You wake up determined to be more productive than you were yesterday. After all, it’s Tuesday and you haven’t done much of anything—including the dishes! You find the quarantine both frightening and relaxing – treating the time at home more like a really long weekend than a time to advance your private practice. But today is different. Today you have come prepared. Coffee in one hand, schedule in the other, you are ready to get on mission. After about 45 minutes at the computer, your dog starts whining at the back door. You find yourself getting up to not only let the pup out to use the restroom but to get some much-needed Vitamin D while playing with your dog too. After an hour or so, you come in the house and decide you need to eat before working again. Your home with a full kitchen, so you choose to make eggs, bacon, and toast, yum! Maybe you even turn on the TV while it’s cooking to finish up another episode of Tiger King. Before you know it, Carole Baskin may have fed her husband to tigers and it’s 5 pm. You go to bed frustrated and overwhelmed at the thought of another month of quarantine.
Sound familiar? Being stuck inside without the usual pressures that accompany working in an office can quickly expose our weaknesses. Not everyone possesses the skill set needed to complete work at home with grit, organization, and integrity. Learn the following executive functioning skills to help your business survive the COVID-19 quarantine.
What are Executive Functioning Skills?
Let’s brush up on some Neuroscience for a moment. Executive skills aren’t the set of professional skills you need to become a 6-figure exec., though there is some overlap. Executive functioning skills refer to the brain-based skills that are required for us to execute, or perform, tasks. You may remember that executive skills deficits are often associated with ADD and ADHD diagnoses, however, most individuals have executive skill strengths and executive skill weaknesses. By enhancing your weaknesses, you can improve the way you perform tasks in different environments, allowing you to achieve your maximum potential while working from home.
Executive skills can be split into two categories—thinking skills and doing skills. If you can identify how each skill functions, you can create a goal to help yourself either think differently or behave differently to enhance your productivity while working from home.
Executive Thinking Skills:
- Working memory – the ability to hold information in memory while doing other things
- Planning/prioritizing – the ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal and to make decisions on what’s important and what’s not
- Organization – the ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or materials
- Time management – the capacity to estimate how much time you have, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines
- Metacognition – the ability to stand back and look at yourself in a situation to observe how your problem solve, to self-monitor and self-evaluate
Executive Doing Skills
- Response inhibition – the capacity to think before you act
- Emotional control – the ability to manage emotions to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior
- Sustained attention – the capacity to keep paying attention in spite of distractions, fatigue, or boredom
- Task initiation – the ability to begin projects without procrastinating
- Goal-directed persistence – the ability to have a goal and follow through on the goal without getting distracted
- Flexibility – the ability to change plans when faced with setbacks, obstacles, new information, or mistakes
Match the Skills with the Task
Now that you have an awareness of the different thinking and doing skills that make up your executive functioning skills set, you can figure out what executive skills a given task requires and ask yourself whether or not you possess these skills or need to teach yourself how to enhance these skills.
Let’s take writing a blog post for your website as an example. This is something that almost all private practice owners should be doing to provide website visitors with meaningful content and to enhance SEO. If you are someone who doesn’t exactly look forward to writing blog posts and has a difficult time motivating yourself to get started, take a look at the executive skills required to complete the task:
- Task initiation- the ability to begin writing a blog post without undue procrastination
- Sustained attention- once you begin writing, sticking it out until the task is completely finished
- Planning/ prioritization- having a plan for your post and knowing what’s important and what’s not important
- Organization- having some way of organizing information to make a coherent post
- Time management- having the capacity to accurately estimate how much time it would take you to write a blog post and to stay within a certain deadline of a time limit
- Goal-directed persistence- setting the goal of writing one blog post per week and following through on this goal without getting distracted by other things that you deem more important
Breaking down this task allows us to see that there are multiple executive skills required to successfully write a blog post for your website. If you struggle with this task, or any other task you are faced with while working from home, list out the executive skills required to complete the task and then identify where things breakdown for you. Is it time management? Task initiation? Sustained attention?
Come up with a Plan
Now that you can see where your executive skill weaknesses are, come up with a plan that looks like this:
Step 1. Identify the skill (s) you want to work on.
Step 2. Set a goal.
Step 3. Outline the steps you need to follow to reach the goal.
Step 4. Turn the steps into a list, a checklist, or a short set of rules to be followed.
Step 5. Practice following the “rules” until you feel you have mastered the skill.
It is tempting to take the time at home to relax, worry, or both. Instead of getting stuck in the what if’s of the pandemic, challenge yourself to focus on what you can control. Creating a plan to enhance your executive skills. You will reap the benefits long after the virus is over (while also getting a lot done while at home!)
Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2, NCC
Rose Skeeters is the CVO of Thrive: Mind/Body, LLC, an innovative mindset coaching & online counseling practice aimed at empowering motivated individuals to master every area of their life. She specializes in family & relationship counseling–helping couples, parents, & families get and stay on the same page. Rose also provides consulting and clinical supervision to like-minded and driven clinicians. Are you interested in learning more tips to grow your online practice or to level up? Contact her today at firstname.lastname@example.org.