Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Executive Functions, Pen To Paper

A Simple Hack for Accessing Your Brain’s Executive Function

Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Executive Functions, Pen To Paper

By Starla

July 28, 2022

 Minute Read

What Is Executive Functioning?

Our executive functioning is a set of cognitive processes that constantly send signals to help us process information and respond with appropriate behavior. It is a term psychologists use to describe the many tasks our brain performs that are necessary to think, act, and solve problems, including things like:

  • paying attention
  • processing new information
  • focusing & directing thoughts 
  • memorizing facts
  • learning concepts
  • recalling information
  • reasoning
  • making calculations
  • creative & flexible thinking
  • decision making
  • planning
  • organizing
  • inhibition of behavior

In essence, your executive function is your brain's management system that allows you to manage your life, set goals, plan, get things done, and interact with others effectively.

Ways To Improve Your Executive Function

Most people's executive functioning improves throughout life as their experiences shape these critical mental skills. However, it's also possible to work on and improve the different components of your executive function to make you happier and more productive.

The various ways fall into one of three buckets:

  1. 1
    Sleep, Exercise & Healthy Diet
  2. 2
    Learning & Practice (taking a class or learning a skill that focuses on executive function)
  3. 3
    Quiet Time, Meditation, Reflection & Journaling

To supercharge all of these activities and get the most out of them, a simple hack is to put pen to paper! Yep, that's right. Pen to paper. Why? Because writing is the most direct pathway to your brain's executive function.

Writing Is The Most Direct Pathway To Your Brain's Executive Function

Sure, it may be easier to type your notes, thoughts, goals, dreams, etc., but research shows it is more beneficial to put pen to paper.

Writing is a complex cognitive process involving fine motor skills and neuro-sensory experiences. It activates the parts of your brain involved in thinking and working memory (i.e., your executive functioning). This is why journaling things like exercise & diet or taking handwritten notes when working through a challenge or learning something new leads to better synthesis, comprehension, analysis, recall, and decision-making.

The Benefits of Putting Pen to Paper

Effective Memory Recall

You better retain the information you write because your longhand notes contain your words and handwriting.


Sharpened Critical Thinking

Writing by hand gives your brain room to think more thoroughly about the information you're capturing, thereby enabling a higher level of thinking as you expand upon your thoughts and form connections between them.


Robust Conceptual Understanding

Handwriting forces your brain to mentally engage with the information you're capturing because it is a slower and more tedious process. As you write, you visualize and process your thoughts and then summarize them in ways that make sense to you.

It is for all these reasons that I created the Bedside Success Journal and Powerful Personal Planning for my clients.

How The Bedside Success Journal Helps You Access Your Executive Function

With success, you’re reminded of what you’re capable of accomplishing, so you must stay connected with it. An easy way to do this is to record your success daily, especially before falling asleep.

When you put pen to paper and make these journal entries right before you drift asleep, your successes get stored in your memory where they will heavily influence your executive functions and drive powerful learning, healing, and growth. That's not woo-woo stuff. That's science, my friend.

How Powerful Personal Planning Helps You Access Your Executive Function

Powerful Personal Planning is 99-page workbook & guide that helps you uncover your goals & ambitions and clear a path for the future you desire. It includes exercises that involve Mind Mapping - a visual thinking tool that closely replicates how your brain works in both analytical and artistic ways.

I chose Mind Mapping for these exercises because it:

  • engages all of your cognitive functions
  • eliminates dull, linear thinking
  • helps you see relationships between various ideas and information
  • leads to better synthesis, comprehension, and analysis of all your thoughts, ideas, dreams, wishes, and desires
  • allows you to more easily recall this information, generate new ideas, and make decisions

Mind Mapping your long-term and short-term goals with pen & paper will ensure they successfully penetrate your executive functions and then guide your daily processing, decision-making, and subsequent behavior toward the future you desire.

Pulling It All Together

If you want to more easily access and improve your executive functioning, step away from your electronic devices and use pen & paper to strategize, plan, and capture your thoughts and notes.

"But wait, Starla! I care about the environment. Using paper isn't all that environmentally-friendly. And what if I need digital copies of all my notes?"

Of course! I care about the environment and want digital copies too. That's why I use Rocketbook products to take notes without wasting paper, and to save them in all my favorite places (Google Drive, OneNote, etc.). I have used Rocketbook products for over five years now and I highly recommend them for several reasons, but the biggest one is this:

From the Rocketbook Website:

We imagine an infinite future that links cognitive and digital worlds. We believe big ideas don't have to be single-use. And thanks to the limitless digital age, our thoughts can now be organized and shared with the power of the cloud. But that doesn't mean the most important part of cognition, the original handwritten note, has to leave a paper trail.

Comments or Questions?

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