Finishing things

I thought I'd start a create a new thread on this topic, which has been getting a lot of play on another thread lately.  

I wonder if my husband, who has ADHD, has a hard time finishing tasks not only because of the attention/focus issue but also because of perfectionism.  It seems that he might be thinking, "If something is to be considered done, it must be perfect."  And, as we all know, the state of perfection is nearly impossible to reach.  So, by not finishing, one is also avoiding whatever feelings are experienced when things are not perfect.  Any thoughts about this?

I don't know, Rosered

I don't believe there is an element of perfectionism in my husband's difficultly in finishing things....if anything that is my issue.  My husband gets things to where he seems to think of it as 'more or less done' therefore it falls off his radar and he is on to something else. 

Pbartender's picture

Distraction & P.I.C.K....

For me, the number one thing that prevents me from finishing a job is another job that is more urgent or higher priority.  I get distracted by the new job, and by the time I finish that one (or not!), I've half-forgotten about the other job...  Other new projects have cropped up as well, it get lost in the shuffle, and it just gets tough to get back to it.

The other thing that complicates things and makes it more difficult is the "cost-benefit" analysis of the different parts of the job...  The early parts of and given job tend to require smaller amounts of effort to make big gains.  There's a sense of progress and accomplishment.  Toward the end of a job, though, much of what's left tends to be detail work, which takes much more time and effort for what seems like minor results.  So, especially once I've been distraction by something else, it's easy to say "it's good enough" or to say "the important part is done, I can always finish the rest later", perpetually putting it off as new, more important jobs crop up.


In a way, it reminds me of P.I.C.K. charts...  A management tool created by Lockheed Martin to help prioritize tasks and projects.

The idea is that any proposed project is either easy to do or hard to do, and either has a high payoff or a low payoff.  That gives four categories of project on a 2x2 chart...

Low Payoff, easy to do - "Possible"  It has a small benefit but is easy to do, so there's no reason to not do it.
High Payoff, easy to do - "Implement"  It's easy to do and provides a significant benefit, so it should be done ASAP.
High Payoff, hard to do - "Challenge"  It's has a big benefit but requires a lot of effort, so plan ahead to make the resources available.
Low Payoff, hard to do - "Kill" It has little or no benefit and is difficult to do, chuck it because it's more trouble than it's worth.

It's like in my brain, that last 10% of the job always ends up falling into the "Kill" category, while the first steps of new jobs (reinforced by my wife's imploring pleas of "this needs to get done NOW!") always fall into one of the other three.

Two big things are helping me with this right now...  The first is to refuse (except in certain emergencies) to start a new project, until my current project is complete.  The second is to break projects up into smaller bits and treat each bit as its own project.  With smaller "projects", I'm far more likely to complete each step and it's gives me logical spots were I can pause a project and pick it back up later.



My hubby gets easily

My hubby gets easily discouraged. If he can't complete something the way he wants to, he just lets it be. It's not necessarily perfectionism...more like being picky. Likewise, if a lot of obstacles are thrown up at him on the way to completing the task, the more apt he is to give up.

For example: hubby just got a motorcycle this past week. He wanted to clean it up on Saturday and buy a cover for it so it doesn't get rained on. But he worked the 3rd shift on Friday night; that did not deter him, but going to five different stores looking for the cover did. By the time he got home, he was slinging stuff around because he was so frustrated. "Even when I try to do something right, I screw it up." Heartbreaking.

So I graciously went out and after two stops, found him a cover. While I was gone, he was able to clean the bike up and he was happy. He even told me "it was so dirty that I didn't want to ride it that way." He would have gotten around to cleaning it eventually, but it may have been a while before he got to it.

I can absolutely relate to this

Well I can absolutely relate to this.  Around my workplace I am known as a notorious perfectionist. This is claim I dispute to a certain degree: I get that the search for perfection is a death march.   As an engineer I like to think that there is no such thing as almost correct, it is either done correctly or it is not.   The problem with this comes when there is a conflict between the profitability of a project and sound engineering; often I come under intense pressure to compromise. I am bad at compromise. My take is that one ought to factor in the time and resources to do a job properly and do it once only, failure to do so is not my problem.   This also tends to extend to the quality of components I select,   with accusations of “gold plating” whereas I like to point to exceptionally low failure rates.

In my personal life always like to buy high quality goods after doing what could be seen as excessive research, again I rationalise this by the fact that I only even need to buy one of them and they are invariably fit for purpose.    

Both in work projects and also at home when renovating this does make my tasks much slower in the design and setup phase, but tends to mean all the parts just fit together.  When we tiled our bathroom there ended up being less than .5 mm out of square across the whole wall, sure it took a lot longer to lay but meant I had to cut a lot less tiles.   In the last work project I exceeded my allowed production budget but justified it based on lower warranty cost over the long term.

