• Abby Korinek

Executive Functioning 101: Planning and Organization Skills

So here we are, learning about executive functioning skills. In the previous article, we talked about metacognition - thinking about thinking. It’s much more than that, but this short definition is a good starting point. Metacognition is a powerful part of the learning process, but there are many other factors at work, too.

In terms of executive functioning, planning and organization also have a seat at the table of success, whether it’s success in the classroom, in the professional world, in relationships, etc.

I’m sure you know people at both ends of the spectrum. You know people who are great at planning and people who couldn’t plan their next visit to the bathroom. The same goes for organization. There is a full spectrum of folks out there, with varying ideas of what it means to be ‘organized.’ By the way - just because someone is very organized, it doesn't mean the rest of their executive functioning skills are above par.

So let’s break these two skills apart. Planning first, then organization. How does each one impact the learning process? How does each skill help us to be successful individuals?


Planning is the ability to think about the end and create goals to effectively get there. Planning is very useful prior to beginning a task, so you’re not wasting time. It can sometimes be a challenge for kids to plan effectively, because it does require some ability to estimate time. And if you’re a child who hasn’t ever done a task, then it might be tough for you to estimate how long that task will take to accomplish.

Problems with Planning

Signs of difficulties in the area of planning might include the following:

  • Neglecting to being home necessary supplies for homework

  • Having trouble writing a cohesive paper - it wanders all over the place

  • Impulsivity that doesn’t allow time for thinking ahead - just ‘jumping into’ things

There are many interventions and strategies that can be used to improve planning. All of the executive functioning skills are connected, so oftentimes when we improve one of the skills, we see improvement in another. Now, let’s talk about organization!


Without knowing anything about executive functioning, many teachers will cite a ‘lack of organization’ as a problem with a student. It’s a very easy place for us to hang our hats. Everyone knows what ‘unorganized’ people do. Most of us strive to be organized, and fortunately, it is a skill that can be taught. Organization is little more than a series of systems and procedures designed to help us ‘keep our poop in a group’.

Indicators of trouble in the area of organization include:

  • Losing things often

  • Being late for appointments or deadlines

  • Difficulty transporting important items from home to school or vice versa

Planning and organization go hand-in-hand. Some strategies for improving these areas include:

  • Using checklists and to-do lists

  • Creating and sticking to routines

  • Making physical changes in the home environment, including a study space

There’s so much more to talk about regarding planning and organization! If you’re interested in really digging deep into ALL of the executive functioning skills, check out my course for parents!

Now (summer) is the PERFECT time to take my course (Seven Skills for Student Success), because you will have the opportunity to make changes in your home before the madness of back-to-school. Wouldn’t it be great to feel like you’re ahead of the game?

P.S. My teacher course is nearly finished - look for it soon!

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