Executive Functions

Executive Function Mindmap


  • Task Monitoring - Tracking progress and determining effectiveness during a particular task.

  • Self Monitoring - Monitoring and evaluating performance during a task or activity. Having the ability to recognize a need for change in tactics or strategy.


  • Tracking grades to determine overall performance in a course.

  • Changing study strategies when one is proven ineffective.

  • Noting the time required to read a difficult text and adjusting the amount of time allotted for reading tasks.

  • Envisioning a result or consequence based on behavior or performance.


Emotional Regulation:

  • Identification - Identifying feelings or emotional reactions to particular situations. Recognizing the connection between people or events and emotional reactions in order to moderate the reaction.
  • Regulation - using skills or resources to regulate strong emotional reactions. Using concrete and rational thinking to process and cope with strong emotional reactions in a healthy and productive way.


  • Moderating feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, etc. to complete a necessary task.

  • Calming anxiety or stress before a test or presentation.

  • Using feelings to inform decisions and identify patterns of thinking or behavior and triggering events.

  • Recognizing the connection between emotional reactions and instigating events.

  • Being able to process emotional information accurately and use perspective taking skills to problem solve effectively.


  • Attention/Focus - Regulating alertness and focusing attention on a task or activity. Scaling up focus/alertness for important tasks or events. Intentional redirection or allocating of focus to a particular task.

  • Effort - Duration/sustaining effort or focus over necessary periods of time.


  • Identifying when it is time to begin a task or assignment.

  • Generating motivation in order to begin a task, particularly when it is an undesirable activity.

  • Redirecting attention and focus from one task to another, particularly from a desirable task to an undesirable task.

  • Ability to maintain attention and focus on an activity or assignment when necessary, like taking a test or writing a paper.

  • Adjusting alertness or focus when important content is being taught or an significant event is taking place.

 Working Memory:

  • Storing Information - Committing information to memory, when presented in multiple formats. Retrieving stored information from memory when needed.

  • Processing Information - Interpreting and understanding information when presented in multiple formats.


  • Remembering that dates or times of assignments or events have been changed or adjusted

  • Retaining information from a text/video/recording/etc. prior to class in order to participate in course activities

  • Accurate reading and listening comprehension skills.

  • Listening to lectures in class while taking notes.

  • Retrieving information from memory when taking a test or when prompted.

 Organization and Planning:

  • Goal Setting - Predicting and developing realistic goals. Establishing realistic and attainable steps towards a goal.

  • Organization - Implementing multi-step tasks, in the proper or particular order, to reach a goal. Outlining events or tasks based on priority. Organizing thoughts, ideas, and physical materials in a presentable way. Recognizing order, imposing order, or creating systems to manage information or objects.

  • Time Management - Allotting necessary time to a task in context. Tracking time accurately, and estimating the amount of time needed for a task.


  • Knowing how long it takes to read a challenging text or complete a difficult assignment.

  • Spending a reasonable amount of time on less important tasks while delegating more time to important tasks

  • Starting a paper or assignment with adequate time to complete the task.

  • Using a planning system to organize assignments and other obligations.

  • Implementing strategic organizational strategies to write papers, complete research, or finish complex assignments

  • Ability to study/work in reasonable chunks of time

  • Keeping up with physical or electronic notes, readings, and handouts

  • Organizing thoughts and ideas in writing coherently


  • Resisting Impulses - Identifying and monitoring impulsive behaviors or tendencies. Prioritizing effectively to overcome impulses based on rational thinking and reasoning.

  • Moderating Behaviors/Actions - Using skills or resources to moderate actions, feelings or behaviors effectively.


  • Stopping a desirable task, like watching a movie or spending time with friends, to work on a less desirable task, such as studying or homework.

  • Attending classes or other obligations unless there is an extenuating circumstance.

  • Disabling or ignoring distractions such as phones, electronics, or individuals.

  • Resist calling out in class, making comments, distracting sounds or movements, etc.

  • Using thoughtful and rational thinking processes to solve a challenging problem in various contexts or people.

 Cognitive Flexibility:

  • Shifting or Switching - Shifting easily between ideas, activities, or tasks. Revising goals and plans when necessary. Moving past certain situations or events in order to solve a particular problem or complete a necessary task effectively. Generating appropriate alternatives to goals or plans.


  • Thinking of the “big idea” for a paper while juggling the supporting details to communicate clearly and effectively.

  • Stopping a particular task or assignment and transitioning to another task or assignment

  • Identifying and adjusting a strategy or skill when it is not effective, without distress, resistance, or external prompting.

  • Switching group roles or methods when working with others to be a compatible part of a team or group.

  • Switching topics or ideas when the first is not effective, particularly for writing or research assignments.

  • Recognizing how smaller ideas or models fit within a larger theme and communicating the connection.

  • Making a new plan if something is canceled or moved, without distress, resistance or external prompting.

*Modified from BRIEF-A