Executive Functions And ADHD

Lots of research now shows that ADHD adults have problems with executive functions. Executive functions are high level cognitive processes that directly regulate other cognitive processes. All this takes place automatically and  unconsciously in the brain’s frontal lobes.

I like to think of Executive functions are like the brains project manager. Just as a project manager instructs and coordinates their team so that each member carries out their assigned role to reach their objective. The executive functions  direct a ‘team’ of central control processes in the brain that are responsible for other brain functions.

Here is a list of executive functions that affect how we function in daily life:

  • Working memory and recall
  • Keeping facts in mind, manipulating information and retrieving stored data from long term memory
  • Motivation, activation, arousal and effort
  • Starting, giving attention to and finishing a task
  • Emotional control
  • Enduring frustration, thinking prior to speaking or taking action
  • Language internalization
  • Controlling self talk to manage actions and behavior
  • Complex problem solving
  • Breaking down a problem, examining its components and synthesizing ideas towards a solution

When you have ADHD these things might not happen automatically, however there are things you can do externally to help support your executive functioning.

Below are some suggestions. I have written articles on many of the tips, so if something peaks your interest, just click on the link.

For time management:

Use a timer

Use a paper agenda with a week at a glance layout so you know what you day and week look like

Set alarms, alarm clock, watch, phone

Have ‘transitional time’ between activities

Getting things done

Use checklists

Write to do lists

Break big tasks into smaller bite size pieces

Use a white board to keep track of all your projects

Use ‘Don’t break the chain’ technique so you don’t leave things to the last minute


Write things down so you don’t forget anything

Use one note book to write everything in. When it’s full get another one Create habits around things you do or need to do a lot

Physical space

Keep it clutter free (I know this is hard)

Colour code items

Have a place for everything

Is there anything you do to help support your executive functions? I would love to hear what you find works for you.

P.S We will be addressing many of these strategies to support your executive functions and more in the Untapped Brilliance Coaching program too

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  1. Jonathan Eaton says:

    Hi Jacqueline,

    I am a little lucky in that I compensated for my ADD early by being intensely organized. I used to have an “everything” book for all my thoughts and work outside of school, though in recent years I’ve let that fade because I have many projects on the go and an everything book would be too scattered to quickly find needed information. I write, and find the program “Scrivener” to be very helpful because it allows me to categorize all the research I do and ideas I generate for a novel or short story. I also use a whiteboard with to do lists on it. I find the visual really helps keep the pressure on, in a good way. Chess training helps a bit too because it forces my brain into planning mode. I’ve always color-coded, alphabetized, etc. I think such things are necessary for someone with ADD, that a bit of OCD is good medicine. 🙂 Thanks for continuing to write your blog. I find the little nuggets useful!


    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Hi Jonathan, Thanks for your detailed comment. My friend and business partner Marcia Hoeck, uses a ‘everything’ note book, and so I thought I would give it ago too and a year later really love it too. My whole life is in there, work, home and play. There is never one solution that works for everyone all of the time. It’s really cool that as your life changed you found a new solution that worked for the new challenges. ‘Scrivener’ is a brilliant program.
      Love your idea of chess training!
      Glad you like the little nuggets 🙂

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