Dr. Umesh Jain is now exclusively responsible for TotallyADD.com and its content

Executive Function Disorder & ADHD

Executive Function Disorder and meThis is going to be one of those stories where I admit to resisting something  that turned out to do me a world of good. Dunno if that’s a ‘guy thing’, or an ‘ADHD thing’, or a ‘Rick thing’, but it’s going to take me a minute or two to get there. Stay with me!  (Or skip to the end, then come back and read chunks in a random order until it makes sense.  Hey, it’s your ADHD, do what works for you.) So, as you well know, there is a lot of confusion about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Some people don’t believe ADHD exists. Including a lot of ADHD experts.  And even some folks like us who have ADHD. “What did he just say? ADHD Experts don’t believe in ADHD?”  Yeah.  Kind of.  It’s the name, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s those first two words.  ‘Attention Deficit.’  The fact is, most of us can hyper-focus when we’re interested.  So saying we suffer from a Deficit of Attention is a bit like saying someone who is seven feet tall has “Door Frame Head Bang Disorder.” Yes, that’s one problem a 7’ person faces, but there’s a lot of other issues they deal with.  And if they love basketball, being 7’ tall isn’t a problem at all.  ADHD is complex.  Who among us only suffers from a deficit of attention? This must be why, these days, every expert we interview is keen to talk about ADHD as a deficit of Executive Functions.  Executive Functions are, well, think of it this way… Imagine a top-level executive at a company that makes toilets (it’s just an example, ok?).  Call her Tanya.  Of Tanya’s Toilets.  As a top executive, Tanya doesn’t make the toilets, she doesn’t test them, or work on design, engineering, or a thousand other details. The ‘doing’ gets done by others. So what does Tanya do?

What Is Executive Function Disorder?

The role of an executive is to manage things, like…
  • Creating and maintaining a vision.
  • Long-term panning, including setting goals, standards, deadlines.
  • Coordinating different groups, including setting priorities and limits, keeping the focus on goals.
  • Motivating and supporting.
  • Checking progress, following up and providing feedback.
  • Efficiently managing time and resources.
That’s an executive’s job.  And part of your brain has that job.  That’s its Executive Function. Part of my brain is supposed to have that job, too.  But that list of Tanya’s roles?  That’s not me.  At least, that’s not my brain’s natural inclination. If I was working at Tanya’s Toilets I’d be in the design department, coming up with a dozen ideas a day on new designs, ways to improve efficiency, and… Okay, I’m going to switch from a mythical toilet factory to my life. (Insert your own joke here.)

Executive Functioning, There’s People Who Do It Well

Back in my early days, writing for stage and radio, I had to create systems to keep track of scripts as they moved from a funny idea to a finished performance.  It was difficult and took a lot of time and energy for me. It was exhausting.  Disheartening.  Which meant my personal life was a mess. When I began working in television, I discovered the power of the Production Manager and the other specialists who didn’t come up with the funny ideas, but could get them produced.  They created the system and kept it humming with far less stress than I ever experienced.  All I had to worry about was being funny. Wooooo hoooo! Admittedly, it was unnerving to have other people making all these decisions—at first. I discovered I have, well, control issues. (Who me? Really?) But… deep breath… By the time The Red Green Show hit it’s stride, I learned to trust the team to work their magic.

Work Was Going Great! But…

When I launched my own series, History Bites, I was the Host, Head Writer, Producer and Director.  I still had a strong team to support me, but work was taking everything I had. Then I discovered coaching. I’d like to be able to tell you that I instantly knew an ADD Coach would be the answer I didn’t even know I was looking for. Alas! At the time I thought, “I don’t have the time or money to fit coaching into my schedule.” Looking back now, I can see it was a bit like driving madly around North America at full throttle searching for an address I desperately needed to get to, but had no idea how to find, and complaining, “I don’t have time to stop and plug it into the GPS.” Then I discovered ADHD Coaching.

What Can A Coach Do?

