Growing up, I didn’t know I was autistic. I didn’t have that “label”.
But I certainly carried many labels…
- And more…
I had battle after battle with my parents because I could never keep my room clean…
I’d constantly lose things like my glasses or wallet…
And, though this is a bit embarrassing to admit, I would even forget basic self-care activities like taking a shower or even brushing my teeth unless someone reminded me.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I learned that I was autistic and that there was a reason I couldn’t do what everyone else seemed to do so easily…
See, executive functioning is the handful of mental processes that help us to plan, focus our attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.
In other words, executive functioning is what helps us “get stuff done”.
And I learned that a LOT of autistics struggle with executive functioning… It’s not just me at all.
So today I’m diving in and sharing 3 actually doable executive functioning tips for autistic adults!
Bonus: Click here to access a FREE printable cheatsheet with 10 practical executive functioning hacks for autistic adults!
3 Actually Doable Executive Functioning Tips for Autistic Adults
See, you can find TONS of tips online for productivity, organization, and getting things done in a more efficient way.
The problem is, most autistics try those strategies and they don’t really work for us.
Then we burn out and feel like a total failure.
That’s the LAST thing I want for you guys, so I made sure these executive functioning tips are actually doable for autistic adults specifically.
Now that said, we are all individuals, so as you go through these three executive functioning tips (or all 10 in the free cheatsheet!) remember to take what works for you and let go of the things that don’t fit your brain and your life.
#1 Re-Evaluate Your Expectations
The very first thing I think is absolutely vital for autistic adults who struggle with executive functioning is to re-evaluate your expectations.
Executive functioning struggles can lead to chaos and struggling in all sorts of areas of your life.
Maybe you struggle with self-care tasks, maybe you can’t keep your house clean, maybe you struggle to make and keep appointments or finish school or work tasks on time.
And if you’re anything like me, you may have been suddenly super inspired and decided you were going to fix ALL of those things at one time.
You get a new planner, read a new blog post with a magical idea, and you’re sure that you can get your whole life figured out now.
And for a day or two, you might actually do all the things and feel pretty awesome… Before you totally crash and burn and realize you aren’t even feeding yourself. #GuiltyAsCharged
So instead, I want to challenge you to check your expectations of yourself.
Do you expect to keep a super clean and organized home? Why?
Does it really matter if you follow that beautiful morning routine from that blogger who is nothing like you?
Take some time to decide what’s truly important to you to accomplish, and separate that from what you’re only doing because you believe society expects it from you.
#2 Start With Habits, NOT Routines
Here’s the thing… Whenever I feel like tackling my executive functioning struggles and setting up a system (or 50) that will help me get things done, I jump to routines.
I’ll start an awesome morning routine that starts our day on the right foot, or a quick nighttime routine that makes the morning less hectic…
But the thing with routines is, they’re multiple steps and they can get super overwhelming.
When you make a morning routine, you likely think of ALL the things you want to or should complete in the morning, list them in a specific order that makes sense to you, and say “this is my new morning routine!”
Well, that might work for a day or two, but longterm it’s likely to fall apart.
Instead, I recommend you focus on HABITS. Not Routines.
A habit is small. It’s one or two manageable steps that you focus your attention on until it’s second nature.
So instead of a massive morning routine, maybe you pick one morning habit.
I’m going to get dressed every morning.
Once you naturally get dressed every morning, you can add something else. Maybe your next step is to wash your face.
Before you know it, you’ll have a full morning routine, but it will be built on tiny microhabits that you’ve built over time until you do them naturally.
#3 Timers Are Your Friend
I can’t tell you how many different ways I use timers to help with my executive functioning struggles!
First, I use something called the “pomodoro method” pretty much constantly.
Basically, when you have a task you’re working on (like writing this blog post!) you set a timer for 25 minutes and do NOTHING ELSE but that task.
You don’t have to keep checking the clock because the timer will go off when it’s time to stop.
When the timer goes off, you set a timer for 5 minutes and take a break.
The key is… This break HAS TO be in a totally different activity.
Get up and switch the laundry. Go for a walk. Watch a Youtube video. Whatever.
But when the 5-minute timer goes off, you start the process over again and dive back into work.
This process helps you stay fresh and focused on your task, AND let’s you take breaks without those “breaks” turning into an entire day sucked into the black hole that is Youtube.
I also use timers when I’m struggling to start a task.
Sometimes when I know I need to do something and want to do something, but I just can’t get it together to start doing the thing, I will set a 60-second timer.
“When the timer dings, I will start ______”
That timer going off helps me handle the transition from what I’m already doing and the task I want to start working on.
It’s brilliant and it really helps me stop procrastinating and get something started.
One day I might do an entire post on how I use timers to make sure I get things done, but for now I’ll keep it to those two tips!
Free Cheatsheet: 10 Practical Executive Functioning Hacks for Autistic Adults
Okay, so I could really go on and on about executive functioning tips for autistic adults because I know what a struggle it can be.
In fact… As I’m writing this blog post I’m eating cookies that happen to be at my desk because I didn’t manage to eat breakfast this morning…
So know that I am definitely with you here… But I have found some practical strategies that have made it ten times easier.
So I put together a free cheatsheet for you with 10 practical executive functioning hacks for autistic adults.
And I’m not promising that this free cheatsheet will mean that you’ll suddenly have a magically systemized life, you never miss another deadline, or that you won’t occasionally still forget to feed yourself.
But I am promising that if you pick just a few of these hacks, you will start to get a better handle on executive functioning.
You can get the free cheatsheet by clicking here or clicking the image below!
And if you loved this post, you might also enjoy…
5 Practical Strategies to Avoid Autistic Burnout
What Exactly Is Spoon Theory
So excited to read what you have posted- and find some help for myself. i don’t know how you do what you do & manage with 5 kids too. I am single and have no kids and can’t manage me!!
I have an Executive Dysfunction which is harder to nail down- for me. Most info seems to focus on ADHD and I don’t seem to have that, but maybe I do? The diagnosis I have is fromn 2007 and things have changed since that time. I wanted to say thanks!! for your info about Executive Dysfunction! Cheers