Executive Functioning Skills (and Why Every Student Needs Them)

Many parents would agree that, more than ever before, children today have to contend with mounting stress and responsibilities. Starting at kindergarten and through college, every student’s plate is full, whether it’s soccer practice, the upcoming science fair, studying for final exams, or composing a brilliant college admissions essay. Add TikTok and video games into the mix and watch the day fly by before they can touch their to-do list. A common complaint among parents is there are too many distractions at hand. How can you get your child to focus and get on a schedule?

First and foremost, it’s necessary to work closely with your child to develop their executive functioning skills. Executive functioning facilitates essential cognitive actions, from maintaining relationships to implementing a healthy work-life balance. When students suffer academically, a parent’s immediate reaction is to get more support in those subjects. However, a child who hasn’t cultivated their executive functioning skills will continue to struggle regardless of the knowledge area. Executive functioning is the scaffolding upon which students build all future success.

What Is Executive Functioning?

According to Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews, “Executive functions is an umbrella term for higher cognitive control functions such as working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility.” Executive functioning refers to the planning and schedule coordination skills necessary to tackle and complete tasks effectively.

The three main executive functions include:

  • Working memory: The ability to retain, recall, and apply information on a short-term basis.
  • Mental flexibility: The ability to shift attention or expectations based on circumstances.
  • Self-control: The ability to prioritize and fight off distractions.

Why Do Students Need Executive Functioning Skills?

A pianist must know the C-sharp minor scale to play the Moonlight Sonata. A poet must access a deep well of words to paint a vivid picture. Everyone must exercise executive functioning skills to succeed. Executive functioning isn’t an educational additive but a critical mental skill necessary for learning.

Contrary to popular belief, children don’t automatically absorb executive functioning skills over time. Some children may display organizational abilities from a young age, while others may not. Fortunately, students can be taught concrete executive functioning skills. Through practice, repetition, and guidance, students can learn how to manage their time and organize their thoughts. What may seem like a lack of initiative may be a lack of organizational know-how. Executive functioning skills are the wheels that set every task into motion.

What Are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive functioning skills are cognitive actions that modulate behavior, set plans into motion, and enable decision-making. These mental practices facilitate vital skills –– like time management and prioritization skills –– that are necessary to execute goals efficiently:

  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Task initiation
  • Working memory
  • Self-control
  • Attention
  • Perseverance
  • Flexibility

Executive Functioning Disorder

Executive functioning challenges may be indicative of deeper underlying health concerns. Struggling to regulate emotions or practice self-restraint, as well as the inability to clearly communicate feelings, are a few possible signs of underlying conditions. Mental health issues such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can make people less prone to developing executive functioning abilities. Neurological disorders can also impact cognitive domains and create regulation deficiencies.

Executive functioning disorder symptoms include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty processing new information
  • Making careless and avoidable mistakes
  • Difficulty starting and completing tasks
  • Inability to multitask
  • Difficulty prioritizing
  • Time management challenges

Emotional regulatory challenges can also indicate executive functioning disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These include but are not limited to:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive talking
  • Trouble controlling impulses
  • Trouble controlling emotions
  • Socially inappropriate behavior
  • Inability to learn from consequences
  • Interrupting conversations mid-sentence

How a Revolution Prep Executive Functioning Coach Can Help

At Revolution Prep, we believe that incorporating executive functioning in our tutoring is the cornerstone to success in any class or extracurricular activity. Entering the new world of elementary school can intimidate young children. Changing courses in a new environment can daunt any middle schooler. Standardized testing, advanced placement classes, and college applications amp up the stakes for even the most diligent high school student.

Our passionate Revolution Prep executive functioning tutors provide tangible tools to set things in order, such as executive functioning tips and exercises. Our tutors will empower every student with thought clarity and order. They’ll hone practices like organizing class assignments into different folders and tracking edits on application essays.

We build our approach on the three fundamental executive functioning strategies that help students balance multiple takes while staying ahead of deadlines. These strategies include:


Prioritization is a person’s ability to determine the urgency and importance of their various tasks. Students can often encounter “analysis paralysis” when they feel like they have too many school assignments and other pressing tasks to complete. When children don’t develop the skills to prioritize tasks and complete the most important ones first, they can develop procrastination habits and subsequent panic.

At Revolution Prep, we develop our students’ prioritization skills by encouraging them to maintain a daily to-do list and rank the tasks in order of importance and urgency. Learning prioritization skills empowers students to have better school-life balances and develop reflection skills to reevaluate priorities over time.


Have you ever noticed your child rummaging through a jumble of papers in their backpack, even though you bought them a folder for each class? Developing organizational skills will hone any child’s ability to stay on top of their workload while reducing stress.

Exercises as straightforward as cleaning and organizing their backpack once a week and maintaining a checklist of essential items to bring to school will give your children the skills they need to flourish in any subject. Revolution Prep teaches organizational skills as part of our executive functioning tutoring to instill organizational routines in students and prepare them for college.

Time Management Skills

At Revolution Prep, our approach to teaching time management skills is simple: Multitasking is a myth! Time management skills are a person’s ability to complete tasks promptly while remaining focused.

To develop time management skills in our students, we emphasize the importance of scheduling focus time and downtime to separate the two as much as possible. We leverage apps and other tools to help children learn how to focus through the completion of a task. Students who multitask while doing homework have to study longer, and we aim to help your child prepare for any course in as little time as possible.

Apps for Executive Functioning

  1. 30/30 is great for breaking projects into smaller, manageable pieces. Users can turn projects or assignments into a series of 30 tasks, tracking how long they spend on each one and prioritizing appropriately.
  2. InClass is a time management app designed specifically for high school and college students, allowing users to manage their class schedules, due dates, homework, etc. Plus, you can attach files, notes, and recorded content to reminders and calendar items.
  3. Quizlet is fantastic for studying on the go. Students can create flashcards on their phones and test their knowledge with mini-games and quizzes.
  4. Lumosity is a great way to keep your mind nimble. This research-based app trains your working memory and mental flexibility.

At Revolution Prep, we believe in empowering students to harness their full learning potential. We take the guesswork out of balancing a full academic schedule so your child can handle their responsibilities with assurance. For more information, download our executive functioning guide. Consider a private executive functioning tutor for tangible tools and tips.