Executive Dysfunction Strategies

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Understanding Autism

Executive Dysfunction Strategies

Unfortunately, there isn’t one strategy that will work for everyone. This is because everyone’s difficulties with executive functioning is different.

Executive functioning is broad, and covers a range of functions, including organising thoughts and regulating behaviour.

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Visual Aids

I have ADHD, and I really struggle with “out of sight, out of mind” – if I can’t see something, it is forgotten. Therefore, I am heavily reliant on visual cues to organise my days.

This includes:
– Daily timetables
– Trackers & alarms for meds, hygiene, chores
– I also put my meds on my desk so I see them as soon as I get to work-from-home
– White boards (I have three around my desk!)
– Sticky notes. They are everywhere – on the desk for notes, on the fridge so I know what I have in that needs eating
– A drink in front of me at all times reminds me to stay hydrated!

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Step-By-Step

Another thing I struggle with is not being able to start a task because it feels too overwhelming. Got to clean the whole kitchen? That’s a lot!

This is because I really struggle to picture the “end state” of the task. It really helps to break it down into tiny tasks that I can do one at a time.

Instead of aiming to clean the whole kitchen, I aim to wash the mugs so I can have a hot drink. Once the mugs are done, I can rest, or start another small task. It’s okay if I don’t do all the list items in one day! Some is better than none đź™‚ (some days none will be done – we all need rest days)

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Long Term Tasks

When I have a long term task, something that I cannot complete today, like an essay, a work project, or a house move, it’s really easy for me to just forget about it until it’s too late.

For these tasks, I have a full year calendar on the wall. I mark the deadline and I count backwards to see how many days are left. I use a Gantt chart to track what I need to do and when in order to get the task completed on time. Sometimes I put them into different lists on Trello, which is a really good site for planning.

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Teamwork

Is there someone in your life who can help with prompting you to do tasks?

Is there someone with whom you can swap tasks? E.g. they help you with cleaning the kitchen and you help them with proofreading

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Parallel Chores

This is something I discovered over lockdown that really works for me. Instead of sitting alone to wash the dishes, getting bored and distracted, video call someone who will do their dishes in parallel! It provides distraction from the task as you chat, provides some accountability to do the task, and generally makes it more pleasant!

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Time Tracking

I can quite easily look up from my phone or laptop to find it is 21:00 and the day has vanished. Where did the time go? Who knows.

My flatmate plans out his “average days” on a calendar on his computer. He inputs when sleep and meals happens, and then is able to input different tasks that he needs to get done in the day. It really helps to be able to see the time you have set out in front of you in blocks instead of as a list. Remember – stuff often takes longer than you might realise!

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Timer Goals

I use the toastie machine! But it doesn’t have to be a toastie timer. It can be any timer, like the kettle boiling! But I put a toastie in for lunch and it takes 7 minutes to be perfect – so I do 7 minutes of cleaning in the kitchen. It’s much more manageable than an undefined amount of time, and at the end of 7 minutes, I get a reward! (in the form of a toastie)

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Be Kind To Yourself!

My executive dysfunction gets worse when I compare myself to others, especially when I compare myself to neurotypical people in my life. I end up feeling a lot of shame, and that means I am even less likely to do things that I need to do. I need to learn to go at my own pace and that my own pace is okay.

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