Executive Functions

Executive Functions… What are they and why are they so important?

Unfortunately, the older that you get the more day-to-day tasks we have to do. This is where executive functions come into the picture and where ADHD usually shows up (not in a good way). The good news is that we are all different and we can excel in one or two of these executive function categories!  The bad news is that we won’t do so well in the other categories…

I like to reference Dr. Thomas E Brown’s Model on Executive Functions.


According to Dr. Thomas E Brown, there are six categories:

  1. Activation
  2. Focus
  3. Effort
  4. Emotion
  5. Memory
  6. Action

So what do all of these categories represent? Lets dive into them all and see why they have such an impact on our daily lives:

  1. Activation: 
    • Estimating time
    • Prioritizing tasks
    • Getting started on work tasks

      This is where procrastination shows up! If we can’t prioritize our tasks, estimate how long the task will take and fit it into our day, it is extremely hard to get started!

  2.  Focus
    • Focusing
    • Sustaining Focus (hyperfocus can be a result of sustaining focus)
      • aka reading a textbook or article. Receiving instructions and understanding what is requested.
    • Shifting Focus (transitioning from task to task)
  3. Effort
    • Regulating alertness
    • Sustaining effort
    • Processing speed
    • Difficulty completing tasks on time
    • Trouble regulating sleep and alertness
      • Issues with falling asleep
      • Issues with waking up in the morning
  4. Emotion
    • Managing frustration
    • Difficulty with getting the emotion into perspective, put it in the back of their mind & continue with what they what to get done.
    • Emotions that often cause difficulty:
      • Frustration
      • Anger
      • Worry
      • Disappointment
      • Desire
  5. Memory
    • Utilizing working memory and accessing recall.
      • Retrieving information when you need it.
  6. Action
    • Impulsive
    • Jump to inaccurate conclusions
    • Monitoring/regulating self-action.
      (This is why I put such a strong emphasis on self-awareness. When you know what you want/need/desire, you will have a direction that you are heading in.)

Now, take all of these six categories and scramble them all together! Here is where the complications lie. It is extremely hard to complete day-to-day tasks with all these executive functions causing trouble for us! Have no fear, Coach Alyssa is here! Cross off that first category of executive functions and ACTIVATE today!

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