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  • 10 Tips For Improving Your Executive Functioning By Dr. Christine Powell

    Having strong executive functioning skills is essential for successful planning and organization. Planning and improving your executive functioning skills can be challenging, but it can become easier with the right tips and strategies. In this blog post, Dr. Christine Powell, Education Therapist and founder of LearningByConnecting Education Therapy, will provide ten tips for planning and improving your executive functioning skills, which can help with organization and time management. From utilizing the Pomodoro Technique to creating to-do lists, these tips can be incredibly helpful in boosting your executive functioning skills and helping you stay organized. Read on to learn more!

    1) Understand Executive Functioning Skills 

    Executive functioning (EF) skills are important for success in any area of life, from academics to work to relationships. EF skills include organization, time management, prioritization, focus, behavior control, and problem-solving. These skills allow us to plan, complete tasks, pay attention to details, manage our emotions and behavior, and stay on track with projects. Achieving success in any of these areas requires the ability to organize, prioritize, and complete tasks in an efficient and timely manner. Poor executive functioning skills can lead to poor academic performance, difficulty completing tasks at work or home, and difficulty managing relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Improving your EF skills is essential if you want to achieve your goals and be successful in life. Here are 10 tips to help you learn how to plan and improve your executive functioning skills

    2) Develop a Routine and Stick with It

    Creating a routine is a great way to help students organize their day, prioritize tasks, and maintain focus and behavior control. A good morning routine can help set the tone for the rest of the day, so it’s essential to establish a consistent and structured one. This will help them develop better time management and organizational skills while learning to prioritize tasks. Encourage your students to create their individualized routine – whatever works best for them and fits into their daily lives. For example, they could choose to review their upcoming tasks in the morning or evening or decide when to take breaks throughout the day. Whatever their routine might be – know that creating a list will help to get their brain organized, and this will help them “have a good and successful day.” Before your student makes their routine, show them this list of examples that a lot of people do during their morning routines: Wake up at the same time every day (including weekends), pray, meditate, or do yoga to center themselves for the day spiritually, head for the gym to exercise then return home, take a shower, do a general hygiene routine, and put on the clean clothes you’ve laid out the night before, eat a good breakfast (it can be fast and easy) and do the dishes, take any morning medications and/or vitamins and supplements, consult a “to-do” list for the day and get things organized, make sure the backpack or briefcase contains all that’s needed for the day, pack a lunch for school or work. Encouraging your student to have some form of organization and structure in their daily life will help them develop better executive functioning skills that will stay with them for years to come.

    3) Set Goals

    Setting goals is an important part of the process when it comes to improving your executive functioning skills. Goals can help you stay focused and organized, allowing you to manage your time effectively and prioritize tasks. The goals you set should be specific, achievable, and measurable so that you can track your progress. Goals should also focus on behavior control and be realistic, as this will help you stay on track. A key component of setting goals is creating an action plan that breaks down each goal into smaller steps. This allows you to take a step-by-step approach and prevents you from becoming overwhelmed. Furthermore, if you have trouble staying motivated, it’s important to reward yourself when you reach a milestone or complete a task. This will encourage you to keep striving towards your goals.

    4) Make and Follow a Schedule

    Creating a daily schedule can help provide structure, organization, and focus on improving time management and prioritizing tasks. When you plan out your day, you can better control your behavior, focus on important tasks, and stick to the most important items. With a daily schedule, you can create a framework that will help increase organization, productivity, and executive functioning. Making a schedule can help break up larger tasks into smaller chunks of time and allow you to manage your time better, focus on the task at hand, and ensure you’re getting the most important things done. This structure also allows you to practice prioritization of tasks and helps build self-discipline and focus as you can keep track of what needs to be accomplished during the day. Make a schedule.

    5) Use a Planner

    Using a planner can help you to stay organized, prioritize tasks and manage your time more effectively. By having a visual representation of your daily, weekly and monthly tasks and goals, it can help you to focus and gain better control of your behavior. You will be able to prioritize tasks and assign deadlines to ensure that all tasks are completed in a timely manner. It also allows for self-care activities to be scheduled, which can reduce stress levels. Planning out your day can help keep you on track and organized, allowing you to focus on what is most important.

    6) Break Tasks Down Into Smaller Steps

    When you are faced with a big task, it is important to take the time to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and reduce the chances of procrastination. By setting priorities and breaking the project into smaller tasks, you will be better organized and focused on what needs to be done. You can begin by taking a look at the big picture and understanding what the end product should look like. Once you have done this, start examining the parts of the task and figure out what needs to be done step-by-step. It is also essential to think about the logical order of completing each part and create a timeline for each task. With a timeline in place, it becomes easier to set aside the necessary time for the project and stay on track. Finally, ensure you complete your task early enough to have some time left for a final review. This will help you use your organization, time management, prioritization, focus, behavior control, and other skills to their fullest potential.

    7) Take Breaks

    Taking regular breaks can help with all of these areas. Breaks allow your brain to rest, so when you return to a task, you’re better able to focus and prioritize your goals. You can use the extra time during a break to get organized, plan out your day, or relax. Breaks can also help improve your self-discipline by helping you manage your time more effectively. Breaks can also serve as a motivational tool to get through the day and provide an opportunity for creative thinking. So take some time for yourself, recharge, and come back ready to tackle anything that comes your way! 

    8) Reward Yourself

    Organizing your time, managing priorities, and focusing on behaviors that help you control your executive functioning skills can be hard work! So why not reward yourself for accomplishing these important tasks? Whether it’s a simple cup of coffee, an indulgent dessert, or a relaxing massage, small rewards along the way will give you the extra motivation you need to stay on track. Celebrate your successes as you make progress toward your ultimate goal and you’ll have the dopamine spike needed to continue working hard and making positive changes.

    9) Get and Stay Organized

    Organization means managing your time, energy, and workspace to ensure you can complete tasks promptly and efficiently. This involves prioritization, focus, and behavior control. For example, having a daily routine and breaking down large projects into smaller tasks can help you stay organized and meet deadlines. You should also set goals for yourself, use a planner to track your progress and reward yourself when you achieve your goals.  Improving your organizational skills will help you become a more productive and successful employee.

    10) Seek Professional Help

    When executive functioning impairments present challenges, seeking professional help can be an important part of the support. Professionals such as Education Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists can help you better understand and manage executive functioning impairments. They can provide specialized guidance on strategies for organization, time management, prioritization, focus, behavior control, and more. These professionals can also assess and monitor your progress over time to ensure you get the most out of any rehabilitation or management strategies. Seeking professional help can be a great way to ensure that you have a customized approach to managing your executive functioning impairments.

    Written by Dr. Christine Powell, Education Therapist, Clinician, and Founder of LearningByConnecting Education Therapy