7 Tips to Help Your Child Beat Procrastination

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That dreaded word that makes us all cringe because we know it’s power all too well…

And the last thing we want to pass on to our children.


In a recent WyzAnt.com poll of over 350 private tutors, procrastination topped the list as the number one habit to avoid this semester…and every semester.

And it really comes as no surprise.  Considering all the online and offline distractions available today, there is no question that students are having a harder time prioritizing tasks and tackling responsibilities head-on. In addition to the typical distractions that we’ve faced for generations, the influx of digital diversions is helping to create a new crop of chronic procrastinators.

Here are 7 tips to keep in mind this semester and help you overcome procrastination once and for all:

1. Start the day with a to-do list.

No matter how young your little ones are this is a good habit to get into. First thing in the morning help them write out an actual “to-do” list. Put the most important items at the top of the list and prioritize according to urgency. Whether you choose a printed or digital version, make sure this list allows them to check off each individual box as they complete tasks throughout the day. Seeing physical evidence of the day’s accomplishments will give them motivation to do “that last thing” on their list.

TUTOR TIP If you’re not into lists, Math & Accounting tutor Ari from Gilbert, AZ, has an take on tackling to-do’s:

Write each thing you have to do on a separate piece of paper and put it in a pencil box. Randomly choose one piece of paper out of the box and do the task written on it. Don’t move on to the next until you’ve finished the task in hand. Example: 1. Do the dishes. 2. Solve 20 math questions. 3. Read 5 pages of English literature. 4. Write a report for Spanish class. It is psychologically easier to deal with one piece of paper at a time than hold 10 tasks in your head and become overwhelmed.

2. Put your calendar to work.

Let their calendar be a guide to productivity, and not just a way to remember a friend’s upcoming birthday party. Take the line items from their to do-list and fit them into their calendar where appropriate. For example, if they must read those last 10 pages “at some point” before class on Thursday, then define what “that point” is and assign it a time. Don’t forget to set reminders with checkpoints so they can be held accountable and stay on track!

3. Unplug.

This is a big one for our “digital natives” and a huge problem with our teens, but let’s be honest, very little productivity has ever resulted from surfing the net or chit chatting with friends on Facebook. If your child wants to get serious about an upcoming test  he needs to sign out of Facebook and turn off the TV. Multi-tasking will never lead to the same sense of accomplishment that comes from being completely focused on one task. In most cases that involve sustained mental effort, trying to multi-task is a lose-lose situation.

TUTOR TIP from Preston in Oklahoma City, OK:

An incredibly useful thing I have found is a software extension for Firefox browsers called “leechblock”, this software allows you to set what parameters you want to restrict usage of commonly known time-waster sites, like social media sites, and gaming sites.

4. Call yourself out.

Tutor John P. of Fort Lee, NJ, says that the first step in avoiding procrastination is to recognize when you’re doing it. Teach your children to pay attention to unhealthy patterns and recognize when they are slipping into them. If you were to scan your teen’s notebook for example,  and see that halfway through class her note pages turn into an elaborate series of doodles, help her try to identify her first urge to doodle during the next class and put a system in place to actively resist it. If she are bored how can she reconnect? Tired?  Keep blood flow moving by stretching in between classes and being physically active during recess.

5. Create a back-up plan.

Wasting time begets wasting time. Help your children create a fail proof safety net for productivity. In addition to schoolwork, there are plenty of things that always need tending to such as cleaning their room, chores or  taking care of their pets. Make sure you have a list of 3-5 back-up items outlined each week so they have the power to kick-start a period of productivity when needed. Math and Spanish tutor LeAnna from Moorhead, MN, says, “Don’t think, just do!” Walking the dog is a great way to get a boost of energy when that slump hits and come back ready to focus and get the task at hand done.

6. Set up micro goals.

The classic saying is “the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” As our children progress through grades they will get more and more assignments that need to be completed over a longer period of time. They may involve research, document analysis, creating a power point or art project. When you stare at the due date of giant project or term paper, all you focus on is the end product. Rather than think of the project as one giant undigestible piece, help your child see it a series of related mini-projects each with their own deadline.

TUTOR TIP from Windy C., Rancho Cucamonga, CA has a tip for a project with a long-term due date:

Break the assignment down into manageable chunks and list them in order. Then schedule the mini assignments in a date book under a specific hour and day, preferably the same time everyday. Then set a timer for the hour or two blocked off and do nothing else during that hour but that assignment. Lastly, give yourself a small reward, such as extra time to do something you love for completing that part of the assignment.

7. Get inspired.

Music tutor Jeffrey N. from Pinckney, MI, sometimes looks to the accomplishments of others to help motivate him. “Often when I’m feeling lazy I like to go to a concert. Seeing great musicians perform always motivates me to try and better myself. Watching and learning from others, especially those who are great at what they do, is a good medicine for procrastination.” Have your child watch a documentary about a famous person in history, or research the biography of someone he admires – or better yet, someone he knows in real life – to see what led to their success. Learning about the effort of others will help kick his willpower into motion and remind him that most worthy achievements come from hard work and determination.

What’s your best tip for helping your children avoid procrastination?

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  1. Will this help me too…lol

  2. This terrific list works for adults, too. Ahem.

  3. They are all great tips, but the one that would apply to me personally is the bite-sized tasks. I love the elephant analogy! I know that when a task seems too big to finish, I’d rather avoid it. But breaking it into manageable pieces helps keep you motivated as you finish each component.

  4. These are great tips, thank you for sharing. I need to apply most of them to my own procrastination.

  5. I think I’m the biggest procrastinator in my family. I’m pinning this for myself. I never thought to have my kids write a to do list of their own. Thank you for the tips.

  6. I know some adults who could benefit from these tips too, like myself. I like the idea of having a backup plan. Especially with kids you never know what’s going to happen.

  7. I think I need this list more than my children. 🙂

    • I suspect that like so many of us you have such a long to-do list Tonya that it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why placing items on a schedule has been such a Godsend to me. It allows me to make sure I actually have time for all need to accomplish and keeps me on task.

  8. Such great tips. Who wouldn’t be able to use these, child or adult.

  9. I definitely do the first three, because I can even be bit of a procrastinator at times. 🙂

  10. I need this for myself and my husband!! Thanks! lol

  11. As I was reading this, I was thinking I’m the one who needs to follow the advice!

  12. I’m going to use this list. Except I am the procrastinator not my kids 🙂

  13. Great tips – thanks I needed this list!

  14. Forget the kids, I NEED this list!! I’m such a horrible procrastinator it is miserable.

  15. These are great tips! We have been making it a point to try and teach our kids that doing the stuff they don’t necessarily want to do FIRST is a much better option than saving it for last. It’s working fairly well around here.

  16. Great tips, unplugging and having a to-do-list are my all time time-management tips.

  17. Some very good tips. Thank you for sharing!!!

  18. I’m usually the procrastinator as far as work goes, but when it comes to the kids – there is no such thing! My husband on the other hand can procrastinate forever… on anything… as clearly exampled by his 2 weeks of not mowing the lawn

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