Ever feel mentally drained, but unsure why? “Executive function theft” might be the culprit. This term, coined by Abigail Goben, describes the subtle yet serious offloading of tedious tasks onto others, siphoning their mental bandwidth.

What is Executive Function Theft?

Executive function theft (EFT) happens when someone deliberately passes mundane or repetitive tasks to someone else, burdening them and eating up their mental resources. This leaves them overtaxed and less able to focus on meaningful activities.

Corporate Systems Designed to Enable EFT

Prime examples are complex healthcare plans that overload individuals with bureaucratic hurdles to access benefits. The cumbersome processes effectively steal people’s executive function.

EFT Lurks in Workplaces

Some individuals take on an excessive burden of administrative work and “office housekeeping” tasks that detract from core goals. Women in particular are vulnerable to shouldering a disproportionate amount of such labor.

Home Life Isn’t Immune

Personally, EFT appears when a partner becomes solely responsible for most planning, scheduling, and coordination. This decision fatigue hampers their productivity and joy.

EFT’s Theft of Joy and Focus

Closely tied to emotional labor and invisible workload, EFT strains individuals by robbing them of mental focus and enjoyment of life. It’s a subtle yet serious drain.

Restoring Balance and Equity

Combating EFT starts with awareness and deliberate redistribution of responsibilities. Leaders can disrupt disproportionate task allocation. Communicating needs creates space to reduce EFT’s toll and unlock everyone’s potential.

The brain drain of EFT hides in plain sight. Expose its patterns, speak up, and thoughtfully redistribute tasks. Your focus, joy and mental freedom await.


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