Quick Facts

  • Planning refers to the ability to decide how to do a task and requires the following:
    • Determine what actions are needed
    • Determine how long it will take
  • Organization refers to:
    • The ability to put all the steps of a task in order
    • The ability to determine logical places to store items and information in order to find them later
  • These skills are considered executive functions and require the frontal lobes of the brain

What does it
look like?

  • Frequently late or failure to complete assignments and tasks
  • Inability to sequence items (i.e. arrange them in a particular order)
  • Inability to gather required tools or information to complete a task or activity
  • Inability to adapt to changes in routine
  • May have difficulty planning ahead for activities, may be disorganized, and may not think ahead or anticipate consequences of actions or choices
  • Difficulty starting or finishing things
  • Difficulty with tasks that used to be easy, such as getting dressed or finishing a work assignment
  • Stops participating in favourite activities
  • Difficulty trying new ways of doing things
  • Only capable of doing one thing at a time, unable to multi-task

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Damage to the frontal lobe
  • The following may make planning and organization worse:
    • Fatigue or sleep issues
    • Stress or illness
    • Too much information to organize or process
    • Trying to do too many things at one time
    • Distraction in the environment
    • Doing something new/unfamiliar that is not well organized or clear

Possible complications:

  • Individuals may be unable to plan their day without support, making daily tasks difficult if they live alone
  • Decreased independence
  • Individuals may become confused and overwhelmed easily, particularly in busy environments

What can we do?

  • Minimize distractions and encourage the individual to:
    • Focus on one thing at a time
    • Put things away when finished with them
    • Have only the things they need in their work space
  • Support the individual when following routines
  • Provide daily schedules and daily task lists and refer to this often during the day
  • Set specific times to focus on planning and organizing for the next day
  • Set specific days for chores/outings (i.e. grocery days, cleaning days)
  • Use timers as reminders
  • Do tasks that require the most planning and organizing early in the morning or when well rested
  • Avoid situations that are overstimulating (e.g. noisy crowds)
  • Take breaks throughout the day
  • Put all information in one book or electronic organizer (e.g. cellphone calendar)
    •  Shopping lists or To-Do Lists
    • Daily, weekly, monthly calendars
    • Phone numbers
    • Goals

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.