Executive Function: Prioritization

Next up, prioritization. This is another of the brain’s executive function. 

As you can imagine, this is another that doesn’t come easily to kids and adults with ADHD. It’s a concept we’re aware of, but it’s not something we’re extremely familiar with.

What We Mean By It?

So let’s start by talking about what prioritization exactly is. Sure, we may know what it is, but it’s still a good place to start here.

According to lexico.com, prioritization is ´the action or process of deciding the relative importance or urgency of a thing or things.’ It allows us to know which tasks needs to be done first before others are done. It is being able to know which task should/needs to be done now and those that can wait until another day.

Being able to do this helps us being able to know what we can focus on first.

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Why Is It Difficult for ADHDers?

Prioritization is one of those things that kids and adults with ADHD have a difficult time with. It doesn’t come easily to us.

There are a few reasons why.

1. Everything at the same time. 

For those with ADHD, we have a tendency to do this quite a bit. Either because we get really excited, or we’re falling behind and need to catch up on things that need to be done. 

2. No time to spend prioritizing 

When life gets busy with full of demands, it can be so easy to just stay busy and deal with things as they come along. On top of that, if we take time to prioritize, it can generate some stress, we may second guess ourselves and we may feel some guilt. 

So we tend to just not do it and end up multitasking. This can seem like the easier thing to do, although it tends to make us feel disorganized and unproductive.

3. Making decisions 

Being able to say yes to some things and no to others is part of the whole prioritizing process. However as ADHDers, we have a difficult time with this as everything seems to have equivalent or similar significance. We struggle seeing what’s really important and what isn’t.

These are some reasons why prioritizing is a difficult task. Due to how our brain is wired, we perceive tasks, situations and such differently.

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Strategies To Help Us Improve

As much as it’s something we may not want to do, as difficult as it may be, improving our prioritization skills can be beneficial for those with ADHD. If it can help us get things done and make life a little easier, it is certainly something that is worth working on.

Here are some strategies and things we can do to prioritize.

1. Do a brain dump and create a master to do list.

Write down everything that is on your plate. Things that you’ve been putting off, big things, small things, whatever else that is going on. In some cases, when you have big tasks, you can always break those ones down too. For those with ADHD, breaking the big tasks down into smaller makes it easier to complete tasks and feels less overwhelming.

2. Prep your calendar

Putting events, meetings, appointments and such in a calendar can help remember when these events are taking place and can help us see when they’re coming. You can even schedule the daily/weekly chores you have to do, like laundry day. Schedule whatever needs to be scheduled. Being able to see all these things in a calendar or something visual can help us remember and see how far ahead we are from it.

3. Putting it together

Now that you’ve done this, it gives you an idea of what’s coming up and how much time you have each day to complete tasks on your master to do list. Put your calendar and master list somewhere you’ll always see it and find it. For ADHDers, this is what we have to do a lot of times. If we don’t see it, chances are we might not remember.

4. Keep Daily To-Do lists Short

As much as we may want to try and get as much done as we can, realistically it’s probably not going to happen. Keeping it to 2 or 3 things a day help our chances of being able to get them done and feeling good seeing those ideas checked off.

5. Choose what you say yes to 

It can be so easy for ADHDers to say yes to a lot of things. At times it’s easy to feel bad when we say no. Truth is it’s okay to say no. If there’s a lot on your plate and someone asks you to do something, it’s okay to say no if you don’t think it’s something you have time for or can make time for. We don’t have to do everything.

These are just a few of the many strategies that can help us prioritize. There’s something for everyone.

Final Thoughts

Taking time to prioritize can be challenging. It’s not something that comes easily or naturally to everyone. But taking time to do it and figure out what’s important can help us be more productive, organize and help us in various areas of our lives.

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