Quick tips to help with following directions
- Quick tip 1Get rid of distractions.Get rid of distractions.
Make it easier to “hear” directions by limiting distractions. If possible, find a space that’s away from a lot of noise, movement, or clutter.
- Quick tip 2Break it into steps.Break it into steps.
Each step should be clear, simple, and specific. “Put the frozen food in the freezer first” is more helpful than “Put away the groceries.”
- Quick tip 3Present directions in different ways.Present directions in different ways.
Some people process information best when it’s spoken. Others do better with written or visual information.
- Quick tip 4Record directions.Record directions.
People may understand the directions but not remember them long enough to act. Recording directions on a phone lets them get the information at any time.
Many people have trouble following directions. They don’t seem to “listen” when they’re asked to do a task. Even if there’s a negative consequence, they don’t do what they’re supposed to do.
Why does that happen?
It might seem like laziness or a lack of respect. But when people frequently don’t follow directions, there’s often something else going on.
A common reason is trouble with executive function, a group of skills needed to get through tasks. Some people also have a hard time processing information or tuning in to what others are saying.
When people have trouble following directions, the results are clear — things don’t get done. Or they get done poorly. But people may also struggle in ways that seem confusing or not directly related.
For example, kids and adults might:
- Get easily frustrated when trying to do something
- Agree to do something and then not do it
- Look away or zone out when being given directions
- Get halfway through a task and then stop
- Say they did something when they didn’t
People struggle with directions for different reasons. It’s not a matter of intelligence. It’s caused by challenges with specific skills.