What is Executive Functioning?

Executive Functioning is a set of skills that helps us “meet challenges and accomplish goals” according to Dawson and Guare.

I tell my clients it is the part of them that helps them know what they need to do, figure out how to do it and then do it. I’ve heard other professionals refer to the set of skills as those we often think an “Executive” needs to perform his job. I believe it is more of what the executive’s administrative assistant does so the executive can do their job. These include: Planning, organization, time management, working memory, and metacognition (the ability to step back, observe and assess yourself.) These skills help us plan, make goals and problem solve to get there.

Executive skills also include: response inhibition (or impulse control), emotional control, focused sustained attention, task initiation, flexibility and persistence. This group of skills helps you to keep the target in sight as you do the work and make the steps to achieve it. Within each of these skills listed are other sets of skills associated with each item.

The bottom line is whatever you do, you have to have Executive Functioning skills to actually do it. Everything we do in our days requires higher cognitive functioning whether we are aware of it or not.