Updated: May 18
Have you ever wondered why your teenager or young adult can spend hours on a video game, but struggles to spend even a fraction of that time on homework?
Do you find yourself puzzled by their ability to remember intricate details about their favorite band, yet they can't seem to remember to do their laundry or where they placed their keys?
Does it feel baffling that they can plan an entire day out with friends, but planning for a simple school project seems insurmountable?
These paradoxical behaviors are not a result of laziness or lack of discipline, but often signal executive dysfunction, a set of brain-based skills that manage tasks such as planning, organizing, and managing time and attention.
When these skills are compromised, seemingly simple tasks can become daunting hurdles.
In this guide, we'll dive into concrete strategies and activities to bolster these crucial skills. Together, we can empower your teen or young adult to overcome their challenges and unlock their potential. Remember, every step forward, however small, is a victory in this journey of growth and resilience.
Let's embark on this empowering journey together.
Managing time effectively can significantly reduce stress and increase productivity, which is especially beneficial for individuals with ADHD. Here are three activities an executive function coach could to work on time management skills for a teen or young adult with executive dysfunction:
Use a planner or digital calendar to allocate specific time slots for different daily tasks. This visualizes time and task length.
Break work into 25-minute chunks with short breaks. This enhances focus, productivity, and prevents burnout.
Categorize tasks by importance and urgency. This matrix helps prioritize tasks and improves decision-making.
Overcoming the challenge of starting tasks can significantly improve overall functioning and reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed. This skill is vital for those struggling with motivation. Try these three activities to strengthen task initiation skills:
Encourage starting any task for just 5 minutes. Often, the hardest part is starting, and this can overcome initial resistance.
Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable parts. This reduces overwhelm and makes starting easier.
Visual Cue Setup
Use visual reminders (notes, alerts) for tasks. These cues prompt action, aiding task initiation. We like to use post-its, whiteboards, or alarms that go off on the phone.
Managing emotions and impulses is a critical skill. This can help in dealing with the impulsivity characteristic of ADHD and the emotional ups and downs of depression that may accompany ADHD.
Practice deep breathing to calm the mind and body, helping manage impulsive reactions.
Regular mindfulness can improve self-awareness and impulse control.
Practice waiting for rewards. Start small and gradually increase the delay, strengthening self-control.
The ability to identify problems, create potential solutions, and implement these solutions is essential for navigating daily life and can instill a sense of control and accomplishment.
Identify a problem and brainstorm multiple solutions. This encourages flexible thinking.
Act out problem situations and their resolutions. This enhances practical problem-solving skills.
For each solution, list the pros and cons. This supports informed decision-making.
Awareness of one's actions, progress, and emotions can help adjust behaviors and strategies for better outcomes.
Regularly writing thoughts and feelings can increase self-awareness.
Use a chart or app to track specific behaviors, helping identify patterns.
Regular mindfulness can promote moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Navigating the challenges of executive dysfunction can be a complex journey, but with the right tools and support, it is entirely possible to turn those challenges into strengths.
As we have explored, there are practical strategies and activities that can significantly enhance crucial executive function skills, and we hope you will find them useful in your daily life.
Each young person's journey is unique, and sometimes, personalized support can make all the difference. If you'd like to learn more about working with an executive function coach to motivate your child, we encourage you to reach out. Our coaches are experienced and dedicated, ready to provide the personalized support your child needs.
Moreover, we invite you to join our free course, "Enhance Your Executive Function Skills." This course is designed to provide you with more in-depth knowledge and practical exercises that you can implement at home.
Remember, you're not alone in this journey. Our community is here to support you every step of the way, empowering your child to unlock their potential and thrive.
You've already taken the first step by seeking information, and we applaud your dedication. The smallest steps often lead to the greatest changes. Let's continue this journey together.
About the author
Sean G. McCormick founded Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.
He trains educators, parents, and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges through his courses in the Executive Function Coaching Academy.
Executive Functions, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Some of the links in this post may be Amazon.com affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, Executive Functions, Inc. will earn a commission.