Remember that list of Tanya’s Executive Functions? Managing time and resources? Checking progress, following up and providing feedback? Motivating and supporting? Keeping focused on goals? Yadda, yadda, yadda… OMG! These are the precisely the things a coach does! But, you may well ask, and if you didn’t, I will ask for you, “What if I already have a doctor (or a therapist or an analyst or…)” Totally different story. Like saying, “I already have car, and a tank of gas, why do I need a GPS to navigate?” My doctor was there to help me stop the suffering. Starting with medication. He could help me work through emotional stuff, beliefs, and feelings. We worked on areas where I felt I was ‘broken’ or ‘failing.’ Crucial stuff. If I was to give my life a grade, my doctor helped me go from an F to a C. My coach has taken me from a C to an A. An A+ on a good day. What my coach does is help me create strategies, and generate actions that work for me. My coach gives me straight talk, with much love. She reminds me of my priorities, checks in, nudges me when I go off course, and makes me pause to celebrate and acknowledge my victories so that they don’t slip by unnoticed. Like a lot of folks with ADD, I’m always on the next thing. The next script. Or the next breakthrough flushing mechanism for Tanya’s Toilets. Just thought of a sales idea: “Tanya’s Toilets. Flush With Success.”

Where Was I? Oh, Right…

The point is, when my wife first suggested we try coaching, I was verrrrry uncomfortable with the idea. Just as I was when Production Managers started taking over all the things I’d forced myself to learn how to do in the entertainment biz. People with ADD can have trust issues, can’t we? Now, all I will say is this: Coaching has made a huge difference for me. In ways I never would have anticipated. (See, I told ya I would get to this part of the story!) Coaching isn’t free. But I can tell you that coaching has saved me years of time, money, and effort. I’ve avoided endless frustration. And been far more productive. A lot of adults with ADD we’ve spoken to have expressed similar concerns and questions about coaching. Or they never even realized it existed. Which is why our newest video looks at the hows and whys of ADD Coaching. It explains the many ways coaches work—in person, by phone, on Skype—and how you can work with a coach to create solutions and ADHD strategies customized to your needs. As coach Barbara Luther says, “There’s no one else in your life that’s going to tell you the truth, really truly, and listen and hear who you are, who you are becoming and what you really want—AND keep you working toward that. That’s the coach’s job.” Watch ADD & Coaching:  You Don’t Have to go it Alone Best, Rick
Suggested Posts


  1. wiredonjava May 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Sooo true Rick, my executive functioning is in the toilet too so it makes sense to use Tanya’s Toilets in your analogy! P.S. I really like your hair Rick! You clean up nice ;)

  2. dclarkharris May 17, 2015 at 9:00 am

    What a great story, Rick. This captures the purpose and value of coaching as well as anything I’ve seen. I’m glad you took the step and are encouraging others to consider it.

  3. jayne55 May 18, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    I learned a couple things – 1) You did the RED GREEN show! YOU were Bill! I really, really enjoy the Red Green show and Adventures with Bill. You are funny. You’re not just saying that! and 2) Canuks are way ahead of the game with ADD, especially in Adults, than us Yanks. I’ve gone to someone who said they specialized in helping adults with AD/HD and they were just a regular counselor who wanted to rehash what I spent 10 years on with a different counselor because no one thought adults had AD/HD. I was diganosed by a child psychologist because there isn’t one who knows or understands adults with ADD. A coach would be great. That is what I have been looking for. Unfortunately, I don’t have a passport and can’t cross the border anymore without one. I can’t find anyone in the area that really does coach adults with AD/HD. So, I use your website and vids. Thanks for validating. Now I know why I feel crazy reading Tonya’s list of responsibilites.

  4. makwa May 19, 2015 at 1:51 am

    I never really felt that I have an Attention Deficit.
    I do how ever, feel that I have no mental coach. He’s on vacation somewhere, and shows up every now and then, but he’s completely unreliable!
    I look forward to this new video!
    Does Tanya’s Toilets have the push button flushers? Then you’d be able to Press for Success!

  5. krissocialvillage June 12, 2015 at 8:23 am

    I enjoyed reading your story Rick! I also agree that coaching will always be a good solution. I will check out your sleep strategies video.

