Imagine if you could have your own personal assistant--someone to find your lost keys, remind you to walk the dog, or tell you your daily schedule, all without having to pay them a salary? Welcome to the world of voice-activated artificial intelligence, or in this case, Amazon’s Alexa.
Have you joined the tens of millions worldwide who purchased products that connect to Alexa? If so, you'll discover that she…it… whatever may help you or someone you know reduce the impact of executive function deficits and ADHD. The executive functions are those brain-based capacities we use to regulate our emotions, attention, and behavior. They enable us to manage time, tasks and focus, so we can achieve our goals.
Environmental supports such as calendars, timers, and alarms are proven strategies to increase productivity, stay organized, and meet commitments. Alexa’s artificial intelligence can function in the same ways. Alexa doesn’t provide this support automatically. While Alexa comes with some “skills” or apps built-in, you will also have to enable other skills that third parties developed. To enable these, go to your Alexa app and select Settings --> Skills --> Search. Type in the name of the skill, select and enable it.
Here are Alexa “skills” that support specific executive functions:
1. Time Management:
Time management is a common challenge for those with executive function deficits. Do you or someone you know have difficulty estimating the time an assignment or task will take, lose track of time when focused on an activity, or seem to live mostly in the present? The following Alexa skills may help you better mark the passage of time and gain some control over it:
Alexa's built-in commands (no need to add them as a skill):
"Alexa, set the alarm for 7 a.m."
"Alexa, set a repeating alarm for weekdays at 7 a.m."
"Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes."
Third Party Skills:
Quick Events (syncs with Google calendar)
“Alexa, tell Quick Events to add go for a walk tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.”
My Extra Brain (sends you reminder texts)
"Alexa, ask My Extra Brain to remind me to wash the car on Saturday."
2. Task Management:
Alexa may offer some help if you take on too many tasks at once, get overwhelmed, and complete none; if you forget to write down commitments or promises you’ve made only to request an extension or make apologies; or if you wonder why you haven’t completed anything at the end of the day. Check out these skills:
Todoist (requires the Todoist app)
“Alexa, add pick up the kids to my to-do list.”
Any.do (requires the Any.do app)
"Alexa, add birthday plans to my to-do list!"
3. Sustaining Attention During Tasks:
Okay, you remember what tasks you have to do. Now, you have to do them! Is it common for you or someone you know to start a project, but quickly become unproductive when that task gets boring or repetitive? Do you find that significant time has passed, and you wonder why you have not accomplished what you wanted to? Alexa has skills that work with the time-tested Pomodoro technique and that will alarm at intervals alerting you to refocus.
Pomodoro [25-minute version]
“Alexa, start Pomodoro Twenty-Five.”
“Alexa, tell Interval Notice to set a two-minute alarm every six minutes.”
4. Working Memory:
Retrieving information from memory when you need it can be a challenge if you or someone you know suffers from executive function deficits. Alexa has two skills that may help support working memory. One skill will remember items you place on lists, and the other will help you remember where you put or stored something.
Remember This (Remembers a list of items.)
"Alexa, open Remember This and add to list 'my wallet is in the drawer.'"
Remember Skill (Remembers what you tell Alexa.)
"Alexa, open Memory Palace. Remember that my wallet is in the drawer."
There are several digital technologies that can help reduce the negative impact of executive function deficits in the home, school, and office. Dr. Clarence Perkins is an Executive Function and ADHD coach who can help you identify and integrate these technologies into your or the life of someone you know. Call or write for a free consultation.