Executive functions are higher level mental skills that allow us to manage and complete tasks in every aspect of our lives. Seven skills that assist us in sequencing, organizing, and completing a task from start to finish.
The first executive function is working memory. This is the ability to remember key information from a task for a short period time while we are using it. Examples of working memory may be reading how long an item needs to go in the microwave, remembering that information while preparing the food and taking it over to the microwave to input the time.
The second executive function is self-monitoring, which is self-awareness of how you are doing in the moment.
The next executive functioning is task initiation. Once a task has been identified, task initiation means taking action to begin it.
Organization is the next executive function, occurring both physically and mentally. Mental organization is identifying the sequence of steps that need to be completed for a given task and physical organization is placing and tracking items that will be used for task completion.
Executive functioning also includes both impulse control and emotional control. Impulse control is managing our thoughts and considering our actions prior to making them. Emotional control is recognizing our thoughts and feelings and managing them appropriately.
This goes along with our final executive function, flexible thinking, which is adapting and adjusting behavior to unexpected changes. These 7 executive functions play a key role in our ability to carry out all activities across our life span.
Diamond, A. (2013). Executive Functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–168. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750