ADHD Symptoms in adults – Understanding executive skills

ADHD Symptoms in adults – Understanding executive skills

Informative image displaying 12 executive functions as relavent to ADHD in colorful circles.

ADHD symptoms in adults can have a huge impact on day-to-day functioning. Mine certainly do despite them being so much better thanks to stimulant medication. (Thx peri and health problems for making them worse than ever over the last decade…💩)

I know that so many of you are in the same boat whether it’s just due to ADHD or you also have other reasons why your cognition is causing you serious grief. So to help you better understand what’s going on AND what you can do about it, let’s deep dive into executive functioning.

What are executive skills?

 Also called executive functions, executive skills are a specific type of mental skills are what people with ADHD struggle with. We’ll also take a look at some of the most common problems people with ADHD have the most difficulty with.

While there’s no single accepted definition of executive skills (AKA executive functions), they’re often referred to as higher-level cognitive skills you use to control and coordinate other cognitive abilities and behaviours.

In other words, they’re overarching mental skills that enable us to use other mental skills well and in relation to ADHD they’re all about self-management.

For the purpose of this blog we’ll focus on three of the most practically challenging executive skills for many people with ADHD, and some of the strategies I find most helpful, though as with everything, there’s no one size fits all I’m afraid.

Working Memory


The ability to hold information in mind while performing complex tasks. It incorporates the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future.

Some examples that are life-savers for me for working memory challenges – by far my biggest challenge these days – include;

– Verbal reminders from Alexa – an absolute saviour!

– A ‘talking calendar’ app on my phone

– Visual reminders such as leaving something where I’ll see it to remind me to do it, for example, our medications

Time Management


The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines. It also involves a sense that time is, in itself, important.

Time-blindness is real and these are some of the strategies I find most helpful:

– Alexa gives me promts to keep me oriented to time in the evening – at 5.30 she tells me to start getting dinner, 6 she says dinner, 6.30 she says bath (and though we’re rarely 100% on track, I know where we should be!)

– My smart watch is a life-saver

– I’ve changed the settings so that I recieve multiple notifications for every event in my google calendar

Planning and Prioritising


The ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or complete a task. It also involves being able to make decisions about what’s important to focus on and what’s not important.

My all-time fave strategies are for staying organised are:

– Check in’s with others are in my mind, one of the absolute all-time most helpful ways to stay on. They’re the ONLY way I can ensure I stay on top of everything. I have a number of them locked in every week without fail.

– I run an accountability check-in sess. every Monday afternoon to keep me on track as well as, so please join us! You can find out more and come to these if you joining the community For Women with ADHD who Refuse to be Held Back. 

The BEST strategy for executive functioning challenges


There’s one more strategy that is an absolute game-changer across all the executive skills that I swear to you is more powerful than all the others when it comes to living in your strengths. And that is GET HELP from someone who’s really good at it when you completely suck at something!

We’ve spent so much of our lives with others expecting us to just be able to do certain things that we’re not designed to do that we often take on harmful way of thinking an expect ourselves to be able to things well that are unrealistic. But if you think about it, the reason we take our car to a mechanic is because we have no idea how to fix a car! And you wouldn’t expect someone in a wheelchair to rake the leaves. So why should we expect ourselves to be good at things that require executive skills that we really struggle with?

While I get it that finances can prevent us from getting paid help at times, I think it’s worthwhile mentioning that many clients that I work with have never considered that a few hours of help a couple of times a year might be all it takes to get your home better organised or your finances to a better place. Alternatively, friends and family can be incredibly good sources of help as well.


(BTW, the executive skill definitions in this post have been adapted from the ‘Smart but Scattered’ series of books by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare).


If you’d like to problem solve some sticky ADHD frustrations, check out this ‘cheat-sheet’ which includes many of the most helpful strategies for the executive functions that we often struggle with. I hope it’s super helpful!

A group of diverse women standing together

Is it time to start truly living in your strengths?


If I can do it, so can you! Let me show you how.


The Ultimate ADHD Reboot is a six-week learning experience that combines evidence-based info, carefully designed activities that bring about real change and an amazing, validating community of women+.


Sound good?