Living with ADHD Means Occasional 0 Percent Days

April 26, 2022 Michael Thomas Kincella

When most of your life has been a struggle to perform tasks thanks to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it's hard not to become preoccupied with productivity. So zero percent productivity days can lead to self-criticism.

Have I done enough? I haven't done enough. Should I do more? I really should do more. These questions and answers form an internal monolog that often loops inside my head. Thankfully, more often than not, I'm able to break the loop and shake these feelings of guilt and worry.

On rare occasions, however, I get so engrossed in monitoring productivity levels that it becomes overwhelming. I worry so much that I short my internal circuitry, and output grinds to a halt, hovering just above absolute zero.

0 Percent Days Aren't Pleasant

Don't get me wrong; I can still eat, clean, and perform menial tasks in this state. It's the work that suffers.

As you can imagine, this isn't a pleasant situation to find yourself in. Nobody likes feeling dejected. And nobody likes being the architect of their own misfortune. I used to berate myself for these days of zero productivity. I call them Zero Percent Days (0% days). Except, now I place them in the wider context of life in general.

For example, I tell myself these 0% days are an inversion of past behavior: Where once they were the rule, they're now exceptionally rare. Additionally, I understand that despite taking medication, exercising regularly, and using strategies to defeat the worst parts of ADHD, I won't always be on top of things all day, every day. In fact, some days, I'll be pretty far from the top. On some days, I'll be close to zero percent. And that is absolutely fine.

Tips To Remember on Zero 0 Percent Days

Do you short your circuitry worrying about productivity?

If so, here are a couple of tips for those overwhelming days:

  • Prioritize tasks -- A good task-management system can help you mitigate feelings of worry and guilt. By working on the most important tasks first and limiting the number of tasks on your to-do list, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed. This will differ from person to person, but I personally find three tasks to be the sweet spot. This helps me to keep overanalysis and overthinking at bay.
  • Accept your humanness -- Without delving too far into the philosophical weeds, it's enough to say that zero percent days don't matter much in the grand scheme of things. Admittedly, it's easier to talk about affecting a Zen attitude than it is to perform a Zen attitude. As evidenced by this post, I'm certainly guilty of that. But, it's good to try and remember your humanness. It's good to remember you aren't a robot and that, from time to time, you will hit the skids. You will down tools. You will short your circuitry. You will have an unproductive day. When that happens, accept it.

Do you short your circuitry? Do you have zero percent days? Let me know in the comments.

APA Reference
Thomas, M. (2022, April 26). Living with ADHD Means Occasional 0 Percent Days, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Author: Michael Thomas Kincella

Find Michael on Twitter, Reddit, and his website.

Whitney Hardy
January, 15 2024 at 8:55 pm

What's the best way to help my spouse to understand my 0% days? As a high performer, he does NOT understand that these days happen sometimes. Everything I read says, "Give yourself grace and space for these types of days," but what happens when you are not your own worst critic? How do we work together to get through the unproductive times?

Amy Anderson
June, 30 2023 at 1:40 pm

I just want to take a moment to express my appreciation for you and the information you share. ADHD has always been a struggle for me even with medication. I am definitely finding very valuable and useful tools to make everyday life a bit less chaotic. Thank you so much!!

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