Last month we focused on being able to identify executive functioning (EF) skill deficits and some tips to overcome them (which you can!). I thought it would be apropos to now focus on how these EF skills can be implemented to improve both remote learning for kids/teens and working from home (WFH) for adults. Let's start the new year off with learning new habits for success!
What Are EF Skills?
Just as a quick review, the 3 main categories of EF skills (which can be a struggle for kids, teens, and adults) are:
- ) Working memory – The ability to retain information and utilize it and different times.
- ) Inhibitory Control - The ability to control impulses, regulate emotions, manage outside distractions, and resists temptations.
- ) Cognitive Flexibility – The ability to go with the flow of changing situations, rules, and demands.
EF Tips For Remote Learning
Let's start with school aged kids, and specific tools they can use to make remote learning more manageable. For many students with learning disabilities and/or mental health struggles and mood disorders, EF skills can be extremely challenging. A school curriculum becomes virtually (no pun intended lol) irrelevant if the student can not stay on task, is easily distracted, and gets frustrated by these things. Helpful tools include:
- ) Organize each day with consistent structure. You can do this by simply setting up a white board calendar where the student can write specific times for each class or assignment plus a lunch/recess time built in.
- ) Create an organized work space that feels manageable. Set up a labeled storage bin for school supplies, another for each subject (depending on your child's age), and another for homework. If you can also set up a desk in this space and put a white board nearby, this dedicated space will help the student get less distracted by outside sources.
- ) Allow for time between tasks, aka “brain breaks.” This allows the student to process starting>working>completing a task before moving onto a new one. It's a good idea to include some sort of movement, even if just for a couple of minutes, during the brain break to reset, such as 3 sets of 20 jumping jacks or some stretching.
- ) Ask teachers to try and hold your student accountable, which may be more successful than you trying to hold your own child accountable. For example, maybe the teacher can do a morning and after lunch check-in each day to make sure your student's work space stays tidy and organized or to go over the student's planned assignments for that day.
- ) Consider hiring an EF coach for your student to learn EF skills and gain self-confidence.
EF Skills for WFH
EF skills adults can implement for WFH efficiency differ slightly from the student recommendations, but they are strategies that mirror the tips for students. They just relate better to work than school.
- ) Create a “work” mindset so that you can feel just as productive at home as you would in an office. This includes getting dressed in work clothes, setting a morning alarm the same time you would as if commuting to the office, and following the same eating schedule you would at an office. All of this will help create structure to your work day.
- ) Identify your distractions. Are you going into the kitchen too often to snack, are you clicking over to online shopping sites too often, do you find yourself giving into temptation to turning on the TV too often? Write these distractions out so you are more aware of them getting in your way. Then set an alarm so that you work straight for 50 minutes, and then set another alarm for 10 minutes where you allow yourself a short break to indulge in these distractions. Keep repeating this process every hour, and you will have plenty of productive time.
- ) Create consistent structure to your work day by planning it out the night before. The last task of your work day should be planning the following work day (and write it down), including the tasks/goals you intend to finish, a lunch and/or exercise break, phone calls, and anything else you need to prioritize.
- ) Consider hiring an EF coach, especially one that has some experience in business and/or work, to help you stay focused and accountable.
Getting The Help You Need To Succeed
Here at Tri-Wellness we want to help you conquer EF struggles by teaching skills that will be customized to your situation and last a lifetime. EF skills are a critical part of managing daily and long-term goals, and they are necessary at all ages. We work with middle school, high school, and college students as well as adults. Give yourself or your child the gift that will make your feel more self-confident and more productive.