Welcome to ADHD Diary

Hi, I’m Emma! I’m a part time blogger, full time kindle girl. I’m an aspiring graphic designer  and have lived with an ADHD diagnosis for 15 years. I have a cat named Barbie and a desire to help the world, one blog post at a time.

Make it make sense: Breaking down goals

Living with ADHD can be both a blessing and a curse. While our minds are often filled with creativity and curiosity the inability to set clear long term goals can be quite the challenge. Time and time again I noticed myself able to see the overall goal I wanted to work towards but blind to the steps it’d take to get there. Everything became overwhelming and I’d stop before I ever began due to the anxiety of starting such a big project.

After struggling hard in my first years of graduate school, my committee sat me down and had a difficult talk with me. They noticed I had a strong grasp on the concepts I’d wanted to write about and all the theories I’d wanted to discuss for my thesis but I was drowning in misdirected energy.

I’d had all these ideas strewn all around my apartment - sticky notes with quotes, citations, connective tissues between the theology of one book and the breakdown of another article. I was making progress on research and submitted my chapter outlines (complete with handwritten notes I’d thrown in on the run over to turn them in). But my inability to focus was hindering my progress.

If I couldn’t take clearer, actionable steps to get these thoughts on paper in a constructive way, I’d be unable to ever complete my thesis on time. I remember my Head advisor comparing my work to a book - she had me write out the topic of my thesis as if it was a book title, then walked me through writing each “chapter”.

By helping me to break down this large goal into something I could better visualize I felt it far more approachable and less anxiety inducing to sit down and work only on the chapter currently in progress. By focusing on chapter one of my thesis “book”, I wrote out tasks to be done and tuned out the temptations of reading into new methodologies that did not fit in my current plan.

What helped me stay on track:

1. Embrace your unconventional creativity!

What was truly meaningful to me during the talk with my committee was how supportive that meeting felt. They didn’t shame or make me feel as though I was failing horribly with no hope for recovery. Instead, they offered a solution for an issue they noticed while continuing to encourage the creative way in which my brain functioned. I felt supported and seen, not chastised or “wrong”.

2. Mindmap

For me, this means physically drawing a map of my tasks and goals, then breaking them down into digestible journeys. With the map in place, I can visualize the process and thoughts far easier which leads to less stress when taking the next step.

3. Set realistic chapters

By having me focus on breaking down my larger ambition into manageable chapters, my committee taught me how to effectively start small and work my way up. I was continuously getting caught up in all the possibilities without taking any steps towards completion - all the extra research and writing was doing nothing to finish my outlines or conference proposals. Focusing on the chapter I was currently on zeroed me in on the work to be done before I could start on the next section of thesis construction.


After a few practice runs of breaking down my work, my committee was thrilled to see my focus had begun flowing into far more cohesive writings and concise theories. I no longer jotted extra notes on the outlines I was ready to submit (I kept those on my phone) and I began the life long practice of breaking all my goals down into chapters. I’ve shared this strategy with others struggling just as I had been and have seen quick turnarounds in students who applied this breakdown process.

So the next time you feel unable to begin or unsure of where to start, take a moment to map things out and make smaller chapters. Trust me … it gets much, much easier.

Stay sunny,