Tips for Teens: Procrastination Busters


In my last post I talked about reasons why ADHD and procrastination often go hand-in-hand. ADHD tendencies like preferring instant rewards over long-term payoffs, difficulty with time management, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, low self-confidence, and being easily distracted all contribute to difficulties with procrastination. Take a minute to read thought my last post and see if any of these ADHD tendencies apply to you. Once you understand why you procrastinate you’ll be able to take some simple steps to stop the procrastination cycle. Start with one or two of the procrastination busters below that you think might be most helpful for you. With the right strategies for you and your ADHD you’ll be able to stopping putting off all of those things that you should be doing today!

  1. Start small. Combat feelings of being overwhelmed by starting assignments quickly and starting small. The number one thing that I have seen help teens (and adults) with ADHD who procrastinate is starting on a project, essay, or study plan shortly after it has been assigned. The longer you wait the harder it is to get started. Getting started can just mean spending as little as 5 or 10 minutes working - just enough to make a dent in the assignment or task. Getting started builds your confidence and makes the task much easier to begin again when you’re ready to work for a longer stretch of time.
  2. Create checklists. Many assignments and study plans will seem overwhelming when you think about them as a whole. But, when you break them down into smaller parts they’ll start to seem much more doable. Break each assignment or study plan down into a checklist of manageable steps, and cross items off your list as you complete them. Not sure how to break an assignment down into smaller pieces? Start by thinking about the very first thing you need to do. Maybe it is reading a chapter and taking notes. Then think about the next step - review the notes and identify an essay theme; and then the next step – create an essay outline, etc. Before you know it you’ll have a full list. If you’re still not sure how to break an assignment down, ask for help from a teacher or friend. You might need some guidance before you’re ready to do it on your own.   
  3. Feed the need for instant gratification. Assignments, projects, and tests will always come with delayed rewards. Keep yourself motivated by giving yourself rewards along the way. Rewards can be things you like to do or things you want to buy. If there’s a show that you really like to watch or a videogame that you love to play, consider only allowing yourself to watch it or play it whenever you finish an assignment. Other times, keep it off limits. If there is something you would really like to buy, ask your parents if they’ll help by contributing money toward the item every time you complete an assignment or study for a test in advance. Sometimes having someone else in charge of handing out your rewards can be helpful, especially if you think you’ll be tempted to reward yourself even when you haven’t really earned it.
  4. Avoid procrastination triggers. What’s the number one thing you do when you procrastinate? Are you on your phone? Playing a videogame? Hanging out with friends? Whatever it is, it will continue to trigger procrastination as long as it’s around when you should be working. In many ways procrastination is a habit, and triggers make all habits harder to break. So, put your phone in another room even if it’s only for 30 minutes, don’t allow yourself to play the videogame until you’ve finished your work, or go to a quiet place away from friends until you’ve accomplished what you need to get done. If websites are your trigger and you need to use your computer to do your work, then consider using a temporary website blocking app that you control. I’ll review my favorite apps in my next post.

Get help when you need it. Reaching your full potential with ADHD means having to rely on other people to help you accomplish some of your goals. When it comes to long-term projects or subjects that are a struggle, ask for help if you’re not making progress on your own. If you have been planning to start studying for the SATs for months but haven’t even looked at a single vocabulary word, then chances are you’re going to need someone to help you create and stick with a study plan. If you feel like you’re falling behind in a subject and this is making it harder than ever to finish assignments on time, then talk to your teacher or find a tutor. Everyone does better when they have someone to help them get started, stay on task, and catch up on material they may have missed or don’t understand. With ADHD having someone to help is even more important, so don’t go it alone. Sometimes something as simple as asking a friend to call and remind you to get to work can go a long way.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

Stay in touch and sign up for our newsletter