Executive functioning skills refer to a set of cognitive abilities that help us plan, organize, remember information, and complete tasks. Many everyday activities require executive functioning skills and can help us to achieve our goals.
From being able to remember to take medication every day, to be able to focus on a work task for an extended period, executive functioning skills are essential for helping us live independently and successfully.
In this article, we will explore what executive functioning skills are, why they are important, and some strategies to support these skills.
What Are Executive Functioning Skills?
Executive functioning skills help us to stay focused on our goals while we work towards them.
Executive functioning skills are important for both academic and professional success. For example, if you are a student, executive functioning skills can help you to manage your time and study materials, stay focused on your studies, and complete assignments on time.
If you are a professional, executive functioning skills can help you to manage your work schedule, meet deadlines, and stay organized.
Why Is it Important To Recognize Executive Functioning Skills & Their Benefits?
While we all use these skills every day, some people have difficulty with one or more of them. This can make it challenging to keep up with schoolwork, remember important deadlines, or stay organized.
This means that it’s important to recognize the benefits of executive functioning skills. For example, people who are good at planning and organization often have less stress in their lives and are more successful in achieving their goals.
If you’re struggling with any aspect of executive functioning, there are ways to improve your skills. With practice and some simple accommodations, you can learn to manage your challenges and live a successful life.
Here are ten benefits that come with good executive functioning skills:
- Improved memory
- Better organization
- The ability to prioritize and multitask
- Enhanced time management skills
- Increased self-awareness
- Greater self-control
- Improved stress management skills
- More successful goal-setting and achievement
- Enhanced social skills
- A stronger sense of self-efficacy
10 Examples of Executive Functioning Skills
Let’s now explore some examples of executive functioning skills in action.
Being Able To Plan And Organize Tasks
Tasks are the basis of our daily lives, both at work and home. Imagine trying to get through your day without being able to plan or organize tasks! This would be very difficult, if not impossible.
With the right executive functioning skills, you should be able to:
- Figure out what needs to be done
- Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps
- Put tasks in order of importance or urgency
- Create a timeline or schedule for completing tasks
- Allocate the necessary resources (time, money, people, etc.)
Being Able To Pay Attention And Focus
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to be able to pay attention and focus on the task at hand. With so many distractions around us, it can be difficult to stay on track.
If you have strong executive functioning skills, paying attention and staying focused should be relatively easy for you.
Being Able To Remember Instructions And Details
In both our personal and professional lives, we are constantly being bombarded with information that we need to remember. From having to pick up milk on the way home from work to remember the steps of a complex project at work, our ability to remember instructions and details is crucial.
From following simple instructions to retaining large amounts of information, having a good memory is an important part of executive functioning.
Being Able To Respond Appropriately To Changes
In today’s world, change is the only constant. Whether it’s a change in a process, a change in plans, or a change in the economy, we need to be able to adapt and respond appropriately.
Your response to various changes will be dictated by your ability to think flexibly and creatively, as well as your ability to control your emotions. If you can do both of these things, then you should be able to handle most changes that come your way.
Being Able To Control Emotions And Impulses
In addition to responding appropriately to changes, it’s also important to be able to control emotions and impulses. This is especially true in high-pressure situations where calm and level-headedness are essential.
If you can keep your emotions in check and refrain from acting on impulse, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever life throws your way.
Being Able To Adapt And Persevere In The Face Of Setbacks Or Challenges
No matter how well you plan or how strong your executive functioning skills are, there will be times when things don’t go as planned. When this happens, it’s important to be able to adapt and persevere.
This means being able to adjust your plans on the fly, troubleshoot problems, and find creative solutions when things don’t go as expected. It also means having the grit and determination to see things through even when they get tough.
Being Able To Use Abstract Thinking Skills
Another important aspect of executive functioning is the ability to use abstract thinking skills. This refers to the ability to think about concepts that are not concrete or tangible.
For example, being able to understand and use concepts like time, money, and measurement are all examples of abstract thinking. This type of thinking is important for tasks like budgeting, scheduling, and problem-solving.
Being Able To Plan And Execute Complex Tasks
In addition to being able to handle simple daily tasks, those with strong executive functioning skills should also be able to plan and execute complex tasks. This could involve anything from planning a long-term vacation to launching a new business venture.
To be successful in executing complex tasks, you need to be able to break down the task into smaller steps, create a timeline or schedule, allocate resources, and stay focused on the goal.
Being Able To Switch Between Tasks Effortlessly
Another important executive functioning skill is the ability to switch between tasks effortlessly. This refers to the ability to quickly transition from one task to another without losing focus or becoming overwhelmed.
For example, if you’re working on a project at work and you get a phone call from your child’s school, you need to be able to quickly switch gears and attend to the matter at hand. Those with strong executive functioning skills should be able to do this with ease.
