What is Executive Functioning?

Essentially, our executive function is a set of cognitive skills that help us manage our self and resources to achieve a goal or accomplish a task. They don’t all develop at once, but rather in a sequence, one skill building atop the next. All executive functions interact with each other, and impact how individuals regulate their behavior to create positive future outcomes. The executive functions start to develop around the age of two, and fully develop by age 30. People with ADHD often are 30 to 40 percent behind in development, which makes them more likely to act motivated by short-term rather than longer-term goals.

Executives functions allow us to plan, organize, make decisions, pay attention and regulate behavior. When different parts or skills of our executive function are missing or not working optimally, or working randomly, it creates chaos, inconsistency and confusion. For those of us with ADHD, it can show up as lack of time awareness, impulsivity, hyperactivity, difficulty organizing, distractibility, procrastination, overwhelm, and forgetfulness.

 “The Executive Functions are specific types of self-regulation or self- directed actions that people use to manage themselves effectively in order to sustain their actions and problem-solving towards goals and the future.”

-Dr. Russel Barkley

The 8 Executive Functions

Most people diagnosed with ADHD report significant difficulties in at least one or more aspects of these 8 areas, impulsive control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritization, task initiation or organization.

Executive functions are skills that everyone uses to organize and act on information. If you have executive functions challenges you may struggle with some of these areas:

  • Impulse Control this helps you think before you act. If you have weak impulse control, you might blurt out answers and engage in risky behavior.
  • Emotional Control enables you to keep feelings in check. If you have weak emotional control, it may seem to others like you overreact, have trouble with criticism, and moving on when something goes wrong.
  • Flexible Thinking allows you to adjust to the unexpected. If you have rigid thinking, it can be hard to go with the flow. It is easy to get frustrated if asked to change or think of something differently. 
  • Working Memory helps you keep essential information in mind. If you have a weak working memory, you might have trouble remembering directions, or a short list of items, even if you have taken notes and repeated them several times.
  • Self-Monitoring allows you to know how well you are doing. If you have weak self-monitoring skills, you may be surprised to learn how poorly or well you are doing.
  • Planning and Prioritization helps you set a goal and make a plan to meet it. With weak planning and prioritizing skills, you may not know which part of a project is most important. 
  • Task Initiation helps you take action and get started. With weak initiation skills, you may freeze up and have no idea where to begin a task.
  • Organization– lets you keep track of things physically and mentally. If you have weak organization skills, you can lose your train of thought and other important physical items.

Executive function is an umbrella term for the different but overlapping cognitive set of skills in the brain’s frontal lobe that have to do with managing oneself and the processes needed to achieve a goal.

-Laurie Dupar

ADHD Life Coaching & Executive Functioning

ADHD Life Coaching is unlike any other profession. We believe that the client and coach are equal partners. Coaches partner with clients with the underlying belief that each person is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. We believe that people can solve their own problems. Coaches never take freedom of choice away by telling a client what to do, because free will is a gift from God.

An ADHD Life Coach provides the safe, non-judgmental space for our clients to unlock their often-buried talents and realize their full potential. As we trust and tap into the clients own knowledge it helps the client develop systems, procedures, habits, and processes that minimize the executive function challenges while maximizing their strengths and talents, such as creativity and thinking outside the box.

ADHD Life Coaches work with clients to increase their self-awareness, barriers, goals, talents, strengths, and values. Often these areas will include issues or symptoms related to their ADHD or other areas of their life. By increasing their awareness it allows clients to move forward in their lives with clairtly, get closer to their goals, and gain a deeper understanding of themselves. This structure and process allows for brainstorming, developing and executing customized strategies, systems, and will support in managing the executive dysfunction of those with ADHD.

There are commonly biological ways we need to take care of ourselves. An ADHD Life Coach can work with you to create bedtime routines, exercise schedules, diet, vitamins  and education about medication.