Executive Function, Goal Planning, and School Success
Goal planning is a great way to help set up your year for success.
This is also where executive function comes into play.
Executive function is all about planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to, and remembering details.
Setting and writing your goals down is the first step. When you set specific goals, it increases your motivation to take the steps to achieve them.
If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
This statement is credited to Benjamin Franklin. Think about that. If you fail to plan, many things don’t get done.
Sit down with your kids and make a plan. Start off by letting your child know that you do remember some wins and some struggles last year.
Remind them they are a bit older now and that their brain has had time to make more connections, so learning will be a bit easier this year.
A great way to start the school year off is to frame the year by setting some overarching goals. These initial goals will be the foundation for your kids’ school year and will have something that they can work towards.
Your kids can have school-directed goals and more personal goals but try to have at least one of each.
Big Brave Goal Planning
What is a big brave goal?
It is a goal that is bold and might put you out of your comfort zone. It is a goal that is attainable.
This could be something from giving a presentation on a topic your child may know something or nothing about to their classroom or other groups.
It might be for them to learn how to play a song with an instrument.
It might be to learn how to cook a favorite meal and to prepare dinner for family and friends.
The goal will depend on the child.
If they already excel at something they want to focus on even more this year, the audacious goal would be to push their talents even further than what they might think is currently attainable.
The goal might be an idea that has been burrowing in the back of their mind for some time. Help brainstorm ideas and even come up with an audacious goal of your own this year.
Shoot for the stars and land on the clouds.
It is often impossible for someone to accomplish a lifelong goal overnight or even sometimes in a year, but you can plan out certain steps or milestones that will make progress towards a larger goal.
Instead of your child writing down that they want to become an engineer by the end of the year, have them set their immediate goal to something more attainable.
Instead, they could set their goal to be to learn more about the construction of sustainable buildings, make a model, and make a presentation to family and friends on the topic.
Write Your Goals Down
When you write your goals down, they become real. This process helps you figure out what it is that you really want. Your goals can be completely different from someone else. This sort of planning helps start the wheels in your mind moving and to have something to work towards.
The research from Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University of California, shows that the actual process of writing goals down can help improve your chance of accomplishing your goals by 33%.
Write Down the Steps You Need to Do to Accomplish Your Goal
It is one thing to just put a big goal out there and then have no steps in mind about how you can actually make it happen.
For a goal of making a presentation on sustainable building designs, they could write down that they:
- will read books and articles on the topic
- watch YouTube tutorial videos from engineers
- research what buildings near where they live are sustainable
- try to contact engineers of different firms that construct the buildings to see if they could get a tour of their studio
- document their research along the way
Depending on grade level, this can be as simple or as complex as you want.
Download FREE Goal Planning Template
We put together a school year goal planning template to make the whole process of planning a little bit easier.
We start off with a big brave goal, move on to another goal that your child needs to accomplish (but might not be something that they are the most excited about), and we wrap up with one goal that they’d like to do if there is time to do it.
Download the goal planning template and share it with your friends.
SMART Goals for Kids
SMART is an acronym to help qualify your child’s goals. For each goal, ask, is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound?
- Simple, Significant, Sensible
- Meaningful, Motivating
- Attainable, Actionable
- Reasonable, Realistic, Results-based
- Time-based, Time-limited
How do executive function skills relate to goal setting and planning skills?
When you have great executive function skills, you are able to attain your goals much easier. Executive function is the ability to control your own behavior. Are you tempted to have a cookie, but you reach for an apple instead? Those are your executive function skills at work.
Executive function includes your ability to control your attention, to tune out irrelevant stimuli or information, and to think about multiple concepts. It is also your ability to manage your time effectively. These can be trained and learned skills.
Setting goals and priorities can dramatically help your kids develop their executive function skills.
Executive function skills are learned skills that develop quickly in childhood and teen years, but they keep developing into your mid-20s. By developing habits of note-taking, writing, and planning, you actively improve your executive function skills. By planning, estimating time, problem-solving, and reviewing, you improve your ability to plan and accomplish your task at hand the next time.
Accomplishing your goals does not innately get better with age. Sure, most adults are often better at their executive function skills, but not everyone grows up to be able to accomplish their goals and what they want in life. Sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed with everything else that is happening in the world and your life where your goals get put on the back burner.
More Goal Setting and Planning Worksheets
A consistent step in actualizing goals is to chart out a calendar with goal milestones. Take a look at Scholar Within’s Daily Planner To-do Notebook. It makes planning, scheduling, and prioritizing as easy as filling in the blanks. It was designed for students in mind, but adults love it too!
Who is Scholar Within?
Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.
Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.
Learn more about Scholar Within.