5 min read

Battling executive function disorder

I'm failing to do the simple things like brush my teeth. [issue 35]
Battling executive function disorder

hello friend

Hi there. I think I only just noticed it is July. I’m wearing a thick Icelandic wool knitted jumper my wife made me. Is it really July or am I still in March?

Good news everyone. I wrote a “Day in the life of an artist” piece for Disability Arts Online. I chose to focus on a particularly bad day during lockdown where the simple task of nipping to the shops resulted in me being on the verge of tears in my car. I can happily hang out of a helicopter and take photos but sometimes being autistic makes the little things the hardest things in the world. Hope you enjoy it.

autism

This is part 1 of a 2 part feature on ‘Executive Function Disorder’.

Something I’ve been thinking about this week is the idea of outsourcing executive function disorder. So first I need explain the problem here. What is Executive Function Disorder?

tldr - that thing that stops me paying bills, overdraft, brushing teeth, eating, and so-on

Broadly speaking, executive functioning refers to the cognitive and mental abilities that help people engage in goal-directed action. They direct actions, control behaviour, and motivate us to achieve our goals and prepare for future events. People with executive function disorder (EFD) struggle to organise and regulate their behaviour in ways that will help them accomplish long-term goals. - ADDitude Magazine

People with EFD may experience the following symptoms:

  • time blindness, or an inability to plan for and keep in mind future events
  • difficulty stringing together actions to meet long-term goals
  • trouble organising materials and setting schedules
  • trouble controlling emotions or impulses
  • difficulty analysing or processing information

Executive functions allow people to do the following:

  1. Analyse a task
  2. Plan how to address the task
  3. Organise the steps needed to carry out the task
  4. Develop timelines for completing the task
  5. Adjust or shift the steps, if needed, to complete the task
  6. Complete the task in a timely way

I only learned about this from a friend who works with autistic people. It was never brought up in any of my research on autism or during my assessment. Once she explained it though it was like a light switch moment. Suddenly I wasn’t “bad” at these things. I was just disabled and had issues to work around. 2 years on and I’m still trying to sort my workflow.

A few months ago I wrote about blocking off days to do 1 task. Thursday is make video day. Friday is make newsletter day. Well over the weeks it’s slipped. I’m finishing the newsletter at 9 or 10pm on Friday. So I need a better system.

There are a lot of apps out there to help. I have bought / subscribed to many of them and I can safely say they don’t help me. They do help others. Part of the problem is the “You’re not my mum!” issue. When I was a kid the only way I would finish an essay on time was if my mum sat next to me. I realise now that she was giving a lot of her free time to help and it must have been frustrating for her to do so. Neither of us knew I was autistic. We both thought the other person was being annoying. Anyway. These apps aren’t my mum and so I can easily ignore their little ever increasing number on my home screen. I shouldn’t though. In the same way that snacking only hurts me and I’m the only one who can burn the calories off I have to remember that ignoring the task manager only hurts me because I’m the only one who can do these tasks.

I really need to outsource the issue and have my phone be my mum standing over me and making me get stuff done.

Lists

  • Omnifocus - The king. It can be absurdly complex or wonderfully simple. You make it yours.
  • Things - Beautiful interface with nicely designed sections for task grouping. This app actually helps me get some stuff done.
  • Todoist - Multiple platform and multi-user.
  • Apple Reminders or Google Tasks
  • Actions by Moleskine
  • Anylist - Wife and I use it for shopping. Works with Alexa, Siri and Google. Great in the kitchen. “Hey dingus. Add chicken to the shopping list.” Issue resolved when it occurs. No chance of EFD kicking in.
  • Microsoft To do - Used to be Wunderlist which was nice. Not really used MS To Do.
  • Directive - For those repetitive tasks like change the sheets, car oil, etc.

Timers

Calendars

Mood Trackers

  • Daylio - Keep a free private diary and capture your day without writing down a single line
  • Moodnotes - Didn’t really like this as it scanned my expression and told me my mood was bad. It was not. It’s just default blank.
  • Moodpath - Asks you questions during the day. Pretty interesting ones too.
  • DayOne Journal - I log bad days, migraines and things in this. Been using it for years.

Habit Trackers

  • Streaks (iOS / macOS only) - Currently setup as a complication on my watch face to remind me to do foot stretches 3 times a day.
  • Loop Habit Tracker (Android only)
  • Habitca - Gamifys tasks

Other things

I hope this helps. Next week I've got some tips from Twitter for you. Feel free to send in any ideas or links.

photography

What a photo this is by Evelyn Hofer. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her work before which is an absolute tragedy. Kodachrome is a beautiful film in the right hands and these are good hands.

This got me thinking back to my trip to NYC. While we were in NYC we took a lovely sunset walk along the Highline. A train line converted into a raised urban garden walk way. It was busy. Real busy. But an enjoyable walk with Boston Biscuits at the end. A sort of lighter scone.

The Highline-L1070609-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg
The Highline-L1070646-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg
The Highline-L1070639-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg
The Highline-L1070662-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg
The Highline-L1070729-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg
The Highline-L1070731-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg
The Highline-L1070754-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg
The Highline-L1070776-pete-carr-pete-carr.jpg

video

I decided to revisit my Amsterdam photos last year and made a video looking at the Light Festival. Enjoy.

got cash?

I have a selection of Icelandic photographic prints for sale with my friends at Dorothy.

There is no paid subscription to this newsletter but there is a tip jar.

BuyMeACoffee_blue@2x.png