An everyday productivity tool for beating your executive dysfunction


Product Experience

Problem Space 

Problem Statement  

How can we help students and young professionals with executive dysfunction alleviate anxiety and decision fatigue during household duties and self care tasks.

Problem Background  

Executive dysfunction impacts people’s ability to manage their thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is most common in neurodivergent individuals (ADHD, Autism, etc). People who struggle with executive dysfunction often have difficulty with tasks that cause anxiety or that they view as long, difficult, or boring. Overcoming executive dysfunction requires a lot of thought and planning and therein lies the problem. You must overcome your executive dysfunction in order to overcome your executive dysfunction. This also comes with issues such as “task freeze” and decision fatigue. As such, properly addressing executive dysfunction can be nearly as costly as not addressing it. 

User research revealed that more than 70% of individuals experiencing executive dysfunction struggle with household chores and self care tasks. This behavior triggers anxiety, frustration, and feeling overwhelmed. Unfortunately, these feelings also make executive dysfunction worse. 

Over 90% of people surveyed or interviewed have developed systems or coping mechanisms to help them be more productive. The most common being to do lists at 79%. However, none of them felt that these systems were enough. The common issues included the planning and motivation required to execute their coping mechanisms and the fact that the effectiveness of common coping mechanisms tends to go down over time. To do lists and planners eventually get misplaced, alarms and reminders lose their novelty and begin to fade into the background. One of the most uncommon coping mechanisms was also one of the most effective - reward systems. We know that rewards increase executive functioning, but these systems are often complex and require planning to implement. This can lead to further executive dysfunction and decision fatigue. 

Decision fatigue describes the phenomenon in which the more decisions you have to make throughout your day, the more difficult it becomes to make them. For example, when you get home from a long day at work or school and can’t decide what to have for dinner. Working breaks and rewards into your day can help you be more productive, but it requires you to make a lot of decisions. How will you spend your break? What should your reward be? This causes  additional stress and gets us back in the cycle of anxiety and overwhelm causing executive dysfunction. 

Therefore, the question is a matter of creating a product that will help increase productivity without the added stress of planning while maintaining enough novelty to work consistently over a long period of time.

Research Insights

User Pain Points

Using a survey, I was able to learn more about how executive dysfunction impacts people and what the most common issues were. I found that most people struggled with household chores, work/school, and personal development tasks. 

Large or complex tasks were the most difficult to accomplish, but small tasks were the most commonly overlooked (showering, laundry, tidying up their space). 

Coping mechanisms were difficult to implement and tended to stop working over time.

Supporting Data

Over 70% of respondents said that they experience executive dysfunction several times per week or more

Over 80% of respondents said they struggle with personal development tasks and work/school related tasks

Over 70% of respondents said they struggle with household chores and self care tasks

The most common emotions tied to executive dysfunction were anxiety (80%), overwhelm (76%), and frustration (74%)


4 user interviews were conducted which echoed findings from the survey. The most interesting feedback was that most people were looking for a solution for both small tasks (day to day) and large tasks, as the difficulties faced were similar. 

Interviewees also had similar challenges when it came to coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms required a lot of thought and planning to implement, and as the novelty wore off, so did the effectiveness. 

Landing on the Solution 

Based on the responses from users, I chose to combine some features and find a way to help with household and self care tasks by sneaking them into larger tasks. People with executive dysfunction need help breaking tasks into smaller pieces, implementing reward systems, and getting their daily tasks done in ways that avoid monotony. A rigid schedule doesn’t often work as it becomes boring and difficult to stick to. This leads to frustration and anxiety which puts people with executive dysfunction into a cycle in which they get less and less productive. This means that our solution needed to do the following:

  • Break large tasks into smaller pieces
  • Sprinkle smaller tasks throughout the day/week
  • Provide rewards and novelty regularly to maintain consistent productivity

Explanation of Solution 

Nudge accomplishes everything listed above by breaking tasks (large and small) into manageable pieces and adding rewards at regular intervals. 

  • Large projects, like writing a paper, are broken into 10 - 30 minute working blocks. 
  • Working blocks are separated by 5 - 30 minute breaks that encourage productivity in different ways
  • Take a walk (exercise)
  • Deep breathing exercises (self care)
  • Brush your hair (personal care)
  • Empty your dishwasher (household chores)

User Flow/Mock Ups

Future Steps

I hope to continue with user and market research.


Product Manager Learnings:

Co.Lab allowed me to test skills such as survey and interview administration, data analysis, and user research. It also allowed me to explore a problem that I am passionate about. 

The most important and difficult thing for me to learn was how to narrow down a problem and solution to serve a specific user. Executive dysfunction is a large, ambitious problem that is not unique to neurodivergent people, and everyone struggles with  productivity in some way. I did my best to narrow down my goals and list of features for this product. It is important to focus on one thing at a time without overwhelming users.

Designer Learnings:

Developer Learnings:

Developers Learnings:


Full Team Learning