satisfaction. It saps one’s energy and often only results in disappointment and degradation.

While perfectionism can be a coping mechanism for people with ADHD, that attention to detail can go beyond being a valuable strategy to taking over any routine or at the expense of  time management. 

The flip side of too much attention

On the other hand, someone with ADHD might lose track of the details or become disengaged and distracted. That manifestation can mean difficulty retaining instructions or easily distracted by external stimuli or even staring out the window in an attempt to relieve the ongoing thought process. The shame all-too-often associated with these behaviors can lead to disillusionment and apathy and a general sense of helplessness.

Short attention spans can mean unfinished tasks, a forgetfulness when it comes to daily needs and tasks, and a perception of not being dedicated to anything. 

Other ways these attention to detail might suffer or exist include:

  1. A black hole of remembering where basic household objects are left
  2. Disorganization with home and work efforts
  3. Inability to follow through with simple tasks or even beloved ideas that started strong and then fizzled out.
  4. A short attention span or inability to listen for long periods of time.
  5. Careless mistakes that could be mitigated with an emphasis on solving these dilemmas.

Tackling details starts with the big picture

Sometimes an inefficiency coach is required to really establish a clear set of parameters, objectives, and goals to change behavior. But coaches can be expensive and perhaps offer only a short-term solution (that also must be implemented by the individual in order to be effective).

To drill into the details, a few ideas:

  1. Create some playlists that offer a beat to keep moving and minimize outside distractions
  2. Shift locations in your home or office to change up the view or even go for a walk to reset
  3. Set a timer to spend the right amount of time on a detailed task (especially if it’s not particularly exciting)

The adage “the devil is in the details” applies to anyone who wrestles with the minutiae of daily life. But for someone with ADHD, attention to detail in the right way - e.g. without becoming overwhelmed by perfection - requires a mindful and thoughtful approach to create a better routine. 

Even project management tools can allow for the right amount of time and attention for each task and don’t forget the basics like a proper diet and sleep. At the end of day, it’s worth remembering that the world also needs people to think about the big picture as much as the details.