Executive function refers to the part of the brain that is responsible for coordinating other higher cognitive functions. It’s what we use to plan and complete complex tasks. In times of crisis, the executive function becomes overloaded, and we become much worse at planning and completing tasks. Crisis can be something like a car accident, however it can also occur during periods on ongoing stress and overwhelm, etc.
Remember my post about being overcommitted and overwhelmed?
If you ask a person in executive function overload to make a decision or do a task that requires multiple steps, they probably won’t be able to complete it. If you say “I need a decision about X,” but to make that decision requires them to go research some information, refer back to earlier emails, and put all the data together, and then make the decision, they can’t do it. Because planning is involved, and that’s the part of the brain that is overloaded. Worse yet, they will try to complete the task, which will only increase their executive function overload.
But if you ask them to make a decision, and provide them with all of the necessary information together, organized in a simple way, they’re much more likely to succeed. It’s the difference between asking someone “Where do you want to go for dinner?” and “Do you want to eat chicken?” The former is very open ended and requires a complex evaluation. The latter is very simple and can be answered without much consideration.