Executive functions and Peter Drucker’s “How do you perform?”

Peter Drucker has this brilliant idea that we should figure out when we perform the best and stick to that, avoiding areas where we don’t. But it’s not easy to figure out when we perform the best, at least for me, and then I read about a concept called 5 brain executive functions and then it became clear to me in which areas I can perform well and in which I don’t.

Attention and focus

When this is a strength then focusing on problems and delivering solutions is enjoyable and almost “easy” to do. Grasping difficult ideas, and keeping up with the ever-increasing complexity of the knowledge work is something that comes naturally. 

Planning and organization

Some easy ways to detect if this is a weak spot:

  • Late to meetings?
  • Putting things off to the last minute?
  • Letting small problems compound into big ones?

Cognitive flexibility 

This relates to the ability to switch from one task to the next, for example transitioning from work mode to home mode. Another good example would be transitioning from worry and stress mode into action and confidence mode, or as simple as pulling back from the current task to figure out the big picture. 

Emotional regulation

This relates to the ability to handle sudden emotional waves, it’s probably linked to the neuroticism from the big 5 personality traits. 

Impulse control

This relates to the ability to control short-term pleasure, and long-term pain for the long-term pleasure and short-term pain. It’s all about pain regulation, can a person survive the short impulse because the payoff will happen sometime in the future? This manifests in various areas of life, financial (buying stuff that is not needed), health (eating too much, consuming too much sugar, etc.) friendship (inability to maintain long-term friends for decades)

Plan accordingly

Now it’s important to know which area is a strength and which is a weakness hone in on the strength and try to make that even more of an asset. Fixing weakness is also a wise thing to do but only if it’s really hurting our strength and making our performance subpar. But the general idea is not to spend too much time fixing weaknesses, which will require much more effort and will have diminishing returns pretty quickly. Focusing and improving our strengths yields much more value in far less time.

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