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What is executive functioning?


Executive functions are skills that are used for:

• planning and doing tasks
• organising
• regulating behaviour
• working memory
• impulse control
• attention

There are two main areas of executive functioning skills. First there are skills that help us choose goals and achieve them. These include:

  • Planning: This includes deciding on what’s important (and not important) and then making a plan to get a task done
  • Organisation: This is about staying on task
  • Time management: Understanding about how important time is and how to get jobs done in time
  • Working memory: This is being able to remember information while working on other tasks
  • Thinking about our own thinking: This includes checking on how things are going for ourselves


The second main area is skills that guide behaviour. These include:

  • Response inhibition: This is about stopping ourselves so that we can think through what we should do next
  • Emotional control: This is managing emotions so that we can finish a task
  • Attention: Being able to pay attention to a task we need to do, even if we’re bored or tired
  • Task initiation: Starting a job when needed
  • Flexibility: Being able to change plans
  • Persistence: Being about to keep going to finish a job

Download our information sheet on Executive Functioning to learn more.