Strengthen Your Migraine Brain: Getting Started

Patient Expert & Health Professional
Medically Reviewed

A surprise Migraine attack can put us out of commission, derailing important projects and causing us to miss deadlines. Getting started on time won’t guarantee hitting a deadline, but it will lower the likelihood of missing an important due date because of our next Migraine attack. This is one important skill we can use between attacks to improve our quality of life.

Getting started on time is a skill called "task initiation." According to Peg Dawson's and Richard Guare's book, Smart But Scattered, task initiation is defined as “the ability to begin projects without undue procrastination, in an efficient or timely fashion.”

Good task initiation skills allow us to:

  • Begin tasks soon enough to allow sufficient time for completion by the target date.

  • Avoid rushing or cutting corners to meet a deadline.

  • Allow sufficient time for self-care, breaks, and interruptions.

A Migraine attack can prevent us from getting started or it can be an interruption that prevents us from completing a task on time. If our lives are interrupted by frequent Migraine attacks, getting started on time is even more important. While we can’t always prevent Migraine from disrupting our schedule, we can find ways to minimize its disruption to our schedule.

Migraine’s impact

Knowing how Migraine affects our ability to get started helps us to:

  • Plan extra time to complete important projects, allowing for Migraine interruptions.

  • Avoid committing ourselves to too many time-sensitive projects.

  • Protect our productive work time from unnecessary interruptions or distractions.

Signs that our task initiation is impaired:

  • Missing deadlines

  • Completing projects at the last minute

  • Cutting corners to meet the deadline

  • Lack of motivation or resistance to get started

Strategies to improve task initiation:

1. Over-scheduling

  • Consolidate tasks that are inefficient or that duplicate use of time.

  • Delegate tasks that can be done by others.

  • Automate routine tasks.

2. Too much unstructured time

  • Create routines that get your day started.

  • Do something enjoyable each day.

  • Reward yourself whenever you start on time.

3. Emotional resistance

  • Some tasks are unpleasant, so we avoid getting started.

  • Reward yourself for starting.

  • Alternate pleasant and unpleasant activities.


1 Dawson P, Guare R. Smart But Scattered: The revolutionary “executive skills” approach to helping kids reach their potential. New York: Guilford Press; 2009.

2 Gil-Gouveia R, Oliveira A, Pavao Martins, I (2014). Cognitive dysfunction during Migraine attacks: A study on Migraine without aura. Cephalalgia. 2014;35:662-674. Doi: 10.1177/0333102414553823

3 Huang L, juan Dong H, Wang X, et al. (2017). Duration and frequency of Migraines affect cognitive function: evidence from neuropsychological tests and event-related potentials. Journal of Headache and Pain. 2017; 18:54. Doi: 10.1186/s10194-017-0758-6.

4 Koppen H, Palm-Meinders I, Kruit M, et al. (2011). The impact of a Migraine attack and its after-effects on perceptual organization, attention, and working memory. Cephalalgia. 2011;31(14):1419-1427. doi:10.1177/0333102411417900.

See more helpful articles:

Strengthen Your Migraine Brain

Strengthen Your Migraine Brain: Keep Your Cool

Strengthen Your Migraine Brain: Working Memory