Organization skills are necessary for a person to live independently. Unfortunately, a brain injury can severely impair your ability to be organized.
The good news is that organizational skills can be rehabilitated after brain injury just like many other effects can. While many survivors commonly participate in physical therapy to improve movement, cognitive therapy isn’t quite as common, but it can be very helpful for recovering cognitive skills such as organization, memory, and attention.
This article will discuss how a brain injury affects organizational skills and how to boost recovery.
Organization Skills After Brain Injury
Organizational skills are crucial for everyday life and allow us to manage a job, maintain relationships, and remember important appointments.
Organization skills require the ability to:
- Gather and sort information
- Think ahead and plan accordingly
These skills comprise a group of abilities known as executive functions. The frontal lobe controls executive function. Therefore, if damage to the frontal lobe occurs, a person may struggle with many of these skills, including the ability to stay organized.
This condition is formally known as executive dysfunction, and you should talk to your doctor or therapist to get an accurate diagnosis. Having difficulty concentrating on some days or simply being a “messy person” does not mean you have executive dysfunction.
Your occupational therapist and speech therapist are a particularly helpful resources for addressing issues related to cognitive function after brain injury.
Symptoms of Poor Organization Skills
Signs that you may be struggling with poor organizational skills include:
- Difficulty starting or finishing a task
- Procrastinating about assignments
- Easily distracted
- Poor time management
- Difficulty working on more than one item at a time
Poor organization may also be a symptom of cognitive fatigue after brain injury. Cognitive fatigue refers to your brain not having the energy needed to function efficiently.
This, again, is why it’s crucial to talk to your therapist for a formal diagnosis. When the brain is busy healing itself after brain injury, it may cause excessive sleepiness, fatigue, or other cognitive effects that make it difficult to stay as organized as before.
If you have been diagnosed with executive dysfunction after brain injury and wish to improve your organizational skills, there are plenty of steps you can take to get there.
How to Improve Organization Skills After Brain Injury
Improved organizational skills may provide a greater sense of control over your life. This may reduce stress and depression, which are common problems after a brain injury.
There are two ways to improve organization skills after brain injury: compensation techniques and rehabilitation. Compensation techniques provide shortcuts that allow us to compensate for lack of ability. Rehabilitation helps address the root problem by improving the ability directly. Both are helpful during TBI recovery.
Here are ways to improve organization skills after TBI:
Create a routine
Creating a structured routine is crucial for improving your organization skills. A routine helps provide structure in your daily activities. This minimizes the amount of mental energy you spend and gives you more strength to tackle important tasks.
Having a routine makes a new task or behavior habitual, which lessens the amount of strain on your brain. Choose someone to assist you in planning your day in a productive manner. Having something concrete to look forward to often reduces anxiety and stress.
It is important that the schedule is realistic and doesn’t include so many activities that you become fatigued. It may take several adjustments to find the right balance. For example, if you are more tired in the afternoon, plan to do the most demanding activities in the morning, when you have the most energy.
Write it down
Memory issues may also make organizing your day more difficult, so it’s important to write things down. Keeping a whiteboard or a calendar somewhere visible where you can easily find it is helpful Write down (or have a caregiver write down) all the appointments and activities planned for the day. When you complete something on the list, cross it off. This provides a sense of accomplishment and makes organizing your day more enjoyable and successful.
When attempting to finish a task, the most effective approach is to minimize distractions as much as possible. For example, if someone is easily distracted by noise, they might need to work in a quiet room. If that is not possible, wearing noise-canceling headphones might be a good alternative.
Some people tolerate noise, but the internet provides them an endless source of distraction. Fortunately, there are computer programs to download that can block access to certain websites during work hours. The more focused you are, the better organized you may become.
Cognitive exercises are an effective way to improve your mental organization. An excellent exercise to improve organizational skills is called task sequencing.
To practice task sequencing, have someone write down the steps to complete a certain activity, such as going to the park. But deliberately list these steps in the wrong order.
For example, the the steps might be listed as:
- Ride bus
- Find address to the park
- Get off at the second stop
- Look up the bus schedule and stops
- Walk to the bus station
Next, rearrange the steps in the correct order. As your skills improve, select more complicated tasks, such as preparing a meal. Finally, write the steps down independently. This exercise teaches you how to organize your thoughts and problem solve.
You can also use apps that provide cognitive rehabilitation exercises, such as the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App. It was developed by two Speech-Language Pathologists to provide survivors access to affordable therapy right from home.
Brain Injury Organization Skills
Organizing and planning may be more difficult after a brain injury, but they’re not impossible. With the correct strategies and techniques, you can begin to take control of your life again. Even with the perfect strategy, it may take time to see improvement, so be patient. With daily practice, your brain rewires itself and you may regain the organization skills you lost.