Executive Function Skills: The Foundation for Success in School, Work, & Life

Executive Function Skills: The Foundation for Success in School, Work, & Life

“Executive Function Skills” is an umbrella term used to describe a set of skills or ways of thinking that, when working well, enable us to set and achieve our goals. These skills include things such as:

  • planning and prioritizing
  • time management
  • decision-making
  • organization
  • working memory
  • task initiation
  • sticking with a goal until it has been completed
  • monitoring our behaviours and emotions
  • future planning
  • the ability to control impulsive thoughts and behaviours

These skills are called “executive skills" because they are the skills that allow us to execute tasks.

Executive function skills are incredibly important because these are the skills that essentially allow us to DO what we know. Knowing what we need to do on a daily basis is one thing, but actually DOING what we need to do is another. DOING what we know we need to do relies on our executive function skills.

When we have weak or underdeveloped executive function skills, this can have a negative impact upon our school, work, and/or home life, regardless of how smart we are.

For example, someone can be very bright, but if they struggle with the executive skills of time management and organization, they will likely encounter difficulties when completing long-term projects, managing their time, and keeping track of things. They may also have difficulty organizing their thoughts in writing. Despite them being “smart”, it may not always show…That’s because intelligence and executive function skills are two separate things.

It’s important to understand that someone can be very “smart” AND also have underdeveloped or weak executive function skills.


Wondering About Your Own Executive Function Skills?

If you (or someone that you care about) are struggling in school, at work or home, or within your relationships, weak executive function skills may be a factor. 


To begin understanding your own executive function skills, including your individual strengths and weaknesses, consider completing an executive function skills checklist such as the one above. This checklist is based upon the work of Dawson & Guare (2016) and is a self-reflection tool designed to help you evaluate your own executive function strengths and weaknesses. You can also download a copy of this checklist by completing the form to your right.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to executive function skills. If you rate yourself as having many executive function weaknesses, please be sure to keep reading…

The good news is that executive function skills can (and do) improve with specialized supports including ADHD & Executive Function Coaching as well as with targeted Skills Training.

At Positively ADHD, we are committed to improving the lives of those impacted by challenges in executive function skills. We understand that well developed executive function skills lay the foundation for success in school, work, and life. That’s why we offer specialized ADHD & Executive Function Coaching and Training Programs for students, parents, adults, and educators.


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