Navigating Project Overload: Finding Your Capacity (Especially with ADHD)

managing project overload and determining capacity


It is common to find ourselves juggling multiple projects simultaneously all the time. Whether at work, school or in our personal lives, the demands of life usually require us to wear many hats at once. Finding the right capacity and balance between productivity and overwhelm can be a challenge, especially for individuals with ADHD. We typically have too many projects to do well and without stress. Here are some strategies for managing project overload, determining your capacity, and tracking tasks effectively.

Understanding Your Capacity

Capacity refers to the maximum amount of projects or tasks you can effectively manage without becoming overwhelmed or experiencing a decline in performance. It’s crucial to recognize that this threshold varies from person to person and can even fluctuate based on factors such as stress levels, life transitions, emotional regulation, and sleep quality.  Your capacity depends on your self-awareness of how much you can handle. It also depends on the level of performance you expect of yourself and the amount of time required to meet your project goals.  Often the only signs you have of reaching capacity are feelings of anxiety and stress. For people with ADHD, there can be some magical thinking being limitless. Enthusiasm for possibilities is exciting. Big projects such as creating a beautiful home environment and DIY solutions to house projects can lead to too many incomplete projects and stress. Knowing your capacity plays a part in this.


Strategies for Managing Project Overload

You might have already realized that you are over your capacity. The signals of stress are there. If so, there are strategies to use to move forward.

  • Start by prioritizing your tasks and your goals. Not all projects are equally important, even if that seems to be the case due to emotional regulation. Identify the tasks that are most urgent or important and focus your energy on those first. You can use Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle or the ABCDE method can help you prioritize effectively. Use your intuition as well as data to determine priorities.
  • A little planning goes a long way. Make your plan using a visual guide. Use a calendar or Gantt chart to help you organize the projects into sequence. These visual aids help you allocate your entire self to one project at a time. This applies at work and at home.
  • Establish micro-steps to chunk larger projects into manageable sections. With each step accomplished, you feel the sense of accomplishment of moving forward. You can use Asana or Trello to help you manage these microsteps.
  • Set aside time each day or week to review your tasks, priorities, and progress. This allows you to make adjustments as needed and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Once a project is complete, review your capacity. Pause before adding more projects to complete the existing projects. Review what was successful and why and create a system for the capacity you have set.
  • Delegate and collaborate with those on your team at home and work. Ask for help or delegate tasks when necessary. Whether it’s a trusted colleague, friend, or family member, having a support system can make managing project overload feel less daunting.
  • Decide if you not going to complete the project. Can you let go of the parts that have become clutter from the abandoned project? I encourage you to give this some strong thought to do so.
  • Remember that the key to all energy and productivity is your self-care. The foundation of a good night’s rest, hydration, exercise and nutrition make all the difference when you are feeling overwhelmed and overloaded.


Navigating project overload can be challenging in self-awareness and self-concept. Remember that finding the right balance takes time and experimentation, so be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. With dedication and knowledge, you can conquer project overload and thrive in both your personal and professional endeavors.

4 replies
  1. Seana Turner
    Seana Turner says:

    Loving this concept of capacity. I was just talking with someone this morning about how she feels she has too many tabs open in her mind. She is a very capable person who can handle a lot, but we all have our limits. When you feel like every day you are trying to simply hold it together, you are on the verge of a breakdown.

    One of the (few) upsides of getting older is an increasing awareness and understanding of my limits. I have good estimates of how long various tasks will take me to complete, and also know how much down time I need to be productive. That helps so much.

    Sometimes it helps to have someone else “give you permission” to remove something from the calendar or to-do list. We can feel guilty, but others can often see the big picture better than we can, offering wise counsel to either to remove a task, or maybe ask for help. Of course, its good to ask someone objective!

  2. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Agree with you so much! For myself, as I age, and post covid, what was a “small” task is on my radar as what is really takes to undertake that task. I have given myself permission to scale back to what is really a small task to accomplish the same goal. I grant permission to everyone reading this to remove at least one task from your calendar.

  3. Linda Samuels
    Linda Samuels says:

    How much capacity do you have at the moment? I love how you acknowledged that your capacity isn’t fixed and is affected by time, sleep, emotional regulation, and more. When you’re feeling spacious with few commitments or other life stressors, your capacity can seem limitless. And when your plate overflows and you’re stressed to the max, expansiveness seems impossible.

    Good strategies and an understanding of yourself go a long way here. It is important to find your ‘balance capacity’ at any given moment.

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