5 Tips to Improve Executive Functioning

5 Tips to Improve Executive Functioning

Creative work requires strong executive functioning muscles: planning, strategizing, focusing, following through on long-term goals. But most of us struggle to some degree with these basic “pre-skills.”

I learned this personally when my husband was diagnosed with adult ADHD last summer. As I researched his condition, I began to recognize some of the same deficits in myself. Although I don’t meet the criteria for full-blown ADD/ADHD, I often struggle with planning, scheduling, and follow-through. Common-sense strategies like to-do lists or using a calendar are often sabotaged because my abilities to plan and follow-through are under-developed.

Luckily there’s hope: we can strengthen our executive functioning skills! These five strategies have had the biggest and fastest impact on my own life in the last six months.

Set a timer for 5 minutes to plan your day the night before with a planner, scheduling template, or app. I use Google Calendar on my phone as I'm getting into bed for the night.  Set a timer for all tasks, especially deep work creative ones. After it goes off, get up and take a brief walk before reassessing what you'll do next. The timer is not just to get you to do the 
 work but also to minimize hyperfocus (getting too sucked 
 into a task at the expense of others; a sign of executive 
 dysfunction).  Remember that distraction is misplaced attention, 
 not a lack of it. You don't lack the ability to focus, you 
 lack the skills to adequately steer your focus toward 
professional or personal demands--and that is a skill
that can be learned over time. Rewrite the narrative.  Resist the urge to get everything done right now. 
 Often, "hustle" or acting quickly or over-ambitiously is 
 how we compensate for inadequate planning and 
 scheduling skills. Take your time (as much as you need) to set 
 small goals and break them into steps.  Learn more about executive dysfunction. I love the "Beyond ADHD" podcast even though I don't have full-blown ADHD.


One Response

  1. Cris says:

    This post just got an immediate bookmark. I need to improve this set of skills also. Thank you!

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