Q: Dr. Nowell, in your webinar you mentioned the ReVibe bracelet and the StayOnTask app as strategies to increase awareness of off-task behavior. But how do they work?
A: The vibration of the bracelet, or the visual stimulus of the app, serve as reminders that the individual has arrived at a choice point. Prior to application of these strategies, there is brief explanation that over the course of the day we will drift off task. When we become aware that we have drifted off task, we are at a choice point. Option Ais to continue with our off-task behavior. Option B is to return to task.
Many adults have a very personal and organic awareness that we have drifted off task. It may be an auditory stimulus, like a voice inside our head that asks, “hey what am I doing?” Or maybe it is a visual stimulus, wherein we “see ourselves” and visually note the discrepancy between the task in which we are engaged and the task we had intended.
As I noted in the webinar, my awareness that I am off task is kinesthetic – a bodily awareness that involves tension in my neck, a warm feeling in my cheeks, and a primitive shame sensation in my belly, like a heavy fishing weight on a line. When I have those feelings in my body, it is like a loud brass gong announcing that I am at a choice point.
Imagine that a brilliant entrepreneur who struggles with ADHD hires an assistant to follow her around over the course of the day and to notice when the brilliant entrepreneur has drifted off-task. The assistants only job is to say “hey, it looks like you’re off task. This is a choice point.” At these choice points, our brilliant entrepreneur may choose to return to task, or may choose to continue enjoying her off-task behavior.
Our point here as parents or teachers or coaches or counselors is not to insist that people stay on task. Rather, the point of all this is to increase people’s awareness of these choice points. To increase their capacity to choose and to resist distraction. At each choice point we are literally shaping our destiny and, with the magic of neuroplasticity, shaping our brains.
So, in brief, the bracelet and the apps we discussed in the webinar serve as that fairy godmother or that assistant, pointing out that “this moment is a choice point.” The bracelet and app are “bottom-up” strategies. My internal kinesthetic awareness that I’m off task is portable and organic and “top-down” because I carry it with me, and I don’t need a device like an app or a ReVibe bracelet. The bracelet and app are intended for individuals who have not yet developed those internal or organic or “top-down” strategies.
Thanks for your question!