Executive functions are a set of skills that allow us to successfully navigate the tasks and challenges of everyday life. They are the skills that we use to help us plan, organize, and follow through with the execution of our plan.

It might be helpful to think about executive functions as the executive assistant of your brain. The list of skills below (left column) is from a sample executive assistant job description from betterteam.com.  Let’s take a look at how these skills relate to executive functioning in the brain (right column):

Executive Assistant Roles and ResponsibilitiesExecutive Functions in the Brain
Answering phones and routing important calls to the executive.Filtering which stimuli and messages get through and which messages are saved for later or ignored.
Filing and retrieving corporate records, documents, and reports.Storing relevant information in an accessible location where it can be found later and retrieved.
Accurately reporting the minutes from meetings.Identifying the most important and relevant information from an interaction and documenting it for future reference.
Using various software to accomplish necessary job responsibilities.Deciding which tools or resources are necessary to accomplish a task.
Helping prepare for meetings.Thinking ahead to determine what materials will be necessary to successfully accomplish a task.
Greeting visitors and determining who gets in to see the executive.Managing emotions to ensure successful interactions with others and filtering stimuli.
Making travel arrangements.Planning steps required to get from point A to point B.
Ordering and inventory of suppliesKnowing the tools and resources on hand, what is missing, and taking steps to get the needed materials.
Scheduling meetings and appointments.Organizing and managing time.
Ability to organize a daily workload by priorities.Identifying the importance of tasks and basing the order of completion on the importance of the tasks.
Must be able to meet deadlines in a fast-paced, quickly changing environment.Being able to maintain focus to complete tasks and shift focus when necessary.
Proactive approach to problem-solving and strong decisions making skills.Thinking through the pros and cons of options and making informed decisions based on the available information.
Excellent verbal and written communication skills.Ability to regulate emotions when interacting with others and the attention to detail needed to notice errors in written communication.
Conducting research and analyzing data and reporting findings in a clear mannerTaking steps to seek out new information, determining what information is necessary, and organizing or clearly communicating that information.

For the main article Executive Functions, CLICK HERE

For the article Examples of Executive Functions, CLICK HERE

For the article Promoting the Development of Executive Functions, CLICK HERE

For the article Executive Functions and Adults, CLICK HERE