Executive Function

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Good executive function helps many aspects of life. A person’s ability to be organised; to put off a reward until work is done; to consider several options before picking the best one; or to respond thoughtfully rather than impulsively all relate to a person’s general success in life.

In fact, researchers have found that executive function is a better predictor than intelligence or socioeconomic status in terms of lifetime achievement, health, wealth and quality of life.

Core Executive Functions

Professor Adele Diamond is recognised as a world leader in the field of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience as evidenced by impact, awards, success in research funding, leadership roles, and abundant invitations to speak across disciplines, professions, and nations.

Professor Diamond’s specialty is executive functions so let’s hand over to the expert to describe the main skills that are involved.

The three core executive functions are as follows:

Core Executive Functions

Developing our executive function skills sounds like something that we should all want to do. However, some people feel that executive functions could limit creativity and innovation. Think of the artist who took a chance that society thought was crazy, or the explorer who went off the map, or the inventor that tackled the impossible.
inner voice
Knowing when to use your executive function skills and when to act more impulsively is probably the key to success and happiness. Knowing when to listen to your instincts and when to keep them in check is a skill all of its own.

How does executive function work in the brain?

Adele Diamond

The most effective approach for improving executive functions seems to be mindfulness practices that involve movement.

Dr Adele Diamond


Professor of Neuroscience

What can I do to improve my executive function?

In addition to using BrainHQ,there are lots of other ways to develop your executive function skills. It is no surprise that Professor Diamond has found that mindful movement activities improve executive functions since we already know the brain benefits of physical activity and reducing stress levels in the body.

Other strategies to improve executive function include the following:

People with strong executive function skills can automatically break a complex task down into smaller activities, enabling them to get started and make rapid progress.

However, some people benefit from spending more time on the planning stage of a task by writing these individual components down into smaller parts so that it is less daunting and overwhelming. With time, the amount of planning time needed will reduce.

Time management is another skill that comes much more easily to some than others. If you find yourself running out of time with tasks or you are always late for events you might benefit from using some time management strategies.

Allocating a set time limit to tasks will help to ensure that time does not run away from you. Using timers or online calendars to help stick to these time limits will  help. Also, write down how long tasks may take before you get started with them will help to ensure that you actually have enough time to get them all done!

If you have a tendency to forget things, or your plans often leave important things out, then you might benefit from keeping lists.

There are lots of apps that make this easier and having easy access to a phone means that this could become an easy habit to adopt.


Impulse and emotional control are important executive function skills to master. Many people realise when they over react to something or respond to a situation emotionally rather than rationally. A common reflection is “I wish I could think before I speak.”

This is actually something that we can all do if we know how. Counting to ten before you speak works because it allows time for your instinctive response from your amygdala to pass so that you can respond more rationally using your pre frontal cortex, reframing your initial thoughts and emotions.

You can even work on your executive function by speaking and listening to those with diverse opinions and/or those that are different from your own.

As well as developing the ability to manage your emotional response, communicating effectively with people who see things differently to you is a higher order cognitive skill that will only be improved with practise.

The arts (music and dance) and physical activities directly challenge our executive functions (EFs) whilst also addressing our social, emotional, and physical needs.

Find a hobby that contains these EF focussed elements and wait to observe those health, educational and workplace benefits. Your brain will thank you for it!


Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.

Albert Einstein


Theoretical Physicist