How to Acknowledge and Strengthen Executive Function Skills
Executive function skills are skills controlled by the brain that include planning, focus, goal setting, and emotional regulation. Those with skill challenges in this area find it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions. There are many reasons that people have trouble with executive function including ADHD, brain injury, learning differences, and more. By acknowledging gaps, you can build skills, capabilities, and confidence. Ultimately building these skills leads to greater productivity.
Awareness of skill gaps
You might be having trouble with these daily life situations if you have executive function challenges. Specifically, executive function challenges are self-awareness, inhibition, non-verbal working memory, verbal working memory, emotional regulation, motivation, and planning.
- Difficulty initiating or completing tasks or projects
- Talking over someone during a conversation
- Trouble focusing due to lots of internal dialogue or external distractions
- Upset by conversations with friends or colleagues
- Lose items frequently
- Excessive clutter in your space
- Too disorganized to be productive
If you have challenges with executive function skills this is not a reflection of intelligence. Intelligence shows a depth of understanding of concepts. Executive Function is the capability of productivity and showing output in an academic or work setting.
However, the lack of these skills can frustrate you, and those you live and work with. These skills can have a long-term impact on self-concept and confidence. Check out these strategies to begin addressing these challenges and build competence as a skill.
Self-awareness is knowing your place in relation to others in a relationship. This could be in relation to your family, your work colleague, or in a social setting. Start by “reading the room.” Take a moment to regroup before you start a conversation. Be curious in discussions.
Inhibition or the lack of restraint impacts how quickly and in what context you respond to a situation. Start a yoga or meditation practice to build the ability to pause and reflect.
Non-Verbal Working Memory
Non-verbal working memory relates to visual imagery and your memory of visual images. Use alarms, paper and pencil, charts, and diagrams to capture and retain this information. Use alarms as reminders.
Verbal Working Memory
Verbal working memory is your internal dialogue of how you remember a single or sequence of tasks. Break up information into small chunks or use visual cues like a checklist to offset this.
Emotional self-regulation is the ability to maintain a balance emotional state. Identify triggers that set off imbalances in your emotional state. Name the emotion you are feeling to identify what you are feeling and why. Look for positive emotions that help you balance out the negativity.
Self-motivation is how well you can initiate and complete a task. Set dates and deadlines for tasks. Break tasks into the smallest chunk to get started. Reward yourself for small wins. Create a “warm up” getting started strategy that works for you. Consider obstacles to sustained attention and remove distractions as much as possible.
Planning and Problem-Solving
Planning, problem-solving, and decision-making all add up to organization. Project plan in writing, then write each step on a calendar. Use creative, realistic problem-solving to move a project forward. Set up clear, step-by-step directions to take the next step.
Be aware of which Executive Function challenges impact you the most and take a baby step forward in strengthening that skill. Your productivity can improve by addressing these executive function skills.
I love the idea of a “warm-up” strategy for motivation. What are some you discovered that work best?
Great question! For me I love to get organized first! That is to gather all the tools that I need and other resources. That way I get in the organizing zone. For others, it is warm up music or a 15 minute timer.