Executive functioning (EF) skills are our "get it done" skills; they help us complete everyday tasks. These skills include planning, organization, time management, metacognition, working memory, self-control, attention, flexibility, and perseverance. 

Sometimes, it’s helpful to think of executive functions like an air traffic controller in our brains. The EF center is assigning tasks to each of the different skills. For example, it tells us to focus and really listen while someone is talking (attention), while reminding us to get started when we have an assignment due at the end of class (task initiation). 

All of these skills work together to make sure we can complete tasks in an efficient and effective way.

1. Planning is developing a well-thought-out strategy before starting a task. 
  • What do we need before beginning? 
  • What steps to help accomplish our goal effectively? 
  • How will we  best use our time?
2. Organization is our method of keeping track of things. 
  • Is there a  place for everything?
  • What's the plan to keep materials orderly and accessible?
  • Can I find what I need when I need it?

3. Task initiation means starting right away. 
  • Not procrastinating, even when it is a less-desired task
  • Being able to count on ourselves

4. Time management using time well to complete tasks. 
  • Can I estimate how long tasks will take?
  • Choose the most important thing (prioritize tasks)
  • Use time well?
  • Keep up with deadlines?

5. Attention allows us to focus on a person or task for a period of time, ignore distractors, and refocus when needed. 
  • Do I hear and understand instructions?
  • Focus well during conversations?
  • Concentrate on longer tasks?

6. Metacognition is thinking about our thinking. 
  • Considering what we know (and what we don’t know) about a topic as we learn. This can be a critical skill when studying for assessments, completing challenging assignments, and even just comprehending new learning material.

7. Working memory is keeping information in our heads while we use it. 
  • Solve math problems and juggle numbers in our head. 
  • Remembering critical details in a story
  • Thinking back to what the directions given in class were.
  • Remembering the previous step when making box brownies
  • Holding something in our minds long enough to put in a calendar or on a list

8. Self-control is stopping and thinking in order to make a more positive choice in the moment. 
  • Being able to “hit the pause button,” 
  • calm down when emotions run high, 
  • think through a situation,
  •  make a good choice for now and the future. 
  • Includes self control in the moment (not interrupting) and longer term (choosing to go to bed in order to feel better in the morning)

9. Flexibility is effectively coping with change. 
  • Being open-minded
  • Testing out new approaches
  • Going with the flow when things do not go as planned
  • See a situation in more than one way
  • Problem-solving and perspective-taking.

10. Perseverance is working through challenges and roadblocks that come up along the way.
  • Being able to try new strategies
  • Continue working when a task is difficult
  • Knowing how to ask for help, when needed. 

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Copyright Donae Cannon