In which we fulfill our promise to tell you how to use your Executive Functioning Skills to make your life better and, in the process, help strengthen them.
Okay, if you’ll remember from Part One (and if you didn’t we’re going to remind you, because we used our EFS by writing them down), EFS include...
- planning and prioritizing,
- time management,
- working memory,
- response inhibition,
- self-regulation of affect,
- task Initiation,
- goal-directed persistence,
- sustained attention,
- disengaging attention, and
- regulation of processing speed.
That’s a lot of stuff, isn’t it? Almost overwhelming: What are we to do with all of it?
But there are a few inter-related themes, and they involve planning, time, organization, and memory, all four of which can be addressed using simple tools and methods that are readily available.
Let’s start with planning and time, and discuss how you can better organize your time and remember what to do and when to do it.
One easy solution is to create checklists/to-do lists that indicate “to be started by” and “to be completed” by dates and/or times. Another is to use calendars and scheduling boards as visual reminders of stuff to be done. Yet another is to establish routines so that getting tasks done in needed order becomes habitual. Another is to bust large assignments into more manageable chunks. And another is to write due dates at the top of assignments and highlight them.
And how have we gotten this far without mentioning your smart phones and their built-in or easily attainable apps that include calendars, task lists, links to google calendar, notepads, and built-in voice recorders.
Each of those things emulate and augment your developing EFS and can make you a better performer at school and in your everyday life.
Now let’s turn to organization and how you can better plan and remember what you need to do so that you can better budget your time.
We’re going to start “high-tech” this time with a list (courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Education) of seven great organization websites, followed by others that are well worth exploring:
Free Graphic Organizers
Written Expression Organization
Other organization e-tools that are available on the iPhone/iPad and some Android devices include:
- Awesome Note – Combines notes with to-dos that are transferred to email, Google Docs and Evernote.
- Dropbox – Files to view, download for offline viewing, capture and sync photos and videos, and share links.
- Google Drive – Much like Dropbox
- Evernote - Create text, photo, and audio notes that synchronize to your computer.
- myHomework – Keep track of homework, classes, tests, and projects with number reminders on the app icon.
And now the simple stuff: Minimize clutter; put stuff away in its designated places when you’re done using it so you can easily find it later and will be less likely to lose things in the debris all of us are capable of leaving when we’re busy; clearly label materials; use color coding; use a different color 3-ring binder for each subject.
Last, let’s discuss things that can augment your memory so that you can recall what you need to recall when it’s time to do that in your organizational plan.
Let’s start with the fact that lots of what we’ve already covered will help you remember critical information, because it’s organized (easy to find) and the timeline you’ve planned for its usage is clear.
You can also use a digital recorder to record lecture material, along with your own “recap” of notes, to which you can add stuff that will help you remember the lecture material, and which you can listen to repeatedly. Another tool is the Livescribe pen, which records audio and notes synchronously. And here are a few flashcard sites that you can use to drill info deeply into your brain:
Planning, time, organization, and memory are the four domains of EFS that you can work to augment and improve now, and you’ll be a better – and happier – student and person when you do.
So, what’s your plan to start the process, and when are your deadline dates for starting and completing each of them to improve your life?
If you don’t know those answers now, you can always use the EFS tools discussed above to begin – and complete – the process.