Unlock Success: Executive Function Tips for Middle and High School Students for the New Academic Year

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executive function tips for middle and high school students

The new school year is a perfect opportunity for middle and high school students to strengthen their executive functions. Enhancing these critical skills can lead to academic success, improved social interactions, and personal growth. Here are executive function tips for middle and high school students:

Inhibitory Controls

  1. Practice Mindful Responses: Encourage students to pause and think before reacting. Simple mindfulness exercises can cultivate self-control.
  2. Set Clear Rules and Expectations: Establish clear guidelines for behavior and study routines to promote discipline and focus.

Working Memory

  1. Use Visual Aids: Incorporate visual cues, diagrams, and charts to reinforce memory and understanding.
  2. Break Tasks into Smaller Parts: Chunking information makes it more manageable to remember and process.

Cognitive Flexibility

  1. Encourage Open-mindedness: Foster a willingness to see different perspectives through debates, discussions, and explorative thinking exercises.
  2. Practice Problem-Solving: Regularly engage in problem-solving activities that require adaptive thinking and creativity.

Planning and Prioritizing

  1. Create a Study Schedule: Outline a daily and weekly study plan, highlighting important dates and assignments.
  2. Teach the Eisenhower Matrix: Help students categorize tasks based on urgency and importance, making prioritization easier.


  1. Utilize Organizational Tools: Binders, folders, and digital apps can help keep notes and assignments orderly.
  2. Establish Routine Check-ins: Regular reviews of backpacks, lockers, and digital files promote ongoing organizational habits.


  1. Encourage Reflection: Guide students in self-evaluation of their progress and behavior.
  2. Implement Monitoring Systems: Utilize trackers or journals to monitor academic performance and personal growth.

Goal Setting

  1. Set SMART Goals: Encourage Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals.
  2. Create Vision Boards: Visual representations of goals can inspire motivation and focus.

Goal-Directed Persistence

  1. Celebrate Small Achievements: Recognize progress to keep motivation high.
  2. Use Positive Reinforcement: Implement reward systems that align with consistent efforts towards long-term goals.

Task Initiation

  1. Create a Start Routine: Establish rituals that signal the beginning of study or project work.
  2. Utilize Timers: The Pomodoro Technique or similar time-management methods can aid in prompt task initiation.

Time Management

  1. Use Time Management Apps: Tools like Google Calendar can assist in tracking and planning.
  2. Teach the Time Blocking Method: Allocating specific time blocks for tasks helps in managing time effectively.


  1. Encourage Flexibility in Thinking: Practice adapting to new rules or routines through games and exercises.
  2. Promote Resilience: Teach coping strategies for unexpected changes or challenges.


Strengthening executive functions is vital for success in academics and life. These executive function tips for middle and high school students can help them embrace the new school year with confidence and skill. With intentional practice and support, students can unlock their potential and thrive.

Read more on each executive function here.

Casey Schmalacker

Casey Schmalacker, Vice President at New Frontiers, is a seasoned leader in marketing, sales, and business development. With a dual degree in Government and Law and Economics from Lafayette College, he has spent the past 10 years coaching students, adults, and organizations to improve executive functions, soft skills, and workplace performance. Casey’s approach is rooted in strategic development and a passion for personalized coaching, emphasizing a culture of continuous improvement.

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