Executive dysfunction is common to autism—the inability to decide when, where, how, and why to complete daily tasks and responsibilities. What might look like laziness or procrastination to onlookers is autistic inertia.
It’s the autistic equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death in computing: too much is going on at once and the processor/autistic brain is stuck in a loop. A meltdown or shutdown is possible. Said task is then put off—or possibly forgotten altogether.
The result? A frustrated autistic individual who ruminates over their apparent inability to ‘get things done’ like everybody else. And potentially frustrated family and friends.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Offer yourself choice in daily task management.
Despite what executive dysfunction wants you to believe, not all tasks are equally important. My personal task management system breaks tasks down into three categories of importance: minor, medium, and major. Below are examples of each:
MINOR: pet feeding and care; taking out the trash; vacuuming and dusting; getting the mail; computer software updates; checking email; making your bed; laundry; dishwashing; personal hygiene
MEDIUM: paying bills; keeping or modifying appointments; studying and homework; making phone calls; minor household projects that do not require professional service
MAJOR: after some thought, I’ve decided to let you decide what constitutes a major task, and act accordingly.
Typically, I assign myself the choice of 2-3 minor tasks or 1-2 medium tasks a day. Major tasks, I feel, are more likely a semi-weekly to weekly event. Plan for them as you see fit. But a key here is flexibility. If you’re not up to the day’s planned medium task, substitute minor tasks instead. If you’re feeling motivated, take on an additional task.
Assign yourself one or two days as days off—this might be an ideal arrangement following completion of a major task. Devote that time to your special interest or interests, special events, or simply recharging at the end of the day.
Guest Blogger: Mike Minnis