What is Executive Function?

What is Executive Function?

Executive function is the cognitive skills that help us make decisions, prioritize tasks, organize thoughts and activities, and manage time efficiently. People with executive dysfunction typically struggle with these things, and sometimes don’t complete tasks at all, they can easily misplace items, materials or prioritize the wrong things; it’s also easy for these types of people to become overwhelmed by big tasks or projects.

Core Executive Function Skills

There are seven skills that can help us judge executive function:

  1. Self-awareness.
  2. Self-control.
  3. Non-verbal working memory: the ability to hold visual imagery to memory or how well you can picture things in your mind.
  4. Verbal working memory: having an inner monologue.
  5. Emotional self-regulation: taking the previous four functions and using them to manipulate your own emotions and emotional state. This can also mean using words, images, and self-awareness to alter and process how we feel about things.
  6. Self-motivation: being able to motivate yourself when there are no immediate external consequences. 
  7. Planning and problem solving: being able to “play” with the information in our minds and discover new ways of doing something. Planning solutions to problems.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with ADHD, this list may sound familiar. Typically people with ADHD will have difficulty with some or most of these core functions. Check out next week’s blog to learn more about how executive function skills or lack thereof affects people with ADHD.