Being Able To Stay Organized And On Track
Finally, executive functioning skills also include the ability to stay organized and on track. This means being able to keep track of various projects, deadlines, and commitments without getting overwhelmed or lost in the details.
It also means being able to create and maintain systems and routines that help you stay on top of things. If you can do all of these things, then you should have no problem staying on track and achieving your goals.
These are just a few examples of the many executive functioning skills that are important in life. If you want to be successful, it’s important to work on developing these skills. While some people may be born with a natural aptitude for executive functioning, anyone can improve their skills with practice and effort.
How To Identify & Master Executive Functioning Skills
While knowing what executive functioning skills are, identifying and mastering them in your own life can be difficult.
Here’s how you can identify and master your executive functioning skills.
Know What They Are
It all starts with knowing what executive functioning skills really are and why they are important in your life.
Understand How They Work
Once you know what executive functioning skills are, it’s important to understand how they work. Each skill has its own set of sub-skills that contribute to its overall function. For example, planning involves breaking a goal down into smaller steps, setting a timeline, and staying on track.
Be patient with yourself as you learn to master them.
Learning to identify and master your executive functioning skills can take time. Be patient with yourself as you learn and practice these skills. It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to keep trying.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
The best way to master your executive functioning skills is to practice, practice, practice! There are many different ways to do this. You can try out different planning strategies, experiment with different ways of remembering things and find what works best for you.
Seek Professional Help If Needed
If you’re having difficulty mastering your executive functioning skills, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or coach can help you understand and work on these skills in a more specific and individualized way.
Take The Right Strengths Test To Identify Your Top Strengths
To identify your top strengths, you might want to take a strengths test. There are many different kinds of strength tests out there, so make sure to choose one that’s right for you. Once you’ve taken the test, review your results and identify your top strengths.
For example, the High5test.com strengths test can help you identify and zone in on your top strengths, which can translate into better focus and productivity in work and life.
How To Improve Executive Functioning Skills In The Workplace
If you want to improve your executive functioning skills in the workplace, there are a few things you can do.
Making a list of your tasks for the day or week is a great way to improve your executive functioning skills. This will help you see what needs to be done, and it will also help you to break down the tasks into smaller steps. This can make them seem less daunting, and it can also help you to better plan your time.
Setting deadlines for yourself is another great way to improve your executive functioning skills. This will help you to better prioritize your time, and it will also motivate you to get the task done. If possible, try to set realistic deadlines, and make sure that you stick to them.
Finding a system that works for you is another important step in improving your executive functioning skills in the workplace. This could involve using a planner, setting reminders on your phone, or keeping a list of tasks in a notebook. Find something that works for you, and stick to it. This will help you to better keep track of your time and tasks.
Taking breaks when you need them is also important. This will help you to avoid burnout, and it will also give you the chance to refresh your mind. Make sure to take breaks throughout the day, and make sure to get enough sleep at night.
How To Highlight Executive Functioning Skills In Resume & Job Interview
When you go to a job interview, or when you write your resume, it is important to highlight your executive functioning skills. This means that you can show that you can handle important tasks and make good decisions. You can do this by talking about times when you have made such decisions in the past, or by giving examples from your work experience.
For example, if you have managed a team of people, or if you have been responsible for making important decisions, these are examples you should definitely mention.
When you go to a job interview, the interviewer will want to know more about your executive functioning skills. They may ask you questions about how you make decisions, or how you handle stress. It is important to be prepared for these questions and to be able to give examples of times when you have used your executive functioning skills.
If you can show that you have strong executive functioning skills, it will make you a more attractive candidate for the job. So, make sure to highlight these skills on your resume, and be prepared to talk about them in your job interview.
Bonus Tip: How To Make Executive Functioning Skills Checklist
There are different things you can do to help you with your executive functioning skills. However, knowing what skills are your best ones and how to best use them is key.
This can be done by having a checklist of all the different things you need to do and then check off each item as you complete it.
Creating such a checklist can be difficult, so here are the high-level steps you can take to make your own:
- Decide what tasks need to be completed to reach your goal. This could be a school project, work goals, or personal tasks.
- Write each task down on a separate piece of paper or index card.
- Put the papers or cards in order of priority, with the most important tasks at the top.
- Hang the papers or cards up where you will see them every day and check off each task as you complete it.
Executive Functioning Skills FAQs
What Causes Poor Executive Functioning?
There can be many reasons why someone may have difficulty with executive functioning skills. It could be due to a medical condition, such as ADHD or Alzheimer’s disease. It could also be the result of a brain injury. In some cases, there is no known cause.
How Do You Test For Executive Functioning?
There is no one specific test for executive functioning skills. Instead, it is typically assessed through behavioral observations and questionnaires. A qualified professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, can administer these types of assessments.