EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS

Think of the energy you need to get through your day as coming from one big battery. Each time you struggle through a task without the right supports in place, it drains your battery—sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot. The good news is that your battery can be recharged by finding ways to make tasks a little bit easier. Take time to figure out which parts of your executive functioning skills are draining your battery and to find the strategies that work for you. You can use this downloadable worksheet to make notes for each area in this roadmap.


Executive functions refers to a set of mental skills that make it possible to manage daily life, like planning, organizing, setting goals and managing time. These skills can be challenging for neurodiverse adults because of the way our brains work. When your battery runs low, executive functioning skills can become even more challenging than usual.

You use these skills throughout the day, so consider how and when you are most likely to need them. For example, you may rely on executive functioning to use public transit to get to work or school. Think about the parts of your routine that might be draining and how you can set yourself up to be successful. Share your ideas with the people in your network who can help you put supports in place.

Question 1:

What drains you?

Consider the parts of your day that require executive functioning skills.

  • When you are getting ready for the day, you may run late, forget to do certain tasks or leave the house without something you might need.
  • When doing a project, you might have trouble figuring out where to start or completing all the steps in the right order.
  • You might feel disorganized and forget key dates and appointments or miss important deadlines.

Question 2:

What recharges you?

These are tools, strategies, and behaviors that make challenging tasks a bit easier. Think about the things you already do as well as some new ideas you could try.

  • When getting ready for the day, you might use visual cues or checklists to help you stay on time, complete tasks or remember what to bring with you.
  • When doing a project, you might plan to do a little bit each day or make a checklist of key steps.
  • You might use a calendar, planner, app or reminders on a smart device to keep track of key appointments and deadlines. You can use visuals on drawers or folders to make it easier to stay organized.

Question 3:

What are the risks?

Without executive function supports in place, you might find that you have more trouble staying focused, completing tasks, following directions and managing your emotions. These issues can escalate to the point they could be harmful, leading to issues like a serious disruption in sleep or eating, failing to pay bills, missing medical appointments or emotional dysregulation. This can lead to behaviors that could harm you or someone else.

  • Do any of your executive functioning challenges impact you in a way that could make you unsafe?
  • What behaviors, thoughts or body cues signal that you are escalating?

Question 4:

What is the plan?

What are some new everyday behaviors, strategies or tools that you want to put in place?

  • Do you need support to put these ideas into practice?
  • Who can help you in this area?
  • What do you need to say or do to get that help?

When your battery is running low, seeking help can feel overwhelming. One way to prevent this is planning ahead for these times.

  • How do you know when you need to ask for help balancing your needs?
  • Who can help you in this area?
  • What do you need to say or do to get that help?