Executive dysfunction life hack

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Instead of telling yourself, “I should get up,” or “I should do this,”

Ask yourself, “When will I get up?” or “When will I be ready to do this?”

Instead of trying to order yourself to feel the signal to do something, which your brain is manifestly bad at, listen to yourself with compassionate curiosity and be ready to receive the signal to move when it comes.

Things I did not actually realize was an option

What’s amazing is what happens when you do this with children.  I hit on it when working at the foster home, where nearly all our kids were on the autism spectrum, and they weren’t “defiant” around me because I said things like, “How long do you need to stand here before we can move?” and “Come into the kitchen when you’re ready” instead of saying, “Stop staring out the window, let’s go,” or “Come eat dinner,” and interpreting hesitation as refusal to obey.

I have also definitely found that doing the “okay when I finish counting down from twenty is getting up time” has been useful.

Yup, that’s way better for toddlers and younger kids.  It helps when they don’t have the self-awareness, attention span, or concept of the passage of time to estimate when they’ll be ready by themselves.

Oh I meant for me. XD Saying it to myself.

WELL OKAY WHOOPS XD I should not have been overspecific, I was just thinking about teaching this stuff to the parents at my job and your reblog made me immediately think of you with Banana and the kidlets.

Another hack: when you want to get up but are stalled by your brain and frustrated – stop. Breathe. Think about what you want to do once you’re up, without thinking about getting up. Treat it like a fantasy, no pressure, just thinking about something you’d like to do in the future. Instead of thinking “I should get up” over and over, think about having a bagel for breakfast, or getting dressed in your soft green sweater. Imagine yourself doing the thing.

I find that exercise often side-steps the block and the next thing I know I’m out of bed and on my way to doing the other thing I thought about.

Works for other things too, if you’re stuck on one step and having a hard time doing it, think about the step after that. Need to do laundry and you can’t get yourself to gather up your dirty clothes in the hamper? Think instead about carrying the hamper full of dirty clothes to the laundry room. And when you get to that next step, if you get stuck again, think about the step after it – you have a hamper of dirty clothes that needs to be put in the wash, let your subconscious handle the “carry hamper to laundry room” step while you’re thinking about the “putting them in the wash” part.

YMMV of course, and this doesn’t even always work for me (particularly not when I need to do a collection of tasks in no particular order, like packing for a trip… “pack socks, pack underwear, pack toothbrush, pack pants, pack shirts” is the kind of non-linear task list where this trick doesn’t help at all), but it’s something I’ve found helpful often enough.

This is one of the most beautiful threads I’ve seen on Tumblr simply because it deals so compassionately with an issue so many of us have and can barely even articulate to ourselves, let alone to anyone else. <3

I think I get overwhelmed from the thought of all of the consequent steps, so maybe I’ll do the reverse of the advice above and try to focus on the first one.

@the-rain-monster i was just about to say something similar. that can work too sometimes. instead of going “ugh i need to eat something” for four hours, i try to focus on each step in turn.

and i mean each TINY step. just getting out of my chair has this many steps:

  1. pause music
  2. remove headphones
  3. hang headphones on laptop screen
  4. pick up laptop
  5. leg-bend recliner footrest shut
  6. set laptop aside
  7. stand

and i reckon that’s why i get stuck on it; because i’m trying to treat it as one thing, while executive dysfunction is treating it as seven things, and choking on trying to skip to step seven.

concurrent with this is a method i call ‘junebugging’. which is where i go to the location of the thing i want to do, and just sort of bump around the region like a big stupid beetle until the thing somehow accidentally magically gets done. this is an attempt to leverage ADHD into an advantage; i may not have the executive function to make myself a sandwich on purpose, but if i fidget in the kitchen long enough, some kind of food is going to end up in my mouth eventually. and hell, even if i fail on that front, i will probably have achieved something, even if it’s only pouring all my loose leaf tea into decorative jars.*

@star-anise please may i give you an internet hug *hug!* because god how i wish anyone had known to do that for me when i was a kid. my childhood was one big overload, and like 99% of the huge dramatic meltdowns that made me the scapegoat/laughingstock/target of my entire elementary school were simply due to people not giving me time to process the next step, and interpreting a bluescreen as defiance/insult.

*this happened when i was trying to do dishes actually but the principle is sound

yeah i absolutely echo what j’s saying about the steps, it’s a lot like that for me too. i get overwhelmed at the prospect of something that should be simple, and have to slow down and sort out how many steps it’s actually going to take, and what a complicated endeavor it actually is, even if no one else thinks so. 

also, i thought i should put in: try to honestly figure out what you’re averse to, that makes things so tough. making a whole bunch of decisions really fast? the potential of things to make a horrible noise? the shame of failure? having to put down what you’re doing now? having to clean up whatever it is you might go do when you’re done?

for instance, for me, the difficulty rating on anything goes waaaay up when a step of a task is ‘go somewhere people will look at you,’ which is for me about the unpleasantness equivalent of ‘jump into a very cold swimming pool right now’. you know you’ll be fine and even have fun once you’ve settled into it, but it still takes a lot of shuffling around and bracing yourself first to go for it. and some days you just don’t fucking want to go swimming.

i discounted this factor for years because i wouldn’t admit that i was so daunted by something so silly as as people looking at me. but, now i know what i’m so aversive about, i can factor it in to plans, and work around it, and be kind to myself. for instance, i was never able to get fit since highschool PE, because i couldn’t make myself go to a gym, or even out jogging. once i figured out the big problem wasn’t avoidance pain or difficulty, it was avoidance of doing a New Thing that i was Bad At in front of Unknown Quantities Of Strangers, which is like a triple threat of stressors, i started working out quietly and safely in my room at night, and i’ve been doing really good on it! 

Absolutely loving the tag #you don’t make a broken car work by yelling ALL THE OTHER CARS WORK FINE