Task Initiation Executive Functioning Strategies

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 the youngest toddler to the oldest among us, we all procrastinate in one way or another.  Hey, that stack of bills mixed with junk mail over there on the counter has been calling my name for a couple of weeks now.  But procrastination can be a real issue when it gets out of hand or affects every part of life.  One of the essential skills that make up executive functioning skills is task initiation.

Task initiation executive functioning strategies for kids

Task Initiation Executive Functioning Strategies

Task initiation for non-preferred activities might show up with your child when they are told to clean their room or put on their shoes.  As parents, we know the struggle that is getting kids to get moving!  However, there is a point when procrastination is normal for kids and when it becomes a problem that influences functional skills.

Task Initiation is one Executive Functioning Skill

Initiating a task, whether it be a preferred activity or one that isn’t so preferred (Hellllllo, math homework!), requires several OTHER executive functioning skills: planning, prioritizing, time management, organization, impulse control, attention, and working memory.  Despite all of these potential areas of task completion breakdown, the biggest issue is often just getting started. 

These easy 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 with task initiation.

This is one strategy that can help kids with task initiation.  Sometimes, the strategies that you see outlined for procrastination are aimed at older children or high school aged students up through adults.  But what about the kids who struggle with procrastination at a younger age?  The kids who are beyond age-appropriate levels of not wanting to initiate tasks can be too young developmentally for the procrastination tips that are typically recommended. 

Use these task initiation executive functioning strategies for kids who procrastinate.

Use a timer to help kids with task initiation

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This easy trick can help kids with task initiation needed to get started on activities.  You’ll need a game timer that can be found in many board games. With your child, identify the task that needs to be done.  This may be a big project like cleaning a bedroom or a smaller job like tackling the homework folder.  Next, break down the tasks.  You can write them out in list form or write them on post-it notes that can be pulled off and crumbled up as each job is completed.  Once you’ve identified the list of tasks, make a mini-goal to get started.  This might be as simple as just reading through the instructions or starting to clean up toys on the floor.  For this mini-goal, your child can work with the game timer until the sand has all fallen to the bottom.  By working until the intended time has passed, your child has started the job and tackled the biggest issue with procrastination: getting started!

There are many game timers on the market that are perfect for addressing task initiation:
This set comes in a combo set with 30-second, 1-minute, 2-minute, 3-minute, 5-minute, and 10-minute increments. 
Try this visual timer with a warning light and optional auditory timer.

Task initiation executive functioning strategies for kids who procrastinate.

More tips to help kids get started and overcome procrastination

Break down tasks
Identify the task
Make mini goals
Create a habit tracker
Make a goal journal
Tell someone else what you’ll accomplish
Use a picture schedule for younger kids
Create a contract
Use a timer for the whole task
Reward systems
Visual schedules
Designated time slot to do specific tasks (like a set homework time)
Use digital timers (on a smart phone or an app)

Looking for more information on executive functioning skills?  Like my new Facebook page, Executive Functioning Toolbox for informative posts and resources from around the web.

You can check out our Attention page and Organization page here on the site for more executive functioning skill activities.

Executive functions are heavily dependent on attention.  Read about the attention and executive functioning skill connection and the impact of attention on each of the executive functioning skills that children require and use every day.

Executive functioning task initiation strategies for kids.
Use a timer and other procrastination strategies to help kids with task initiation executive functioning problems.