9 Important Tools And Resources For Improving Executive Functioning In Adults

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Be it planning for a party, or a family trip one needs to organize and put tasks in order and ensure these are accomplished. The ability to manage such divergent tasks all within a certain time span requires executive functioning skills. Comprehending the same, some may perceive to learn these in order to make a noteworthy improvement professionally and personal life too. Various tools and resources can be associated to ensure steady progress in learning such management expertise.  For that reason, we here read through eminent picks that you can employ today. 

Compromising executive function skills?- Here are the areas to be boosted!

By definition, Executive functioning is an attitude to manage tasks and resources through appropriate mental control and self-regulation. For this reason, understanding what precisely is it can significantly help in analyzing strengths and then putting them forward to sort out things. 

In the workplace or any other location, people often prefer to travel with those who have a noteworthy plan of action to address various challenges while they build up a goal. Individuals who can have gripping control over their tasks can ensure efficiency accordingly.  For this reason, they may need to master attributes like adaptive thinking, planning, self-control and monitoring, working memory, and also time management. All these attributes when acquired can make a person an executive. Consequently, these can be characterized as executive functional skills. 

Simona Prosen[1] studied attributes of executive function skills in a group of 369 students; the students who showed difficulties in executive function skills were outlined in areas like time management, sustained attention, task initiation, and organisation. This can lead to inferences that lack of time management can be a sign of compromising executive functional skills. Accordingly, here are a few questions to check if you need to focus on ameliorating executive functioning: 

  • Do you feel a Lack Of Time Management?

Proper planning and time management is the key to the better execution of a task, and thereby Simona outlines its significance. Individuals with abject executive function skills often feel it strenuous to allocate time to complete their essential tasks: such as planning for meetings and project deadlines. 

  • Do you have ample organisational skills?

 An individual having weak organizational skills may have poor listening skills. Their personal and workspace may be cluttered. They’ll usually misplace or lose their belongings. From the inference of research by Simona Prosen stated above, lack of organization can be a sign of straggling executive functioning. Evidently, lack of organization implies the absence of a plan of action, thereby often compromising time management. 

  • How good is your Working Memory?

  Working Memory includes information storage, remembering a list of tasks or things, and finding solutions to problems. For example, people with substandard working memory may find it taxing to manage their financial records, following the instructions. Sometimes, they may let slip essential items they are supposed to buy.

  • Is it taxing to multitask?

 Multitasking is an ability that helps people shift their attention and focus quickly from one task to another and do multiple tasks simultaneously. While Simona comments on the importance of task initiation traits in an individual for better EF skills, Tilo Strobach[2] studied the role of dual and multi-tasking to evaluate executive functions comprehending these to be a crucial attribute. Consequently, individuals who feel it arduous to multitask probably need to boost towards executional functioning.

Better executive functioning- Tools and resources to process!

Executive function skills for adults are a must part of everything they do. These skills will impact everything, such as paying attention to things, focusing, planning, and priorities. Here are some tools to Improve the executive function skills:

1. To-Do List 

To-Do List 

A to-do list is a piece of paper or a pocketbook where the list of all the tasks to be done that day are clearly mentioned. Separate to-do lists can be made for a day, a week, and a month. Further, the tasks can be prioritized by sequencing them appropriately. 

Handling multiple tasks can often create ambiguity. To ensure efficiency and clarity, a to-do list can assist in reducing the effort to manage. Making such lists at the start of a day and referring them regularly can make a person executional. These lists may motivate you to stay organized. A to-do list is a powerful tool to manage your stress, leading to better decision-making. Research by Victoria Bellotti[3] and the team made studies on the effect of such to-do lists for task management. The results showed that several factors made such task manager lists assisting. Further, it also outlined that people are good at prioritizing in this expedition. 

2. Scheduling Calendars

Scheduling Calendars

While the to-do lists are befitting to plan and organize daily tasks, better alternatives like Scheduling Calendar can be employed for planning months ahead. In general, the schedule calendar is a monthly organiser which consists of to-do tasks of each day of the month. Entries can be added or removed as per the user’s choice anytime. Usually, the daily to-do lists are prepared after referring to a scheduling calendar. 

The edge of employing scheduling calendars is that these keep up the discipline in the individuals. Further, these let the person structure their work and responsibilities to a manageable extent- saving on time and effort. 

Justin Cranshaw[4] outlined that the use of a calendar can help in scheduling a large number of meetings. This way, busy people spending reasonable time in meetings can manage effortlessly. His research shows how calendars can be a better organization of tasks. Stephen J. Payne[5] and team studied the role of calendars and how these facilitate better time management. The result primarily showed that paper calendars support prospective calendar keeping as a better option than electronic calendars. Accordingly, you may prefer paper calendars to schedule. 

3 .Task Cards 

Task Cards 

In some cases, the task to be addressed can be recalled using a schedule or a to-do list. Nonetheless, some crucial attributes may be unremembered, leading to complications. A Task Card is a small piece of paper of a card which consists of the topis of the task along with a few insights of how to do it. This way, a card can help the individual to recall and retain exactly how to complete the assignment. 

Making Task cards of various crucial tasks can improve efficiency by ensuring clarity. For instance, an adult had to prepare a report, a task card containing what attributes to be present can make the process easy. 

Peter Iserbyt[6] did research about the designing and implementation of task cards for students related to physical education. From the results, he outlined that students got a good idea about motor, cognitive and social goals in physical education through the implementation of card use. 

4. Scout Camps

Scout camps are short or long-term training programs that often focus on the discipline and endurance of an individual. These camps are often similar to that of defense training, but it ensures to be apt for civilians. With this personal development coaching, an individual can observe a remarkable effect on self-confidence, endurance, ethics, leadership skills, and citizenship. These attributes ameliorate executive functioning skills. 

