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Outsource Your Executive Functions

There’s a saying that goes “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Today, I want to talk about the inverse: if you can’t do something right, don’t do it yourself.

PlannerI’m talking about executive functions, of course. These are skills like planning, inhibition and self-regulation that involve your brain’s ability to tell itself what to do.

As you may be all too aware of, these skills are impaired in ADHD. But remember, if you can’t do something right, just don’t do it yourself.

Where possible, “outsourcing” your executive functions can take some of the stress out of life with ADHD. I’m using the deliberately vague term “outsourcing” because there are several ways to do this.

The most obvious might be to get help from other people. If you’re in a situation where you can delegate certain organizational tasks that you struggle with, by all means.

Sometimes it’s possible to outsource executive functions to friends and family, by having them remind you of things or take on tasks that you struggle with in exchange for you taking on other tasks that are more in your wheelhouse.

However, outsourcing executive functions doesn’t have to mean outsourcing them to other people.

You can also outsource them to electronic devices or organizational aids. Planners, reminder apps and automatic bill pay are all ways of outsourcing executive functions involving planning and memory.

My favorite way to outsource executive functions is using routines and habits. If you always have a specific task you do at a certain time every day on a specific day of the week, it gets ingrained in you, and you always know when you’ll find time to do it. You don’t have to worry about planning ahead when to schedule it in. No planning, no procrastinating, no problem.

Many organizational strategies are, at their core, ways of outsourcing executive functions. Lists, timers, calendars. The reason these work is because the more you have external tools that will take care of planning and remembering for you, the less planning and remembering you have to do yourself.

What are some of your favorite ways of outsourcing executive functions? Please share your tips in the comments below!

Image: Flickr/KynaB

Outsource Your Executive Functions

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). Outsource Your Executive Functions. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 6, 2019, from


Last updated: 6 Oct 2017
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