Executive functions are a set of skills that assist with daily tasks. These skills include organization, planning, time management, impulse control, and adaptive thinking. It is important to teach executive functions to students, as these skills help them build a strong foundation for success in school and beyond. Studies show that children who learn strategies for executive functioning tend to have improved working memory and display better self-control as they move into more structured learning environments.

Many variables can influence a student’s executive function skills. Students experiencing stress, trauma, or learning difficulties often struggle with executive functioning. However, a safe and stable learning environment with positive relationships and experiences can combat those challenges, facilitating the mastery of valuable executive function skills. 

Importance of Executive Functions

Developing executive function skills at an early age will help students succeed in the classroom. Executive functioning improves students’ ability to follow directions, avoid distractions, and manage tasks with deadlines. Plus, these skills assist with the development of traits to assist with problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership. 

Some of the major executive functions that students can benefit from are described below:

  • Organization: Students tend to struggle in class when they are unorganized. Encourage youth to make organization part of their daily routine.
  • Planning: Many students feel overwhelmed with assignments and deadlines. But planning and prioritizing can alleviate the stress.
  • Time management: Balancing the time between socializing and completing homework can be difficult for students. Setting alarms, building a schedule, and prioritizing tasks teach great time management skills. 
  • Impulse control: Youth often lack impulse control, which causes them to react in undesirable ways.  Encouraging them to think before they act, delay gratification, and practice resilience can teach them how to control their impulses.
  • Adaptive Thinking: Students often struggle with analysis and evaluation before making decisions. Motivate them to think adaptively through situations to help them make better decisions. 

Executive functions are important in a child’s development as they involve a range of mental processes. For instance, young children depend on their executive function skills to help them as they learn to read and write, participate in class discussions, and memorize instructions. By nurturing these skills from an early age, children can develop the foundation they need for future success and adaptability in various aspects of their lives. Ultimately, children who are actively furthering their executive functioning skills are much more likely to achieve success in the classroom. It is never too late for students to develop these skills, and the adults in their lives can guide them in doing so.


Executive Functions

Teaching Executive Functioning Skills

One simple but effective way to help youth improve their executive functioning skills is to work on their with self-awareness, emotional self-regulation, and goal-setting. Adults should encourage children to share their likes and dislikes, discuss their emotions and behaviors, and explore their strengths and weaknesses. By monitoring their feelings and impulses, students are better equipped to increase their executive functions in specific areas, like those listed below.


Strong organization skills help students with other concerns, such as planning and time management. It is beneficial to make organization a daily routine. For example, youth can make it a habit to have a clear to-do list at the beginning of each day and to clean their workspace at the end of each day. It is also advisable that they avoid multitasking and use structured note-taking strategies. Utilizing strategies like these aids students in managing feelings of overwhelm and preventing unproductive downtime.


Planning improves learning outcomes, reduces stress, and promotes success. Adults can help children create a daily schedule that works for them, determine short and long-term goals, and break down big projects into more manageable parts. Students can also improve their planning skills by utilizing a planner, setting deadlines, and developing a routine.  

Time Management

Time management is the process of dividing time between specific activities so productivity is maximized. Youth can improve their time management skills with strategies like conducting a time audit to assess how they are currently spending their time, creating a to-do list of all the things to accomplish as well as time estimates of how long each will take, and deliberately breaking bad habits like procrastination. 

Impulse Control

Adults can guide youth to manage their emotions and behaviors by asking them about their feelings, helping them proactively brainstorm stress management techniques for various situations, and praising them when they are able to control their impulses. It is also beneficial to introduce new strategies that have been proven to be effective, such as meditation, exercise, and getting enough sleep.

Adaptable Thinking

Strong adaptive thinking skills improve critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities. Children can learn how to be flexible in their thinking with problem-solving activities, mindfulness practices, and asking questions about observations. Outside resources, like Resilient Educator, MaryVille, and Splashlearn, also allow youth to practice adaptable thinking through engaging activities. 

Executive Functions

Executive Functions Beyond School

While executive functions are important for academics, they can also help in personal and professional arenas. For instance, strong executive function skills can improve memory, emotional self-regulation, and communication – which are all important tools for stable personal and professional relationships. 

Furthermore, people with strong executive functioning skills will be better equipped to manage multiple tasks, adjust to changing circumstances, and think creatively. These cognitive skills are beneficial in one’s career, as they are instrumental in the ability to follow in-depth instructions, meet multi-layered goals, and work well with others. Thus, executive functions are associated with better outcomes in career success and financial stability. 

Executive functioning also plays a vital role in making healthy choices. Students who maintain strong executive functions are better able to monitor their eating habits, create meal plans, and set healthy goals. Behaviors like these result in improved physical and mental health.


Executive Functions


Executive functions include organizing, planning, time management, impulse control, and adaptable thinking. These skills are crucial for success in school, work, and life. Some strategies to improve executive functions include teaching students how to manage their time, emotions, and cognitive decisions. 

Executive functioning skills not only enhance performance in school but also equips students with necessary life skills. Thus, students will be better able to maintain meaningful relationships, achieve success, and make healthier decisions. 

Developing executive functions is an excellent way for youth to achieve success. The Executive Function Coaches at WorldWise Tutoring help students of all ages and abilities with individualized lessons to meet their specific needs. Hire a tutor today!  

Written by Dylan Kirkpatrick