4 Task Initiation Strategies for ADHD

Posted on March, 27, 2024 by

As anyone with ADHD knows, getting started on a task that we really don’t want to do is the worst and possibly the most difficult executive function to overcome. Whether it’s studying for exams, doing homework, or even just getting out of bed in the morning, it doesn’t matter what the task is, the only thing that matters is you don’t want to do it. 

Getting started on a task is motivation-based and putting off a low motivation task often leads to procrastination and anxiety.  If you have ever experienced this you know that it’s like a tug of war inside your head…”I have to do my homework, I don’t want to do my homework, but I HAVE to do my homework!” That’s when students resort to playing video games, scrolling social media, taking a nap, or just anything to avoid doing the task. 

Since most people, not just students, deal with task initiation from time to time, I have compiled a list of off-the-beaten-track strategies anyone can use:

1) Buffering – sandwich a high-interest task and low-interest task with a transitional task. Think of the transitional task as the cream between the Oreo cookies.  

  • High-interest task: scrolling social media, binging Netflix, etc.
  • Transitional task: take a walk, play with the dog, make a snack
  • Low-interest task: doing homework, studying, etc

2) Task Stackingthis one really works for motivation. The key is that you can only have/do the high-interest piece while doing the low-interest task.

  • Identify the low-interest task you need to do so such as writing an essay or doing math homework
  • Identify the high-interest task (something you really enjoy) that you can do while doing the low-interest task you procrastinate on such as having a smoothie only when you study 

3)Just Gonna……” – a brain trick focusing on one tiny task to get started. 

  • Break down the task you need to do into such small components you hardly know you started. 
  • Example for starting homework: “I’m just gonna pick up a pen… then I’m just gonna open my laptop… then I’m just gonna do the first math problem…” Before you know it, your homework is done! 

4) Count Down/Blast off – This strategy is similar to The 5 Second Rule. The idea is that you need to begin a task within 5 seconds to prevent procrastination from setting in

  • You must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will talk you out of doing the task
  • When counting down from 5 to 1, your brain naturally ends with “blast-off!” at which time you blast into your task.

These 4 brain tricks do wonders for motivation, are simple to use, and prevent procrastination. They take overthinking out of the equation so you don’t have time to talk yourself out of starting the task, which is the enemy of task initiation.

To understand more about task initiation difficulties and how we can help your student, feel free to reach out to me anytime.