Managing Projects with ADHD: Skip Personal Project Planners

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Managing projects can be a daunting task for anyone but it can be especially challenging for people with ADHD. Challenges known to ADHD minds include difficulty with organization, completing things on time, and staying focused in order to plan. These are all things that make it challenging to start and finish projects effectively.

However, despite these challenges, people with ADHD can still successfully manage projects with the right tools and strategies. In fact, having ADHD myself, I’ve seen where having ADHD can make you better at planning projects.

In this article, we cover reasons why you should manage your projects by considering tools other than personal project planners. Instead, we recommend utilizing management tools, such as mind maps, kanban boards and exploring the benefits of project management systems.

Personal Project Planners vs Project Management Systems

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often struggle with traditional project management methods. I believe this is often rooted more in how project management is presented and how the current tools are made.

When struggling with organization and hearing that you have ADHD, one of the recommendations you’ll hear is to “get a planner.”

Personal project planners may not be effective as ADHD minds often have difficulty maintaining consistency in using them. In my own case, I end up purchasing them and end up using it only a handful of times. Then ultimately, it gets misplaced, or I forget to use it and then when I’ve started a project with other people, it doesn’t work any more.

However, management tools like mind maps, kanban boards, the business model canvas, our Project Value Canvas, and others can be beneficial for individuals with ADHD as they become a visual way to organize ideas and tasks. Mind maps provide brain flexibility by supporting both linear and non-linear approaches.

The Kanban board is similar; it uses columns and lanes to visually show where tasks are and what you need to work on next. These concepts allow people with ADHD to see the work quickly and easily connect their ideas to the work and then ultimately develop a plan for their project.

This is a reason why we included boards as a way to work with your project details here at Leantime.

ADHD needs long term focus to manage projects

When managing a project with ADHD, it’s essential to focus on the long term rather than just the immediate tasks. It’s important to keep the end goal in mind and to have a clear understanding of what needs to be done to achieve it.

More than that, however, is that dopamine (the hormone that we struggle with with ADHD) release occurs when we think of, visualize, or recognize the goal. In fact, there’s data that supports that getting to the goal causes a dopamine drop.

If we take our ADHD and focus only on the immediate tasks, particularly in the way most day and project planners are set up, we can lose the dopamine that motivates us and get distracted and pulled away from the goal of what we’re working towards.

Use Project Management tools instead

Using a project management system is better than using a personal project planner because it also allows for collaboration with others.

ADHD can benefit from both the accountability that comes with working with others and also with the creativity and camaraderie. So much so that there are now platforms supporting body doubling in order to get tasks done.

Using a project management system, then, team members can collaborate on tasks and share ideas, ensuring that the project is completed effectively and efficiently.

Visibility & Transparency

Project management systems provide visibility and transparency. In the right tool, organization can create a clearer flow and make it easier to find things that you need and more quickly.

When you’re working with a team and using a project management system, everyone involved in the project can see the progress of the project, the tasks that need to be completed, and who is responsible for them. This transparency allows team members to work together effectively and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Additionally, project management systems provide a structured approach to the information and can help individuals with ADHD stay focused and organized. In my own experience, it even supports creating a clearer focus and direction.

Visibility is an essential aspect of project management. It, again, supports that accountability that comes with working on a team. Not only that, however, it’s important to be able to see the progress of the project and to understand what tasks need to be completed.

When working on a project with ADHD, it’s crucial to have regular check-ins to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the project is progressing as planned. If you’re not working with a team, though, doing this with yourself or with someone who knows about what you’re working on, has significant value in staying on track.

Personal Project Planners don’t scale Projects

Lastly, personal planners as a method of tracking what you need to do takes more time to organize and set up, has a higher risk of lost or being misplaced, but ultimately, the right project management tool can help you get more organized more quickly.

The right system shouldn’t be overwhelming to set up (decreasing motivation) and should support all forms of accessibility — even for those with ADHD. All of the above are things that we are working to focus on in building Leantime, our open source project management system.

While & because we’re a younger organization, we have had the ability to really focus in on the things that impact ADHD and while we’re constantly improving features, it’s a priority for us.


Project management doesn’t have to be difficult for those of us with ADHD and if it’s better for us, it’s better for everyone else too.

And as much as there are certain things associated with ADHD that can be really hard to overcome, it is in overcoming those things that allow us to be better product managers, project managers, program managers. We have had to find tricks, work around after work around, and even new ways of doing things because the world isn’t set up for our brains.

It’s our ability to overcome and to do things differently that gives us an edge in managing projects.

Give us a system that makes that even easier? Quicker? More reliable?

Then it becomes easier for organizations and even ourselves (when we’ve often been minimized because of it) to see the value that this difference in our how brains process things has.

Personal project planners don’t scale projects. People with the right tools in their hands do.

In conclusion…

Managing projects with ADHD and skipping the personal planner can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By using management tools, such as mind maps, kanban, and business development boards along with project management systems, people with ADHD can effectively manage projects.

It’s essential to focus on the long term and have a clear understanding of what needs to be done to achieve the end goal. By utilizing these strategies, adults with ADHD can successfully manage projects and achieve their goals.

Curious about trying a system built with ADHD in mind? Head over to our homepage to learn more. It’s free to get started.

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Gloria Folaron is the CEO and founder of Leantime. A Nurse first, she describes herself as an original non-project manager. Being diagnosed with ADHD later in life, she has hands on experience in navigating the world of project and product management and staying organized with ADHD.

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