What is Executive Function?

Defined by Dr. Barkley: “Executive Function is the cognitive process that organizes thoughts and activities, prioritizes tasks, manages time efficiently, and makes decisions. Executive function skills are the skills that help us establish structures and strategies for managing projects and determine the actions required to move each project forward. Individuals with executive dysfunction often struggle to analyze, plan, organize, schedule, and complete tasks at all — or on deadline. They misplace materials, prioritize the wrong things, and get overwhelmed by big projects.”

In other words, our executive function skill is what we utilize to get stuff done. Those with strong Executive Function skills can look at a To-Do list, determine which items are priority, judge the time needed and complete the list with efficiency. For those with weaker Executive Function skills, just writing a list can seem monumental. People with weak executive function skill have trouble controlling emotions or impulses, have trouble listening, have trouble organizing and planning, and may display socially inappropriate behavior.