Managing Executive Dysfunction: A Guide For Neurodivergent Folk

Managing time can be an immensely difficult task for people who are neurodivergent.

When there are many tasks to be done, it can be very easy to swiftly become overwhelmed and frozen in the face of it all.

However, all hope is not lost – there are many great ways to wrangle control over your executive dysfunction and develop discipline to have better control over your days, as time wears on. 

Although it’s unreasonable to wildly increase your productivity levels all at once, the following tips will help you develop techniques that will allow for better organisation in the long term.

Write It All Down

Although it’s possible that you’ll never even look at this work again, a simple place to begin is by writing all your tasks down.

After all, there is a certain appeal to the classic pen/pencil and paper method.

But for now, just think in the realm of to-do lists, schedules, and diaries, and think on what method of note-keeping works best for you. Perhaps you could make the change as you travel into the new year by keeping a 2024 diary.

Having your tasks written down can make your daily to-do items go from feeling nebulous and difficult to grasp to feeling concrete, linear, and tangible.

At the same time, however, be careful not to overwhelm yourself with too many tasks. It’s a good idea to think critically about how you measure your success, and of the expectations that you put on yourself.

Spacing out your schedule with bite-sized tasks that you’ll be able to tackle is a great way to appease your need for instant gratification whilst still being productive.

Give Yourself A Sense Of Pride And Accomplishment

When you’re creating these to-do lists, don’t be afraid of including what might be perceived as simpler or mundane tasks.

There is nothing wrong with having a longer list with a variety of smaller and larger and smaller tasks. Brushing your teeth or getting out of bed may seem mundane for some, but they can certainly be accomplishments!

Similarly, never underestimate the importance of self-care. You don’t need to have achieved a certain amount of tasks in order to “reward” yourself with a meal or a cup of tea.

These things can be the first steps of being productive, rather than being arbitrarily withheld as rewards for being productive.

Not being able to do any tasks isn’t equivalent to you being a failure. It’s equivalent to you listening to what your mind and body needs and providing yourself with rest to honor your need for it.

In this regard, being able to listen and respond to your internal needs is the biggest accomplishment that you or even any neurotypical person could have.

Separate Work From Play

Give yourself clear and defined spaces for when you are working and when you’re relaxing or taking a break.

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t work from bed, as this can swiftly have a negative impact on your sleep.

It’s important to keep a distinct separation of these spaces so that your brain can also begin to clearly define and separate them.

When you’re on a break from being productive, it may be beneficial for you to make as stark a change as entirely changing rooms.

Having a distinctly separated room can help you to properly remove yourself from the mindset and commit to your breaks when you need them, and to likewise dive more effectively back into being productive when you return.

Get Yourself Into The Swing Of Things

It’s okay for you to start with those simpler tasks on your to-do list as a little reward for yourself and then to also use that momentum for you to ride through to the more substantial tasks, initiating a sense of flow.

You can even follow this smaller task technique in other ways if it’s something that works for you.

For example, if you’re working on a homework sheet, try jumping around and making headway on the easier questions first before you wade into the waters of the tougher stuff.

You may find that it’s that sense of success with those simpler tasks that in fact carry you through to tackling the more difficult ones more effectively.

Don’t Punish Yourself, Encourage Yourself

When our productivity has waned it can be very easy to punish ourselves mentally and for that thinking to swiftly spiral into a form of self-loathing.

When you’re busy hating yourself, it’s also unlikely that you’ll be effectively getting any work done.

Avoid thoughts such as, “I should be cooking dinner”, or “I should be writing”.

Instead, try restructuring these thoughts into forms such as, “I want to make a meal, it’ll make me feel full and I’ll enjoy how it tastes.”. Again, it comes back to honoring yourself and your needs first.

Prioritize Sleep And Rest When You Need It

As mentioned above, it’s important to keep your bed unfettered by other associations so that your mind might begin to associate it as a place reserved for sleep.

Your sleep will be what carries you through with your productivity when all else fails.

Don’t push back a bedtime you have set for yourself simply because you feel you’re becoming more productive into the night – you’d only be borrowing productivity and presence from the following day, and paying interest on it to boot. When all else fails, you must focus on quality sleep.


For people who are neurodivergent, it can feel as though there is as much good advice out there as there is bad.

However, it’s important for you to hone in on what techniques work best for you. 

On that note, remember that there are different types of neurodivergent.

Your reality and experiences with executive dysfunction can be wildly different to those of others, based on their background and their diagnoses.

With that, there can’t possibly be a universal set of tips that will help everyone to manage their own executive dysfunction.

So the best skill you can develop here is learning how to ascertain which techniques are going to work best for you, and which to leave by the wayside.

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