Executive Functioning Skills and their Importance in Daily Life

A List of Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills are the top-down mental processes needed to override prepotent responses in the environment. They are generally measured using neuropsychological tasks and rating scales.

These are the brain processes that help us prioritize, follow multistep directions, and show self-control in the face of temptation. They also help us stay organized and manage our time effectively.

1. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation refers to a person’s ability to manage his or her emotions and behaviours. People who are better able to regulate themselves often have more stable relationships, greater job success and improved mental health.

To improve your ability to self-regulate, think about what triggers you. For example, if you become frustrated easily, figure out how to calm down before an outburst.

Children and teens can also work on this skill by developing a signal they can use to let others know that they need a break to calm down.

2. Attention

Attention is the ability to focus on information and tune out distractions. This skill allows us to create memories, follow multiple-step directions and stay focused despite distractions, which is vital for every profession from air traffic controllers and teachers to cashiers and drivers.

The ability to pay attention is important in both children and adults, but it can be hard for some people. Adults can be distracted by internal forces, like wandering thoughts, or external cues, like the inviting ping of an incoming text message. Attention is a complex skill and researchers have been working on the subject since Wilhelm Wundt developed mental chronometry, an experimental method for measuring the speed of mental processes.

3. Memory

Memory is the ability to store and recall information over time. It involves encoding the information, grouping it together to help remember, and practicing recall.

Psychologists have long pinpointed distinctiveness – being able to distinguish one memory from others – as a key for effective encoding. Repetition also helps information become encoded beyond short-term memory. And grouping, such as the method Reinhard used to memorize digits, makes it easier to recall.

Retrieving memories can actually make them stronger, but can also cause you to forget other related information – a phenomenon known as retrieval-induced forgetting.

4. Decision-Making

We all make decisions, from minor ones such as what to eat for lunch to major life choices. Effective decision making requires a systematic process with clearly defined steps.

It involves recognizing a problem, gathering information about feasible solutions and finalizing the best one. It also includes using intuition as well as reasoning.

Intuition is your ‘gut feeling’ about possible courses of action, which reflects your learning and beliefs from life experiences. It’s often a useful tool to use along with rational thinking. The most effective decision makers test their decisions regularly, especially when they notice unexplained events.

5. Planning

Planning is a crucial function for any organisation. It channels the efforts of people at all levels to attain the desired results.

It encourages innovation and creativity: Since planners must make assumptions about future business conditions, they are forced to come up with new ideas. They are also required to find ways to exploit opportunities and avoid threats in their environment.

It is important for a manager to set objectives and establish policies, procedures and rules in order to achieve the goals of an organisation. This requires the use of executive functioning skills, such as the ability to follow a plan, take note of relevant information and remain focused on tasks despite distractions.

6. Flexibility

Flexibility is the ability to adapt to new circumstances quickly and effectively. This skill can help us juggle multiple commitments, such as work, school, family and hobbies. It also helps us deal with unanticipated challenges, such as illness or accidents.

Some tasks that tap flexibility include design fluency (thinking of unusual uses for a product) and verbal fluency (or semantic fluency, such as thinking of words that start with the letter F).

Building children’s executive function skills helps them become good students, good workers, and good citizens. It also benefits their health, as strong EF skills are associated with lower levels of stress.

7. Interpersonal Skills

Whether it’s email, online chat or face-to-face meetings, interpersonal skills allow professionals to communicate clearly with coworkers and clients. They’re essential for coordinating projects, dealing with conflict and building trust with team members.

This includes empathy, which involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective. Empathy can help you find more creative solutions to workplace issues, as well as foster compassionate office dynamics.

Developing your interpersonal skills is important throughout life, but they’re particularly beneficial in the workplace. Highlighting these abilities in your resume and during job interviews can set you apart from other candidates.

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