To be successful we need to be able to develop and utilizes adequate mental skills and habits. Some of these skills might be identified as Executive Functions. A simple way to think about "Executive Function", might be too use the analogy of a successful business executive. The executive needs to establish clear goals and establish priorities regarding these goals. Each day he (or she) needs to decide what needs to be done and how he will allot his time for the purpose of achieving his stated goals. He also needs to focus his attention in a manner so that he can flexibly shift his attention to each task in a productive manner. His day likely has many interruptions and he needs to shift flexibly from one activity to another as he deals with the many distractions and interpersonal challenges which are presented to him. Each interruption not only interferes with his focus regarding a particular task but also may include interactions with other individuals either by phone or in person that may be emotionally challenging. These emotional experiences need to be modulated and dealt with by the executive so that they interfere minimally with the goals he established related to the success of his business.
The executive needs to retrieve information within his own mind as well as utilizing resources and information which is stored physically in his office or on his personal computer. He needs to access this information in a timely manner with minimal stress.
Individuals who struggle daily with issues related to these Executive Functions are likely dealing with neurological issues which impact their daily lives and make it more difficult to get things done. Stress itself can effect our ability to problem solve effectively. For individuals with neurological challenges such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or other disabilities stress intensifies their ability to focus, strategize, organize, remember, manage time, and regulate their emotions.
The list below identifies some important skills and functions which are necessary to solve problems effectively and to achieve success while being more relaxed and with less effort.
- Establishing Realistic Goals and Prioritizing
- Flexible Thinking and Shifting Activities When Necessary
- Managing and Assessing Time
- Working Memory (Accessing and Using Mental information )
- Planning and Organizing
- Impulse Control and Emotional Self Regulation
- Analyzing and Self Monitoring
It is important to remember that through practice and developing coping strategies when can improve our ability to utilize these important functions and skills. Medication can be helpful however, it is important to working toward developing habits that will ultimately change our lives. Just learning to put things back where they belong could be amazingly helpful for many people.