Staying Focused–Surviving the Chasing of Chickens

Working from a home office has many great benefits–and a great many drawbacks…one of which is what my hubby affectionately calls “corralling the chickens”.
How did he come up with that phrase? It all started with a gift from one of my friends–Andrea, you know who you are.
Chicken T-Shirt
Which just goes to prove how much she really knows me–it’s scary.

The Chasing of Chickens goes something like this…

I’m sitting at my desk, writing, when I hear the postman drop the mail into the slot and so I get up to see what has arrived.

I sort through the mail and separate the junk mail from bills. I throw away the junk mail in the kitchen trash…notice it’s full and needs to be taken outside.

I gather up the bag, tie it and head outside to the trash receptacle – where I plop in it. I notice that the wind has blown leaves and yard clutter up against the back door, so I take a moment to grab the broom and sweep it clean again.

Then I go back inside to wash up. While drying my hands I remember that I need to do a load of towels today, so I go to the laundry room to grab a basket. While there I notice that I’ve left some clothes in the dryer…so I turn it on to fluff them up a bit and get the wrinkles out.

Then I head to the dirty clothes hamper to get those towels that need to be washed. I gather them up and head back to the laundry room, when I realize that I should grab the towels from the kitchen, too.

So I set the basket down and walk into the kitchen, where I remember that I need to set out some frozen soup to thaw for dinner tonight, which I do. I’m really thirsty, so while I’m at the refrigerator I pour myself some iced tea and carry it to my desk…where I am shocked to see that an hour has passed–and I’m supposed to be writing. Must get back to work!

The bills are still on the table waiting to be filed, the laundry basket waits forlornly in the hallway…and those clothes in the dryer…still sit…now wrinkled again.

Please tell me that I am not alone in this world of chasing chickens – even just to make me feel better, okay?

So how do we corral those chickens and keep focused on the tasks at hand?

For me it’s all about creating routines for myself. When I get up in the morning I make myself a cup of hot tea and while it’s brewing, I make up the bed. Then it’s straight back to the tea, and to my desk to work. If I deviate from that routine, I’m in deep trouble.

Of course every day brings it’s own challenges and set of priorities, but I’ve found that if I can create routines for as much of the basic daily tasks as possible, then I tend to stick to them better. Besides the morning routine, I have a set routine for my lunch break and evening.

I’m also trying to discipline myself not to do any dishes or laundry until the evening, so that my workday isn’t interrupted (you saw the example of what can happen). And I try to schedule appointments and meetings for two specific days of the week–freeing up the rest of the week for quality hours of being focused on my work and writing.

1/07/16: Since writing this article, I’ve come up with another device that works well for me and I’ve used it this past year. I created Daily Task forms that I can print out the night before, or morning of. Each Daily Task form has a list of items that I routinely do on that particular day. Then there are blank lines where I can write in additional Client Tasks and Tasks for myself. So every time I finish one of the tasks I mark it off with a highlighter and read over the rest to pick the next priority. Sometimes i double star items that need to happen first thing in the day. This keeps me on track (and avoids the chasing of chickens) and gives me a real sense of achievement when I see all the highlighted lines on the page at the end of the day. Low priority items that didn’t get finished, simply move to the next day’s list. I hope this helps you figure out a system for yourself!

I’d love to hear what tricks and tips you use to keep focused and not spend the day chasing and trying to corral the chickens!


  1. Lynne Spreen

    You’re going to think this is stupid, but I have a kitchen timer with a big red dial that I keep in my office. I set it for like 30 minutes and tell myself I have to work on the YUK project for 30 mins and can’t do anything else until the bell rings. It really works. I usually find myself getting into the YUK thing in spite of earlier resistance.

    • suad

      What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that? Probably too busy chasing chickens. I’m going to try the timer soon.

      What I don’t understand is why this chasing chickens happens more as we get older. I mean, I’m not senile–yet. I don’t remember this chasing going on when I had two young kids and a household to take care of.

      Well, my oven timer is going off–better get to it before the fish burns–oh, gee I should vac those crumbs off the floor first…

      • indy

        I agree Suad – great idea Lynne! I try to remember to set a timer when I put laundry in the washer or dryer…otherwise it may end up in there for hours before I remember it again…but I like the idea of setting it for projects. Maybe knowing I’m on a time limit will help me stay more focused. And Dot – you know how alike we are…only right that you have to share in this too! :0) Marilynne – thanks for joining in…at least you have the bonus of a sparkling house…I can’t even claim that anymore! 😀

  2. dot caffrey

    I want to know why and how you have been watching me? (LOL) My problem is even when I am at my “official job” and in the office, I will be doing one thing when I realize “oh yeah I also need to do such and such”.

    I am only glad to know it is not just me!

  3. Marilynne

    I totally understand. I can ignore the housework and read a book or do a watercolor, but if I sit down to the computer to work – you described it – my house is always sparkling.

  4. Terry Weiner

    Dear Indy,

    Your depiction of the challenges you have with focus exactly mimic my own, as I think you know. In the past half hour, I have started cleaning my big glass outdoor table, I decided to make a phone call about an account, started writing birthday cards, heated up the coffee, went into the bathroom to put lotion on my face and came out to the kitchen and started looking for a paper, then decided to check your post here. I am definitely going to heed your great suggestions. Thanks so much.

    • indy

      Ha! That sounds like so many moments in my day! I’m getting better though, by using the list system and referring to it often. To make it more fun I use different colored highlighters each day to mark of tasks as I get them completed. Maybe we should reward ourselves with dark chocolate if we complete everything on the list at the end of the day. That would be a good incentive for me! ;0)



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