 Amany Mohamed AL-Safty[7], studied the effect of national and international scout camps on some daily life skills of boys. The observations were made on participants in an age group of 12-15 years. The results remarked that scout camps showed improved communication, negotiation, decision making, and stress management. These factors ensure effective time management and multitasking. Consequently, we can infer how scout camps succeed. 

5. Temporary Schedule Boards

schedule cards

Schedule boards are digital, or a handmade panel that contains the schedule of the tasks that need to be addressed. Particulars like duration and break time may also be mentioned. 

This tool can be accommodable in a workplace environment where multiple employees need to cope with a timetable. Schedule boards ensure the peers trace the pattern depicted by the company. This way the hierarchical tasks can be accomplished on time. One can opt for manual abords by just procusing a whiteboard and marker to fabricate. Digital options like  Dynamics 365 can be used to create virtual schedule boards. 

South Carolina Hospitals[8] tried a digital schedule board that looked like an airport arrival departure board. This implementation showed about a 13% increase in staff productivity, 

6. Graphic Organisers

Graphic Organisers

Graphic organizers are visual presentations of tasks, facts, and terms to depict the actual scenario and relevance of each stake in the task. For instance, a concept map, knowledge map, concept diagrams are all Graphic organizers. 

With the primary focus of the resource is to show the value and priority of the work at any point of reference, these also show what points are to be considered at that moment of work. Say, a flow chart is prepared to describe the procedure of cooking a dish.  If at a point, the burner is to be turned down, then a special bubble may be created beside the step to highlight it. 

Tracey Hall[9], in his article, outlined that Graphic organisers are indeed handy; nevertheless, what’s equally pivotal is the precise point of implementation. This factor determines the degree of effectiveness of these tools. Efforts to improve learning outcomes may be more successful when graphic organizers are introduced after the learning material.

7. Executive Functioning apps 

Apps that delicately work to assist and improve executive functions in a person are available in app stores. These apps can have one or multiple functions depending on the choice one makes. Be it a to-do list, a scheduler, a schedule board, or a combination of these, there can be an app for everything. One needs to identify what areas need to be addressed and then choose the apt choice. Another edge is that most of the executive functioning apps are free to use. Some picks include: Google Calendar, The Nudge, Choiceworks, and You Note.

8. Books

Books

Adults who struggle when it comes to planning, staying organized, and regulating can indulge in books as these are tools that can help them enhance their executive functions. Books inculcate the skills to manage time, make decisions, and control emotions. Reading about cause and effect, planning can help individuals gain knowledge as to how to handle executive functional skills. Some great books that adults can indulge in are FLIPP the Switch, Smart but Scattered, and The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain’s Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and at Home.

9. Websites

Websites

Adults who lack the skills to organize, plan, remember and carry out tasks along with managing emotions can take help from certain websites that help individuals get on the right path with these skills. A few websites are curated in a way to practically and flexibly build executive functions in adults. These websites use multisensory tools that teach self-direction and follow-through. Individuals can set tailored targets and practice mindfulness and self-control with the help of these websites. Some of the websites that help in building and enhancing executive function are remindbraintraining.com, timetimer.com, lucidchart.com, and many more. 

Executive functioning- A few strategies that can assist

Here are a few additional strategies to make advancements in learning and Improving the executive function skills:

  • Keep It Simple and Disciplined: When learning the executive function skills, don’t rush and try to limit the number of activities you do. Too many things at a time may make you overwhelmed. Instead, try to focus on a few activities at a time, thereby ensuring a smooth transition of tasks and better efficiency. 
  • Practice Stress Management with meditation: Take a deep breath and relax; start doing meditation or yoga for some time. These stress management tools will help you improve your executive function skills. 
  • Keep it Facile, thereby Organised: If you lose or misplace your things easily and often, then try to be organised. For example, declutter your desk or wardrobe; keep it minimal if you can’t manage so many things. This way you’ll be able to keep everything tidy and organised.
  • Create a file folder to keep your important papers in it and make it a habit to organise it properly.
  • Start using colorful sticky notes and markers to highlight your important tasks on your desk to make your list more visible.
  • Think and try to visualise your day ahead and visualize if any challenge can come.

Conclusion

With multiple tools and resources available to ameliorate executive functions, the right choice is evidently in the hands of the user. Identifying what area needs to be addressed, appropriate picks may be opted to secure noteworthy results. The above-stated picks may be handy for all ages, especially adults who need to master exceptional expertise. Further, ensuring discipline and motivation to accomplish tasks on time may be needed along with these associates. 

References:

  1. Executive function in different groups of university students. (2014). Simona Prosen.
  2. Multitasking: Executive Functioning in Dual-Task and Task Switching Situations. (2018). Tilo Strobach.
  3. What a to-do: studies of task management towards the design of a personal task list manager. (2004). Victoria Bellotti.
  4. Calendar.help: Designing a Workflow-Based Scheduling Agent with Humans in the Loop. (2017). Justin Cranshaw
  5. Understanding Calendar Use. (2009). Stephen J. Payne.
  6. Iserbyt, P., & Byra, M. (2013). Design and use of task cards in the reciprocal style of teaching. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 84(2), 20-26.
  7. Mohamed Al-Safty, A. (2016). Effects of National and International Scout Camps on Some Daily Life Skills of Boy Scouts: Comparative Study. Journal of Applied Sports Science, 6(2), 50-58.
  8. Digital Schedule Boards Improve Outcomes at South Carolina Hospitals. (2013, June). Larry Beresford.
  9. A Report Prepared by Tracey Hall & Nicole Strangman for the National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum at CAST. (2008, July). Tracey Hall.

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