3 Ways to Kickstart Your Executive Function Skills


We’ve all been there.  It’s a Monday morning and you’re feeling pretty good about the week. You are rested from theExecutive function skills can help organize a messy desk. weekend, the fridge is stocked, everyone has clean clothes for the week, kids’ lunches are packed, you are headed out the door on time, and hey - you even remembered your phone, keys, and wallet.  Smooth sailing.  Ah, glorious Monday! Fast forward to Wednesday.  You are 126 emails behind at work, out of bread at home, late to your meeting, and - whoops - you just got reminder call for the kids’ annual doctor appointment for tomorrow and wouldn’t you know it, you’re double booked. Meanwhile, you sit paralyzed at your desk - should I start the project due in a month? Should I answer emails? Should I go to the meeting even though I’m 30 minutes late at this point? Holy moly - is this what my kids go through with school? Feeling overwhelmed, you decide to take an early lunch and deal with it later.  

You need a change.  You’re exhausted and feeling like despite your best intentions, you always seem to be behind and floundering. Luckily, you’ve ended up here, transported electronically into the land of organization and efficiency. If your Executive Function Coach Fairy Godmother could wave her laser-tipped wand, she would instantly help you do 3 things to rev up your productivity...


3 Ways to Kickstart Your Executive Function Skills:

1) Use Google Calendar or iCal for Time Management.

As Executive Function coaches, we recommend a calendar app for clients even as young as 5th grade.  Both Google Calendar and iCal can be synced between phone, tablet and computer and include features such as text reminders for appointments, color coding of different types of events, task lists with due dates, and the ability to schedule recurring events. It’s the difference between “Oh crud, I forgot my dentist appointment!” and “I know exactly where I need to be and when I need to be there.” One more helpful tip, having a virtual calendar is great, but you have to get into the habit of actually using it! 

2) Commit to doing one thing differently.

With any change, start small - pick ONE thing (not 7) to focus on doing differently.  In the case of the frantic mom above, she might focus on setting aside 30 minutes on Sunday nights to map out her week, scheduling in times for appointments, meetings, work time, email time, etc.  Or, if she isn't using a calendar at all, she might commit to using Google Calendar or iCal to keep track of her meetings and appointments.  

3) Try 5-minute goals.

Sometimes big tasks are just too overwhelming. Sometimes (OK, most of the time) the to-do list is longer than what can possible be accomplished on a third snow day with the kids home from school. Get out of your inaction by selecting a task that should take no more than 5 minutes, set the timer, and spring into action! We have helped hundreds of students develop and strengthen their Executive Function skills. One effective way to complete larger, seemingly overwhelming projects (such as writing a term paper) is to chunk them into very small, unintimidating parts. So, “Clean the basement” is on your list? Overwhelming! How about “Sweep the stairs” or “Sort sporting equipment into keep and donate piles”? Much more manageable.

Heck, why wait for a Fairy Godmother? Claim one of these strategies for your own and commit to using it daily. Then add another strategy once the first one has become routine. As Executive Function coaches we all manage a variety of roles and responsibilities, just like you do. And while we still have occasional moments when we are feeling overwhelmed, we know that using time and task management tools like Google Calendar, iCal, and 5 Minute Goals, and committing to doing one thing differently, helps us to establish new habits and keep a grip on our sanity (or Emotional Regulation, to be more precise) during hectic weeks.

Want to learn more about how to help your child improve his/her Executive Function skills? Click the link below.

Executive Function Skills Assessment to find out if Executive Function coaching is a good fit for a student.


photo credit: Nina Hale via Flickr

About the Author

Melissa Doody

Melissa Doody is the Chief Operations Officer for Beyond BookSmart. She first joined the company is 2008 and is based in our Boston branch. In her role as COO, Melissa is responsible for Human Resources, which includes the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding of new coaches and employees; implementing policies and procedures for employees; and developing models for coach support and supervision. In addition, Melissa leads operations within Beyond BookSmart, which includes coach to client match in Massachusetts, company-wide policy and procedure development, and work with our Financial Team. Finally, as COO, Melissa oversees most customer service and coaches a limited number of clients.

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