Breaking Things Down

  • Introduction – How to Break things Down
  • Accepting Things Are Different
  • Psychological Barriers
  • Another Way to Break Things Down

Using questions to help you break things down

Questions are a tool we can use to help us know what we want to achieve, what the goal is, break things down so that we know what steps to take, and also help us monitor our progress. 

Questions help us pay attention to those areas where disruption to your attentional systems are failing. 

You can use a small whiteboard to remind you to keep questions at the forefront of your thinking. If you write down, “who, what, where, when, how, why” – this should remind you to pause and think before you start anything.

Use your imagination and run possible scenarios through your mind before you start anything.


Did this process help me?

Can I ‘see’ ahead by taking the time to relax and use my imagination to forward step my way through a problem?

Can I break things down by using relevant questions?

The table below will help you to consider the steps you need to take, one at a time, so you can break things down.

It may seem laborious to need to do this, but when you are successful as a result of using this practice, you will be grateful for it. 


Accepting things are different because your brain is different

There will be a part of you that strongly believes and thinks you can still do everything the same ways as you did before. 

This problem is worsened by the fact that your brain also believes it doesn’t need to change. It thinks it knows the methodologies you use; it thinks it knows how you like to do things.

Your brain is right! It does know exactly what your preferences are!

The problem your brain is having, is that this auto-pilot, the subconscious processing that used to do things automatically, is relying on parts of the brain that are now damaged to fulfil that action. Your brain doesn’t recognise that the tools that did the processing and created the actions aren’t working the same way anymore. You didn’t have to waste time thinking about everything you do repetitively before, and this is a goal you will want to get back to.

You – who you are, has to make a conscious choice to intervene and help your brain until it gets used to what ‘you’ are doing and why. You have to help your brain until the executive systems have had a chance to rewire. 

Your brain will be extremely stubborn. It doesn’t know the impetus is hitting a road-block. 

The problem is that it takes enormous effort on your part to teach the brain to realise things have changed, and, because of this, you need to do things differently now. 

To help you overcome executive problems, you have to be the commander of your ship. You have to slow things down and teach your brain from scratch.

You can do this by telling your brain what you want it to do and what you want it to achieve. If you can do this ahead of time, it gives your slowed processing a chance to catch-up. Given time to ‘catch-up,’ your brain will try to help you. 

You can either ‘think’ these commands, or you can say them out loud to yourself. For example, you could say, ‘Brain, I want to write a shopping list. I want you to picture the shelves in the cupboards, fridge and freezer and think about what isn’t there.’ 

To be efficient, you could also tell your brain to order the list in line with the way you navigate through your supermarket or to break things down for different shops. 

You could then tell your brain that you need to know how to get to different shops most effectively. 

This ‘tactic’ takes time to learn and practice, but your brain will do its’ best and will get better with practice. Remember, practice, repeat, practice, repeat – you are rewiring your brain and teaching your brain how to do what you want it to do. Your brain will work with you – be patient with it – it is wounded!

Psychological barriers

In the event that it is you who is getting in the way of starting these strategies because you think you don’t need to then there are things you can do to help yourself alter your thinking and attitudes. 

We will address these methods in the next section. 

Psychological barriers and updating your attitudes and thinking

Who you are has got to be on board.

No one can help you as much as you can help yourself. If you have the support of an expert, you will be able to help them help you by understanding why they are there, and what they are trying to help you learn and achieve. 

Rewiring starts with you. It starts with gaining insight into how your brain has changed, and how this affects what you do and say.

There are many evidenced activities a neurological expert can and will use to help you learn that things have changed, and what these changes entail. 

If you don’t have this support – try and get it. Speak to your doctor and ask for a neurological assessment. Getting help might take time. Sometimes insurance only covers specific therapies. Sometimes, because of insurance or pressure on services, you might be limited in the amount of help you can get.

Whatever your circumstances, there are things you can do to help yourself. 

When we are trying to adapt to change, we need to go through three stages:

Acknowledgement is the first step which allows us to understand what has changed and how this has affected our lives.

Each step may need to be broken down depending on the complexity of the problem you are trying to solve.

Think about what you want to understand and write this down so that you don’t forget what you are trying to focus on.

You can see that it is worth setting aside some time, perhaps a short period over several days, to work through the possible questions and answers you need to consider. 

You can use the following steps to work this out:

  • Pause – Firstly you need to pause to think about what has happened, what you want to achieve or change, and start asking questions so you can gain a conscious and more deep-seated understanding of your situation.
  • Consider –  Do you need to think about or reflect on more than one thing? Do you have more than one goal? What needs to change and why? What is different?
  • Choices – Are there choices? Stick with answering, ‘yes or no.’ 
  • Evaluate – What are these choices? Can you make any changes that will give you more options? Do you need to accept things as they are, or can you adapt your thinking to provide yourself with more flexibility?
  • Sort – Put things in order. Break any solutions down into steps so that you can move through creating changes in the best order.
  • Consider – Do you have more options? Could I do things a different way so that I can get to my goal more quickly? What is the most efficient method for me to use?
  • Evaluate – Looking at the chosen process, what is the expected outcome? Will I achieve my goal? Is there room for error? Do I have any previous experience of handling something similar? What was the result, or what were the issues, of an earlier experience? Can I learn anything from my past?
  • Compare – What was the achieved outcome? Was I successful in handling the change or problem? How well did I do? What did I learn about how my brain functions?

Acceptance is the stage where you have worked out that some things cannot be changed or cannot be changed right now.

If you are struggling with acceptance, you can go through the ‘adapting to change and problems solving’ stages again.

Pause, consider, choices, evaluate, sort, consider, evaluate, compare.

Take your time. This effort now will pay dividends over the long-term.

Adaptation is the final stage where you make whatever changes you need, and adjust to them.

By this time you should feeler calmer, more balanced and in control.

If something is still not quite right or niggling you, you may need to go through the ‘adapting to change and problems solving’ stages again.

Pause, consider, choices, evaluate, sort, consider, evaluate, compare.

Another way to prompt yourself to break things down

The BEST Suite is a range of apps which have been developed as a cognitive rehabilitation tool. 

To use the BEST Suite you have to think about what you want and how you want to do things to set it up. This necessitates thinking, asking yourself questions, making considerations, along with planning and making choices. 

You will be using cognitive and executive skills automatically.  

As you use the apps you will realise for yourself that to achieve big goals, you will need to take steps to get you there. 

You will automatically want to break things down so that you set the apps up to create processes to follow, pretty much like taking one rung on a ladder at a time. 

You might have a number of cognitive deficits that have altered the way you are able to do things. The BEST Suite will help you understand and realise what these are. 

The apps don’t do the work for you like other tools you might use. For example, if in your calendar you have an appointment, it will tell you this. It won’t help you understand how long it will take you to get ready, or how long it will take you to get there. A Calendar won’t help you understand the planning you need to go though, such as making sure you have coins for a parking meter or allow yourself time to find a parking spot. 

You can add all of these steps into BEST Suite and you can choose where and how to do this to suit your own way of thinking and needs.