Fighting Procrastination: Tips for how to get the ball rolling

UPDATE: 2022 (have we really made it this far?!)

I made a video about this sheet because it is 2022 and YouTube is the 2nd biggest search engine.  So if you are more into video, like me to be honest, even though I love writing, check this out:

Generally you find that some people need help with learning how to focus on tasks and complete them, while others have intuitive systems, and others seem to just get it done.  But for the students who are highly distractible I like to use this Fighting Procrastination sheet.

Essentially, in looking at the example below, the students fill in the column on the left with the activities that they have to do during that period of working time…including breaks…and then they set goals (and timers) for periods of work.  This time is 100% focused without doing anything else, most times not even asking questions.  This is because us folks with ADHD or who are highly distractible can go off on a tangent and don’t know when they got off track.

So for example in the first blank cell they might put “Math HW” and will sit down for 5 minutes, set the timer, and start doing all things math.  When the timer is up, they then can cross off the 5 minute cell in the table and move on to the next thing which may be a break, check email, organization, other HW, etc. and do that for the set time, cross it off, and keep it going.

This can be set up in many different ways, and eventually I sometimes just give them the paper with the blank table cells and the student is able to figure out the times and all that on their own.  Ultimately leading to a time when maybe they just do this on a scrap paper on their own, or in their head.

Like any special educator worth their salt, I got this tool/idea from a co-worker friend and ran with it.  Thusly speaking, this is a shout out to Mr. Dave Albert, High School Math teacher, thanks for letting me know about this idea!

This is the paper I give to the students:
5 10 15
5 10 15

5 10 15
5 10 15

5 10 15
5 10 15
  5 10 15


Vick Worksheet 5 10 15
Finish old math HW 5 10 15

Break (social Media)

5 10 15
Organize binder 5 10 15


5 10 15
Work on History notes 5 10 15
  5 10 15


1. Take a look at your agenda, think about your day and figure out the most important things.

 2. Put the list of what you have to do in the table, starting at the top with the most important things

 3. Don’t forget to add in where you will take breaks (i.e. check phone, surf the web, walk around, etc.)

 4. Begin.  One way to do it is to start by doing the top task for 5 minutes. 

This could be as simple as getting the materials ready, turning your computer on, reviewing your notes real quick. 

 5.  When you have spent 5 minutes on the activity, stop, cross off the “5” in the table and move on to the next activity.

6.  Keep doing this until you feel like you are good to go.




Although I am a strong proponent for medication, as I believe it saved my life, we need to try to find and use all the tools possible to help a student with attention deficits before we look to medication.  And this is one tool.

It’s not enough to tell them what they need to do.  Or set up a behavior support plan with just positive and negative consequences.  We need to teach our students replacement behaviors.

Let me know if you have any other systems that I could try out.


5 thoughts on “Fighting Procrastination: Tips for how to get the ball rolling

  1. I like your worksheet. I have been trying to train my almost 16 yo to use his phone for alarms and such, and sometimes he does — but then, even once it goes off, he is still stuck and has trouble moving on! The phone IS the distraction. I want him to leave it on the counter, but he also needs something age appropriate to help him with time management. I’m tired of being his alarm for everthing. My snooze button is worn out….


    1. I know how you feel. I am always trying to get my students to use alarms and reminders and it is super difficult to get them to buy in and utilize it. But it’s all about giving them the tools, the roots…lead them to the water, but you can’t make them do the backstroke HAHA!

      The one thing I think when I read your message is about getting the intrinsic motivation for your son. The buy-in. I have seen this Fighting Procrastination sheet, and other stuff like that work the best when students see the need for it, are shown the usefulness, and then want to use it so they can do x… get their history grade up. Or study for the SAT retake, or something they can visualize. Often when students I work with don’t use the alarms, even after my suggestions, I try to talk to them after they forgot to turn something in for example, and get them to realize the alarm would have been extremely useful…then bring that up next time I have the suggestion they use the alarm.



  2. Hello, and thank you for answering the call to teach, and for sharing this article’s. As an adult who was diagnosed with three challenges late in life ( 46yo when diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety, and with ADHD at 52yo), I now understand all of the detention and time spent in either the Vice Principal’s or Principal’s office, as well as the frightening experiences where I knew the material, but when trying to recall it in class or on the job, getting the “access denied!” response from my brain. The first time that happened was in college. I new the material, and had successfully performed the task multiple times. But I assume the test anxiety with it being a final exam, contributed to the inability to recall the information. When I tried, it’s as if that area of my mind was corrupted RAM. I had nothing. I didn’t know if I had a TIA or stroke. All I knew was fear. I sat down and prayed for 5 minutes, and slowly the pieces began to come back to me.
    I have read many accounts of individuals who all say that focus is random, and we have no control over when our brains will allow it.
    My question is, using this method with the timer, can a person train their brain to focus for longer and longer periods?

    Thank you so much,



    1. Hey John. It’s great to see your comment. Hearing about the test anxiety from an adults viewpoint is valuable for me. It sounds like having a technique to combat it was important for you and I think I will try to incorporate that more. I mainly just have students test in an alternative setting, or do alternative tests, and allow breaks if they have anxiety, but having an explicit strategy to teach them sounds like it could be more impactful.

      In regards to your question, yes indeed the time can increase. It’s like meditation. Me, and my ADHD brain, started meditating for one minute a day, and that was hard. I was slowly able to add more time like a weightlifter progressively adds more weight, and I can’t believe how the time flies two years later. I’d say it’s just a matter of starting off at a reasonable baseline. I was working with a student recently and we set it for 3 minutes and then a break, 3 minutes, and then a break. And we got a lot more done with these little bursts of productivity than before the structure was put into place.


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