Trouble Getting Started? Let's Talk Task Initiation

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Task initiation is one of the many executive functioning skills that can be a big problem for kids. It happens to all of us. We procrastinate. From a preschooler to the oldest among us, we all procrastinate in one way or another. 

Students avoid work for a variety of reasons, some relating to level of difficulty or lack of interest and others due to learning differences or attention issues. Occasionally, however, capable and willing students struggle with the onset of assignments and are simply unable to get started. These students are challenged by task initiation.

The following strategies are tips and tricks that can help kids get started on a task. Either a big job or a small task can seem overwhelming at times. Try using these strategies to help your child with task initiation.

Task Initiation Strategies

  • Eliminate as many distractions as possible to help the off-task student. Take a look around and evaluate what the culprits are. 
  • Create a visual reminder, such as a short list of instructions, to keep your child on task.
  • Anxiety can stop even the most capable person from working. Perfectionism can be crippling and prevent a student from starting a task for fear of making an error. 
    • Create an entry point for an anxious, work-resistant student. Begin the work with him or her and leave them with a clear point to continue independently.
    • Try chunking an assignment into smaller pieces to make an overwhelming project seem less intimidating.
  • Use a timer. An egg timer, phone timer or microwave timer, etc. will work. Start small, set a timer for 5-10 minutes and set a goal for your child to work for just that timeframe. Once the timer buzzes, they can take a short break or grab a snack. Re-set the timer for another 5-10 minutes. Psychologically, tasks feel more attainable if you can see the end in sight.  
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Every student has a different learning style. For an individualized plan customized to your child's needs, please contact Dana Aussenberg at or email