CHADD, the leading resource on ADHD, estimates that 17 million adults and children are living with ADHD.
At Reclaim we often work with those effected by ADHD, whether having it themselves or living with someone who does. Being organized is a common challenge for those with ADHD. We set up systems and strategies for our clients to ensure that they are able to easily maintain them on their own. We also often recommend that our clients consult with an ADHD coach. We reached out to our favorite ADHD Coach Patty Blinderman of Positively Coaching ADHD and asked her to share her thoughts on executive functions and the role they play in becoming more organized.
Executive Functions- the keys to getting- and staying- organized
When we think of executive function (EF) skills, we may not connect them to our ability (or inability) to become more organized. The truth is that having weak EF skills can be a huge factor in whether we are able to succeed in this area. If you experience difficulties in getting–or staying–organized, take this quick quiz to see if weak executive function skills may be at play.
The following is a list of EF skills, as defined by Guare and Dawson in their Smart but Scattered books. Respond “yes” or “no” to the question related to each skill to see if it is presenting an organizing challenge for you.
_____Response Inhibition– aka self-control. Can you resist the urge to say “I don’t feel like doing it today,” “I don’t have the time,” “I’m too tired”…?
_____Working Memory– the ability to hold in our brain the steps to getting something done. Can you remember everything that needs to be done to organize the master closet–or are some tasks/areas forgotten?
_____Emotional Control– The ability to manage emotions in order to complete a task or direct behavior. If you feel anxious about the amount of time or work needed to organize the kitchen, can you still manage to get it done?
_____Sustained Attention– Maintaining attention on a task despite boredom, distractibility, or fatigue. Can you continue organizing your bedroom, even when someone rings your doorbell, or you have to sort 50 pairs of socks or you discover organizing it is harder than you thought?
_____Task Initiation– Can you get started on cleaning out the fridge without procrastinating?
_____Planning/Prioritization– Can you formulate a plan to get the piles of office paperwork completed?
_____Organization– Can you create and maintain systems so you can find what you need when you need it?
_____Time Management– Can you accurately estimate how much time it will take to organize the pantry, allocate the time to do it, and stay within the time limits?
_____Goal-Directed Persistence– Can you set a goal to organize the pantry and follow through until it is finished without being distracted?
_____Flexibility– If organizing the garage doesn’t work as you thought it would, can you revise your plan to get it done?
_____Metacognition– Can you stand back and take a birds-eye view of the work you are doing and ask “How is this going?” or “How am I doing?”
_____Stress Tolerance– Can you cope with expectations/pressure (from yourself or others) to begin and complete tasks?
How many EF skills did you respond no to? The truth is, any one of these skills can make it difficult to reach your organizing goals. The more “no” answers, the more challenging it will be to get and stay organized. Hiring a professional organizer to work with you to set up organizational systems aligned with the way you live can provide a level playing field to set you up for success.
Knowing which EF skills are getting in your way is the first step. Since EF skills can be improved by practice, working with an executive function coach to target your weaker skills is one way to support yourself to build routines to keep your stuff organized. Which EF skills do you need to develop more fully to support your organizational goals?
Patty Blinderman, PCAC, PCC
ADHD and Executive Function Coach