“Executive functioning” is the group of skills needed to perform a variety of daily activities such as organizing, managing time, planning, and integrating what we know into an action plan. The term refers to a group of mental processes that bring together your past experiences with your actions in the present. Essentially, executive functioning is about the ability to manage oneself and self-regulate in order to achieve goals.
Clearly, executive functioning is crucial to your academic success, as well as your life overall.
There are four subtypes of problems related to executive functioning. You’ll probably find that most common academic challenges relate to one or more of these errors:
- Material-spatial disorganization – the tendency to misplace or lose things. You might have difficulty bringing home or returning assignments in a timely fashion.
- Temporal-sequential disorganization – confusion regarding timing and sequence of tasks: putting things off, having a hard time estimating how long tasks will take to finish.
- Transitional disorganization – trouble shifting gears with ease, resulting in rushing from one activity to another. You might have trouble settling down to work, or preparing to leave for school in the morning.
- Prospective retrieval disorganization – difficulty remembering to do something that was planned in advance. You might forget the due date of a major project or assignment until the night before it is due.
Many of these may sound familiar to students who are having trouble in school. Fortunately, there are several ways to fix these problems:
- Improve your time management. Make to-do lists and checklists with estimated time frames and clear structure. Break down assignments into manageable chunks with specific time frames to be completed within. Use a calendar and set reminders to help you stay on top of due dates.
- Manage your workspace. Get rid of as much clutter as possible. Make sure your materials are clearly labeled. Calendars and to-do lists should be easily accessible.
- Other general strategies. Try out organization apps or watches with alarms. Avail yourself of visual organization aids. Structure and plan transition times and shifts between activities. You might even try memory aids like acronyms or mnemonics.
Take an honest look at your surroundings and habits. Your executive functioning challenges may be possible to overcome, but you’ll need a clear picture of how you function on your own. So get curious, and start observing yourself. If you need help, you can always reach out to us for a little extra support.