Executive Functioning Skills – What Are They?

by | Aug 10, 2023

Executive functioning skills is a term you may have heard thrown around. To discuss what exactly these skills are, we must first define executive functioning.


What is Executive Functioning?


understood.org defines executive functioning as:

a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. we use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things.

With that we now know in a very generalized sense what executive functioning is but how exactly does it help you? Well executive functioning skills will help you:

  • Manage your time
  • Maintain focus
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Memory recollection
  • Confidence in high-stress situations
  • Planning and organization

The list of executive functions casts a wide net into a variety of important skillsets. These skills are important both in an academic setting as well as everyday life. Executive functions serve as the “driver” for an individual’s cognitive skills. While it’s not an indicator of an individual’s intellectual ability, it can certainly stifle future success if not addressed.


How Are These Skills Learned?

A person isn’t born with the natural ability of executive functioning. This is something that is taught and learned, typically during a child’s early adolescent period. For several reasons, the learning of executive functioning skills can be delayed. This can be due to the support structure not being properly established in their classroom, the presence of active stressors in a child’s life, or delays due to ADHD.


The Importance of Environment

At home is where executive functioning skills begin development. As early as 3 years old, children start to learn task priorities. This is mostly in the form of mind games, play and routine. The child’s environment is the most important influencer in early development for these skills.

The classroom is the second most important part of a child’s development of these skills. The environment and quality of a child’s classroom impacts their development. A one-to-one classroom would have a vastly different developmental experience than a typical 30-person classroom. This development is in the form of:

  • Multi-task exposure
  • Socialization
  • Adaptability
  • Following of written/oral instructions

While these abilities can be worked on at home, the classroom is where the child will have the ability to put into practice with their peers. This is why the socialization part of the classroom is so important for the development of said skills as students learn focus and group work.


Delays in Executive Functioning

Now that we’ve covered what executive functioning is and when/where it is learned, we now need to discuss what can cause the delays. Executive functioning skills can be delayed due to:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Injury

Any of these aspects can lead to executive functioning skills becoming delayed which largely impacts the academic and organizational ability of a person. While none of these aspects limit the ability of ever developing executive functioning skills, it can lead to developmental delays and difficulty later. These difficulties can develop at any point during a person’s life whether in high school or after graduation. That’s why it’s important to identify the indicators of delays in these skills early on before they develop bad habits.

While brief periods of experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily indicate the presence of a delay, experiencing these symptoms daily could. The signs of a delay in a person’s executive functioning skills are as follows:

  • Inability to focus for long periods of time
  • forgetting to complete work frequently
  • Unable to think creatively
  • Time blindness


The Solution

Since these skills are a learned behavior, it’s possible to relearn and emphasize these skills. This is where the help of an executive functioning coach comes in. Much like a tutor for standard academics, an executive functioning coach works with those who have delays and develops a strategy to eliminate areas of weakness. Relearning these skills takes time but with the guidance of a professional, it can get the person back on track and in control of their daily life! Check out our executive functioning coach today and unlock your full potential!


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