Ask the Experts

Q: “How Could an MVP Improve My Productivity?”

“A minimum viable project helps students with ADHD overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and overwhelm. They set a realistic goal and feel accomplished once it is achieved.”

A teen with ADHD uses a laptop in her college dorm room
A teen with ADHD uses a laptop in her college dorm room

Q: “I’m a college junior. Writing papers and working on projects overwhelm me. Projects overlap; the more I need to do, the harder it is to get started. I waste so much time and can’t seem to finish anything. I’m feeling a lot of shame about it. Please help.” — Confused

Hi Confused:

Some say that perfection is the enemy of completion. I agree. But I believe it’s also the enemy of activation! You may feel that you must produce your very best work the first time out of the gate. Every. Single. Time. Assuming you must write a perfectly thought-out and organized paper the first time you sit down to work on it can easily prevent you from getting started.

And that’s where an MVP comes in. What is an MVP, you may ask?

What Does MVP Mean?

An MVP (minimum viable product) is the bare minimum version of a project or task you can produce while still fulfilling its core purpose. It’s not about perfection or completeness, but rather about creating something functional that you can build upon later.

It’s a term used in product development to describe the concept of building something with the least number of bells and whistles first to get feedback for future product development. And with that feedback, you then build up.

So, what would an MVP look like for you? A few bullet points showcasing your ideas for your business class project. Your thesis and outline for your political science paper to show to your professor. If you think of your MVP as a tool to get the feedback and validation you need to improve your initial work, it will save you time and help you get unstuck and started.

Let’s talk about the power of producing an MVP to help boost your productivity and limit that “stuckness.” As someone who has worked with countless students with ADHD and executive functioning challenges over the years, I’ve found that the MVP approach is a game changer when removing that “barrier to entry” to get things done.

Free Download: Focus Your ADHD Brain With 5 Helpful Hacks]

5 Benefits of the Minimal Viable Product Approach for ADHD Brains

1. When you are tasked with producing an MVP, you’re forced to focus on the essential elements of a project or assignment, which means prioritizing and making decisions. The MVP approach helps you avoid getting bogged down in a project’s details and endless possibilities. Instead, it gives you a tangible goal. This can be incredibly motivating and help build momentum to tackle bigger challenges. A win-win!

2. An MVP can help you overcome procrastination and perfectionism. When you feel overwhelmed by a project or assignment, you may procrastinate or spend too much time trying to make it perfect. However, by aiming to create just an MVP, you can set a realistic goal and feel a sense of major accomplishment once you’ve achieved it.

3. Producing an MVP helps you get essential feedback early. By sharing your work with others, you get valuable input, which will help you improve and refine your project. This can be especially helpful if you’re working on a complex or long-term project, as you can avoid investing a lot of time and effort in a direction that may ultimately be unsuccessful.

Case in point: I had a student-coaching client who was a junior in college. He had one assignment for the entire semester — a 35-page research paper due on the last day of finals. (Overwhelming, to say the least.) Creating an MVP and submitting it immediately to his professor gave him the feedback he needed to know if he was on the right track before he was in too deep and needed to change course.

[Self-Test: Could Your Teen Have an Executive Function Deficit?]

4. The MVP approach can help you overcome the fear of starting a project. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the scope of a task and feel unable to complete it. You can build confidence and gain control by breaking a project down into its most basic components or manageable parts.

5. Lastly, the MVP approach is incredibly adaptable. As you continue to work on your project, you can add more features and refine it over time. This allows you to be flexible and adjust as needed without getting stuck in a rigid plan that may not work out.

Give the MVP approach a try. Start small, focus on the essentials, get feedback, and build momentum every step of the way.

Good luck!

Minimum Viable Product: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

Since 1998, ADDitude has worked to provide ADHD education and guidance through webinars, newsletters, community engagement, and its groundbreaking magazine. To support ADDitude’s mission, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.