The Brain's Executive Functions

Activation ⚡

  • Getting Started
  • Organizing
  • Prioritizing
  • Avoiding procrastination


  • Avoiding distractions
  • Sustaining focus
  • Shifting attention from one task to another, especially from something enjoyable to something less enjoyable

Effort 💪

  • Sustaining effort
  • Motivation
  • Persisting through challenges
  • Processing speed (time it takes to do a mental task)


  • Managing frustrations
  • Reducing the intensity or duration of emotions


  • Retrieving memories
  • Working short-term memory

Action 💥

  • Monitoring and managing actions or impulses
  • Self-control

Tips to Improve

  • Regular exercise or movement
  • Think about how your behavior impacts others
  • Think about the potential consequences of your actions
  • Set goals to improve behavior/self-control
  • Track good/poor behavior days on a calendar with a green mark for good daysred mark for difficult days
  • Talk to parents about earning reward/ incentive for good impulse control
  • Use daily Task/To-Do lists, or whiteboard
  • Use alarms or calendar notifications to do tasks
  • Use daily planner for tasks or assignments
  • Have a parent or teacher remind you about tasks
  • Post sticky notes or signs in key places as reminders
  • Follow the same morning/after-school/ evening routine each day
  • Use one folder for all completed assignments to turn in the next day
  • Practice calm down strategies
  • Daily moderate exercise
  • Take breaks when mood is escalating
  • Problem solve frustrating situations
  • Slow deep breaths
  • Get plenty of sleep, good diet/nutrition
  • Keep your mind on your goal
  • Write goal down and post on wall
  • Use home system of daily earning of privileges after completion of expectations (parents hold onto privileges until expectations are complete)
  • Think about the work ethic you see in people you admire
  • Complete one task on a list at a time, return to list after each task is complete
  • Find ways to reward yourself for completing tasks
  • Use small "tasks" as rewards (e.g., drink of water, get a snack, get up to stretch)
  • Put phone away, or check it in to parents
  • Create distraction-free environment
  • Work in a quiet area
  • Set timer for 15-20 minute work intervals
  • Take breaks
  • Listen to music if it helps with focus
  • Do homework outside of your room in an area where parents can monitor
  • Hurdle Help: Have a parent, teacher, or friend help you get started on tasks
  • No electronics/social time until after school/home tasks are complete
  • Set a deadline for tasks
  • Check in with parents for 10 minutes each day to ensure starting/ completion of school/home tasks before privileges