Everything we do involves organization and planning. No matter what we’re tackling, no matter how big (paying bills) or small (retrieving mail from the mailbox), we each use a generalized list of steps for completing our tasks (and some steps we repeat throughout the same task).
But what if you’re someone sincerely challenged by organizational efforts? Does it ever feel like your batting at windmills? And why does the clutter return despite your best efforts and intentions to keep up with it?
It’s tough for those challenged by disorganization to initiate organizing, especially if:
- it’s not intrinsically rewarding to you.
- you feel contempt for it; you dislike the thought of organizing or the discipline of keeping a system going.
- you’re not gifted with organizing skills or strengths.
- you find organizing tedious, boring, and mundane.
- you have health issues that limit what you are able to do.
- you’re challenged by ADHD (Executive Function Disorder).
In this post, we’re going to take a look at what “executive function” is and how it works, and/or what might be going on with you if you find yourself falling into one or more of the above categories.
The truth is that no matter the task, every one of us uses planning and organization to complete and manage it. The more complicated the task, the more planning and organization needed. So what happens when/if we are lacking in organizational skills? It can impair our ability to successfully complete the task we’re about. And that’s where executive function comes in.
Executive function is a set of mental skills or processes that helps us get things done. It’s what allows us to plan and organize, and to link in our past experiences to the present. Executive function is sometimes described as the CEO of the brain — it’s what’s in charge of making sure things get done.
Those who struggle with executive function may have difficulty managing time, planning, evaluating ideas, finishing work on time, or keeping track of multiple things at once. Additionally, if their working memory is not “working” well, they may have difficulty remembering what they have already learned, as well as recalling the consequences of their actions – the negative consequences of poor organization, follow-up, and/or of not keeping their systems running smoothly.
So what can one do if struggling with executive functioning? Here are a few tips:
- Create a schedule for the tasks you want to stay on top of regularly
- Use checklists and “to do” lists to help you complete those tasks
- Break down large or long-term projects into smaller, more manageable parts.
- Organize the space you’ll be working in; minimize the clutter surrounding your task or project
- Build in a really satisfying personal reward.
- Avoid “all or nothing” thinking. Little steps count!
- Utilize the services of a professional organizer, an ADHD coach, or another professional (or friend) who can help you keep on track and on task
And remember that for all of us, our executive function muscle needs a regular workout just like our other muscles in order to get stronger and better trained. To do that, we need to be specific about what we’re going to do, when we’re going to do it, and how we’re going to accomplish it. In other words, we’ll put it on our calendars and write lists and steps. If we do this, we’ll be that much closer to fulfilling our personal organizational goals.