So there can be a sound method to this madness, and I can be pretty persuasive if not pig headedly stubborn when facing demands of a compromise.    I know it drives those around me nuts, but I am not changing it.   
Mind you our bathroom is still not finished, nor is the kitchen…..or the garden..  However when they *are* eventually done they will be something I will be proud of instead of wishing I had gone the extra mile to get it right.
For me I think this has come from an adaption technique to a propensity to make careless mistakes, I check, recheck and check again, and I like to control a situation by looking to reduce the variables that might lead to a failure.   That and I just like shiny good stuff :)

How do you strike the balance

How do you strike the balance between your need for perfection and the needs of those around you (who, you acknowledge, are probably driven nuts by your approach)?  Do they get any say in the matter or is it "my way or the highway"?

This is my husband!

No real advice, just commiseration. My husband and my sister(who is admittedly ADHD, but she deals with it pretty well without meds) are the same way. My husband still has boxes and boxes of god knows what out in our garage, filling it to the brim, along with a broken down race car that he plans on fixing up with our son some day. The garage has been in this condition since we moved to our house 8 years ago! My daughter's closet is full of stuff that my husband will not get rid of because "we may need those things someday..why get rid of or throw away things that are perfectly good but unused?" So my daughter has a closet in her room that she can't even use. Lets see..there's a huge list..

He bought a motorcycle.and does use it, luckily..just not nearly as often as he said he would when he bought it
Has a very expensive bicycle and equipment to go with it and uses it RARELY! Had all these plans to run a marathon and train, etc..he's ridden his bike maybe 5 times in the past year and a half..never did the marathon obviously.

Our cabinet faces on a lot of our drawers are all falling off and need to be replaced. He will not take the drawer faces out to our 800 square foot work shop and just fix the damn things already. I offered to glue them temporarily, but that won't do, he has to cut pieces of good quality wood and do it's been 2 years. I'm tempted to just learn how to use the 5 different saws out there and go do it myself.

Our fence was destroyed last April from hail and he decided he was going to rebuild it himself and make it indestructable! :) He still has one gate to finish and it's taken him MONTHS to even have the motivation to just go out there and finish it. I even worked one a large portion of it last year with my mom and dad hoping it would ignite some motivation, and that wasn't enough apparently. He even had to redo a portion that my dad had done because it wasn't done "right." I didn't tell my dad this!

He was going to build me rain barrels for my garden, and is so close to being done..he could probably get this done in a day, and it's been like this for years.

Our lawn is a wreck because he won't just go out and mow it to get it done has to be perfect. We live on a 1/3 acre. It's a big job to get it done from start to finish..roughly 3 hours a weekend.  Luckily our city isn't very strict and our grass can be up to 12 inches before the city says anything about's often this tall. I even suggested hiring someone to do it, and he doesn't want to pay the would probably cost around 200.00/mo.

There is a list a mile long of little things that drive me nuts that need to be done but in his eyes, it's so incredibly minor, why bother?

Luckily we've fixed a ton of other issues in our marriage, so the unfinished projects aren't as big of a burden to me anymore. He loves and plays with our kids, wants me to be happy and is meeting my needs now, so I am having a hard time being too pissed about the projects. Oh, and nagging doesn't help at all. If anything it will make it worse. I learned this the hard way. So, I can be all pissy and naggy to friends, but trying to nag hubs to finish something is useless.

My sister likes to leave the house cleaning until it's so bad that there are piles of dust/dog hair underneath things and everywhere, and until the shower door is caked with soap scum before attempting to clean it. My mom and I went to her house a few weeks ago to help her clean(she's pregnant with her 4th baby, so I do have a lot of compassion for her right now!) and she said that if we just got the floors done, and nothing else, she'd be happy. I swept, my mom vacuumed behind me, and after that was done, we had to sweep again..then we mopped..I kept telling her the water was too soapy, and was going to leave a film, and she told me, "oh I usually mop twice." So, after I mopped the whole house once(they have stained concrete), I mopped it again with clean water, oy. I could tell that after we left, she was still going to go through all the rooms and try and clean up after us, to make it perfect. She's always nice about it though, but I can tell her ADD is peeking through :) She's also great at starting things, namely different types of jobs and business opportunities and not finish them or stick with them.

Some of the tips that PB laid out are incredibly helpful. I think I'll try and implement these with my husband. Breaking each project down into smaller projects seems like it might work with my husband. Also, making sure he takes his meds on the weekend! That's the big one:) I just wanted to say I can commiserate! My husband is notorious for starting things and not finishing them until they can be done "right!!" His father is a bit OCD and a perfectionist and his mother is ADD, so he didn't stand a chance.