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untangling adhd spaghetti

When you first try to understand your ADHD, it can feel like a giant bowl of tangled-up spaghetti!

But we are about to assess each strand of "spaghetti" on it's own so it will feel less overwhelming.


And the good news is that just like we eat spaghetti all tangled up anyway, once you build up you skills in one or two areas, all of your functioning improves!

what are executive functions? 

According to top ADHD expert Dr. Russel Barkley, thriving with ADHD is not so much about knowing what to do as it is about doing what you know.


Doing means acting to produce an intended result, to achieve a goal. 

We all have a set of brain skills, called executive functions, which we use to help us do - to act on our intentions.

People with ADHD often struggle with executive functioning and you may too.  But everyone's ADHD is different.


The ADHD Wheel exercise will help you pinpoint which skills you find easier to use, and which ones you can focus on sharpening, so that you can function with more flow.

The "pies" that make up the ADHD Wheel on the next page are my model of the executive functions. You will see they are divided into 4 stages (represented by 4 different colors):

  • PREPARING - What you have to do before you get started on a task/ project.

  • STARTING - Initiating - taking the first step.

  • MANAGING - Things you have to monitor and regulate while working on a task / project.

  • CLOSING - Following through to completion, persistence over time.

the adhd wheel

ADHD wheel for site.png

REMEMBERING: Working memory is the ability to hold things in mind and use them to execute a task. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I say, "I'll do it later" and then forget about it. ✅I often walk into a room and forget what I was headed there for. ✅I lose or misplace belongings. ✅I must write things down or I will forget them. ✅I am often told that I am forgetful or absent-minded.

PRIORITIZING: Doing the most important things first. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I have difficulty prioritizing tasks when there is a lot to do. ✅I know what is most important but I have difficulty acting on my priorities.

PLANNING -Creating a roadmap to achieve a goal and planning WHEN you are going to do the various tasks. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I struggle to plan out big projects. ✅I prefer to "go with the flow" than to decide in advance when to do what. ✅I tend to over-commit - saying "yes" to something without first checking where I could fit it in.

KICKING OFF -Getting started when you intend to, or in an efficient or timely manner, as opposed to procrastinating. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I put things off until the last minute. ✅I put things off if they are not interesting to me (housework, admin, mundane tasks). ✅I put things off if I'm overwhelmed and don't know where to start. ✅I put off important long term goals that have no immediate deadlines. ✅It's easier to start a task if I am answerable to someone else (accountability.)

MANAGING TIME - The ability to have an accurate awareness of time. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I often run late for meetings or appointments. ✅I often underestimate how long a task will take. ✅I often run out of time to do things.

MANAGING ATTENTION -The ability to stay focused in the face of distractions, boredom or fatigue. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I am easily distracted by things going on around me. ✅I get started on something, but then follow a chain of distractions until I end up somewhere else completely. ✅My own thoughts often pull me off task. ✅I have difficulty stopping when I am (hyper)focusing on something I find interesting. ✅I struggle to pay attention during meetings, phone calls and conversations.

MANAGING EMOTIONS: The ability to regulate the intensity of your emotions. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I have difficulty putting aside an upsetting emotion (like anger, frustration or disappointment) to focus on what I need to do. ✅I am easily frustrated or angered and have a short fuse. ✅I am easily upset by negative feedback. ✅It takes a long time to calm down and get back to work after being upset. ✅I tend to ruminate (get locked into a negative emotion for a long time).

MANAGING REACTIONS: The ability to "look before you leap" - to pause in order to consider possible consequences before acting, as opposed to impulsively reacting. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I interrupt people in conversations. ✅I've been told I "have no filter" or I blurt out what is on my mind that I later regret. ✅I eat or drink and later regret the decisions I made. ✅I overspend with impulsive purchases that I later regret. ✅I often "go with my gut".

MANAGING ENERGY: The ability to balance productivity with recharging. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I often feel burned out and stressed. ✅I overextend myself, which leads to me being totally unproductive for a while after that. ✅I get stuck wasting my time on things that don't give me more energy (social media, Netflix, YouTube etc.)

FOLLOWING THROUGH: The ability to "stick with it" until completion. Score below 5 if this is you: ✅I often leave tasks or projects unfinished. ✅I struggle to do things that will bring me closer to my long term goals. ✅I do things in fits and starts as opposed to working consistently over time. ✅I give up easily when I hit an obstacle. ✅I tend to choose immediate or quick rewards over intangible long-term gratification.

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