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Hansel & Gretel and the Importance of Creative Strategies

By: Pam Barton, Academic/Life Coach

I have a client who has trouble transitioning out of his breaks and back to the desk to continue his homework. He is easily distracted by audio/visual elements that come in and out of his workspace. It could be something obviously distractable as someone banging dishes in the kitchen nearby, or it could be something as subtle as a cat walking into the room and laying quietly on the carpet.

I saw this vision of a “work brain” being used at the desk, engrossed in homework/paper writing/study. Then, here comes the timer, announcing it’s time for a break, and the brain switches over to “leisure brain”, engaged in gaming, YouTube, emails, magazine articles, food – you name it.

This “leisure brain” is so far removed from the”‘ work brain”…how will it find its way back?

I asked him, “How can your ‘work brain’ encourage your ‘leisure brain’ to come back to the desk after a break and pick up where you left off without any difficulty?”

He wasn’t sure at all what the solution was…

Then I thought of the story “Hansel & Gretel”. In the beginning of the story, the two children venture into the woods, but are afraid that they will lose their way and not be able to return home. One of them has the bright idea to leave a trail of breadcrumbs on the path so they can retrace their steps. I’m going to stop the story there and use this part as an example.

When an ADHD brain leaves one task to go to another, and then back again, they may have a difficult time finding their footing in what they were doing in that original task, AND not have the motivation to begin it. Who really wants to continue writing a boring essay after scrolling through Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat?

If you’re going to go deep “into the forest” and get lost in the novelty of leisure time, and the timer goes off and you return to your desk, again, how do you tell your “leisure brain” to become the “work brain”?

Ideas: before you leave your desk for a break, write a couple of sticky notes to yourself. Say things like, “This work won’t take too long – there’s another break coming, so get busy!”
“Getting this work done today makes me feel accomplished and I don’t have the stress of finishing it tomorrow” – stuff like that…….

What other things can the “work brain” tell the “leisure brain” that would encourage it to join forces and get the homework finished?
Back to Hansel and Gretel. So, marking the trail so they could get back home was a great idea. Using breadcrumbs, however, proved to be a failure because the birds ate all of their markers and they were LOST!

What markers have you set for yourself to get out of the “forest” of your “leisure brain” and go back to the “work brain”? Were they breadcrumbs? Or colorful stickies?

We are a uniquely integrated program of College Readiness & Success Training, Academic Coaching, Mental Health and Career Counseling for high school and college Students with ADHD.