Diary: Executive Dysfuntion

I had to drop my history class, because I’m just struggling too much with time management. Trying to balance such a work-intensive class with my paying job, planning a wedding, trying to reassess my budget (when I have been absolute SHIT at keeping track of my finances… ugh)… on top of getting hit with a serious case of end-of-summer blues (aka: crippling depression; but end-of-summer blues sounds prettier). Something had to break and school was it.

It’s a shame, because I was actually enjoying the class until I stopped being able to function and didn’t log in for a week and a half. By that point I had already fallen so far behind, dropping is my only option. But, I emailed the professor so hopefully I will be able to take his class again in the Fall 2016 semester, if he teaches it online again.

I’m trying to look on the bright side of this, as now I will have more time to work on personal projects and develop a better time management and organization system. I am not a planner person. I am not a calendar person. So, I need to figure out something that will work for me. Now I have until January to conduct some trial and error on this front.

Which leads me into my actual point. Recently, a friend brought to my attention an affliction called “executive dysfunction.” This isn’t a mental disorder in itself, but is actually a weakness in the, you guessed it, executive functions (mental skills) of your brain. Executive dysfunction is common in people with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities. You can read more about it here.

This is really good to know, because for the last 20 years I honestly thought that I just lacked discipline. I was lazy.

The article my friend showed me, the first link, was eye opening to say the least (and it was good to know I wasn’t alone), but wasn’t terribly constructive. Knowing that there’s an actual problem is great, but I still need to know what I can do to work past it. I still have to turn in my assignments on time. I still have to do my laundry before 9pm on Monday night. I still need to *ahem* function in the world.

So, I did a quick search for “executive dysfunction treatment” and came up with…

…a whole lot of basic bullshit. The suggestions I’ve found on most of the articles (there aren’t a lot of them) all say pretty much the same things:

  • Work on things one step at a time
  • Break big tasks into smaller chunks
  • Make lists
  • Use organizers or reminders
  • Use a calendar to keep track of appointments and dates
  • Have a separate space for doing work
  • Keep your spaces organized and free of clutter

These are all incredibly basic, common sense things for time management. These are things suggested to everyone, from a young age. The issue with applying these to any kind of cognitive impairment is following them is not that easy. I make thousands of lists, but I almost never return to them. All of the desk organizers in the world don’t matter if I continually forget to put things away. Setting a reminder on my phone is very good, but useless once I turn it off and go right back to Netflix because, “I’ll get to it after one more episode.”

The struggle isn’t with not knowing what to do, the struggle is in actually doing it. Offering these suggestions seems to skip a step between knowing and doing, a step called “self motivation.”

So, I searched for motivational techniques and it brought me here (the entire reason I actually made this post): How to Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed by Science.

This was, by far, the most logical thing I’ve ever read on the topic of self motivation. It just made sense, especially the first part about emotions (which explains why people with mental disorders are more prone to developing issues with executive function). This was actually helpful.

So I wanted to share it with you. Because even if you don’t flounder and flail, I’m pretty sure everyone could use ways to motivate themselves a little more.

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