  6. donsense August 18, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Speaking of flushing Rick I never realized my strategy for sitting still in church would be the source of huge embarrassment or to put it more succinctly careful what you make of ring tones. Just another Quantum Leap of Logic.. With no one at the rudder.
    Many years ago, thankfully I was sitting listening to the Sunday Church sermon from the choir loft with my deaf ear when there was a noise bringing my mind back to the message at hand…
    Earlier that year I had programmed my wife’s cellphone with a new ring. Clever little machine it would record your own voice and you could use an image that you took or printed. We were receiving regular calls at unusual times from A bank about a loan we co-signed for my second wife’s daughter, another story another time. She,my wife not my daughter would always say don’t answer that just after I had leaped or leapt from what ever I was doing to answer the phone.
    Tired of this interruption I changed the ring to my voice recording of the image that came up. Of course I accidentally took it to church that day.and it went off in the middle of the Sermon god like and right behind the preacher.
    I Was Extremely embarrassed . With some urgency my hand navigated thru the folds of my choir gown to turn it off. All the while looking ,probably sheepishly but in my mind accusingly at the one person in the men’s section who didn’t have a cell phone. Oh yes the image and my voice recording Ring” AxxHxxx Calling
    James 11. A long story unless you’ve met my brother James? Who was an even shorter term planner than I was.

  7. donsense August 18, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Oh yes I was going to say something about coaching..I am new as in a few days ago I learned that aft r 71 years and all those calamities I’ve enjoyed NOT , there was supposed to be some missing brain function in charge. And all I needed to replace it was Coach. I can’t think of a better idea and instantly seconded my daughter to fill in til I had found a professional. Good thing she already performs that for her clients at the paediatric allergy clinic.but there is only one coach the city and she is my Granddtrs age. Any suggestions
    James 11. Or James the second.and yes I fully expect to live another 30 or 40 years but no I won’t have children at this age as my great grandfather did. I have just enough time to go back and finish middle school kicked out , High School kicked out , University ( only lectured at and was hired as a management consultant) Engineering , Flight training and astronaut school. With a coach that trip to our sister planet Kepler 452b i s looking more doable each day.

  8. tashg December 1, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    It is sad for me that in my job a lot of the requirements are basically the list of those Executive Functions. So I lurch into growing fires because I don’t do those bits well. My workplace knows but there is really not anyone who can fill those parts of my role. Not easily. I can do them when I’m on an A+ week but then I slide again and when I’m in a C+ month it’s looking a bit hairy and feeling very uncomfortable. Not easy to get on it and even harder to keep On It – routine is not our thing after all! But thank God you guys know all about it – what a relief to be understood!

  9. kly October 28, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Any idea where you can find a coach that won’t bankrupt you? I have been looking for coaching. I’m in Canada. Most coaches are in the US and charge $USD, which you’d expect, but their charges are $240 USD per hour? I couldn’t afford that if I were getting paid in $USD myself. I did hire one for 3 months that charged $USD $100/hr, which was a bargain, but it still worked out to about $500/month Canadian for 1 hr a week by phone. I can’t afford anything remotely like that. There’s no one in my area. There’s very little in Canada and most of them charge in $USD. It’s all very well to say that coaching is a great idea – I’m sure it is – but who has that kind of money? And yes, I have checked the coaching directory on the TotallyADD website; it had nothing in my area and nothing that didn’t cost a fortune. Has anyone found someone affordable? In Canada?

  10. kly October 28, 2018 at 9:18 am

    I’ve looked through the directory to coaches linked from the TotallyADD website, and there is nothing in my area, and most of the coaches who work by phone charge in $USD, even the ones who are based in Canada. The cheapest I could find charged me CAD$500/month for one hour per week on the phone. One would have charged USD$240/hour. I gather this is normal, but I can’t afford those prices at all. (Though I have to say, I’m beginning to think I should become a coach!)
    I am sure coaching would be great, but at these prices, it would bankrupt me. Have you got any ideas about affordable coaching? A group workshop would be great, but (again) there’s nothing in my area, at all.

  11. Kly, I would contact coaches and see if their rates are negotiable.
    I know there are some who work in Canada who charge much less than what you’re seeing.
    The fact that they are not in your area is not really an issue as most coaching is done by phone or video conferencing. (When I’m in need of coaching we do it on Skype. In fact, I also see my ADHD specialist on Skype because otherwise it’s almost 3 hours of travel time for a one hour appointment.

Leave A Comment