Executive Functioning Deficits: Planning and Organization

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Executive functioning deficits can cause impairment in many different areas, including time management, controlling emotions and planning and organization. We will be discussing planning and organization this week. In future weeks, we will discuss time management and controlling emotions.

Everything we do involves planning and organization. No matter what the task, no matter how small or big, we use each of the following steps (some steps we repeat throughout the task):

  • Setting a goal

  • Creating a strategy

  • Managing and organizing resources (including thoughts and ideas)

  • Monitoring our progress

Simple tasks, and those that we complete on a regular basis, may seem as if these steps are skipped over, but even the smallest tasks involve planning. Take, for example, walking to the mailbox to pick up the mail:

Goal: To retrieve the mail from the mailbox at the end of the driveway

Strategy: Walk to mailbox, without being distracted by something else and get mail

Organize resources: Will need shoes, coat if during cold months

Monitoring progress: Did you complete the task in a timely manner?

As you can see, no matter what the task, we use planning and organization. The more complicated, the more planning and organization required. So, when these skills are lacking, it can impair our ability to complete many different tasks and projects. Often, children and adults with difficulties in the areas of planning and organization are seen as unmotivated or lazy.

The following are fifteen tips to help if you have problems with planning and organization:

  • Use a checklist for activities and tasks you must self-monitor

  • Keep a written schedule of what you need to accomplish

  • Use structure as much as possible

  • Break down large or long-term projects into smaller parts

  • Minimize distractions

  • Alternate activities with quiet time

  • Reduce clutter to open up desk space

  • Use computers to type assignments as much as possible

  • Use an ADHD Coach

  • Limit noise within your working space

  • Use color-coding to help organize papers

  • Try to work away from open doors or from windows to minimize distractions

  • Keep paper and pen with you to write down assignments or instructions

  • Take time to prioritize your work

  • Use earplugs or a headset when working on independent projects

In addition, you may want to speak your plans out loud. This can help you to be more focused on what you need to do. As you continue to do this you may find that you can quietly state your plans, rather that speaking them aloud.

For more information:

How ADHD Impairs Executive Functioning

How ADHD Symptoms Manifest in Adults

Twenty Five Tips for Time Management for Adults with ADHD


"Lazy Kid or Executive Dysfunction", 2002, Tracy Landon and Linda Oggel, LD Online

"Managing Executive Function Disorders", 2007, Donna Geffner, Ph.D., ADHD Convention, St. John's University, N.Y.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.