Break Things Down

I own a lot of chickens. Thirty-two to be precise.

It’s not that I’m mad or have an unusual fetish for omelettes — I co-own land with another family and we do life together.

We share eggs, teach our kids about raising animals and eat their meat (roosters that is, not the kids!)

A few years ago we experienced three days of solid rain. At about 2am, I woke to the sound of a huge ‘bang,’ followed by the scwarking of chickens. A huge landslide from the neighbouring block had destroyed our chook house, killed most of our chickens and left an enormous mess.

I soon found myself in the middle of the dark, wearing rain-soaked pyjamas and wading through mud to rescue any surviving chickens.

The next day I assessed the extent of the problem. It looked like this:

  1. We had five distressed and homeless hens, without a chook house.
  2. We had a river of water and mud flowing under our house.
  3. We had 10 tonne of slipped soil, mixed with building debris, covering our backyard.
  4. We had piles of chicken carcasses that needed a proper burial.
  5. Our children (and neighbour’s children) were distressed and needed help to come to grips with the death of our chickens.
  6. We needed to make an insurance claim and potentially, a legal claim, to seek recovery of lost assets and money to clean up our land.

In other words, it was a complete nightmare and totally overwhelming.

After composing myself (hours, not minutes), I sat down and wrote a list of everything I needed to consider, in order reach my goal of ‘sorting this $#@T out.’

To begin, I broke down every huge and seemingly impossible project into small, next steps.

I prioritised and sequenced what I needed to do next, based on the myriad options available to me.

Then I clarified my list for that day, which simply read:

  • Book a time to run a neighbourhood chook funeral for our kids (and pre-dig holes in the backyard) (1 hour).
  • Dig a temporary trench to divert accumulated water away from the house (30 minutes).
  • Call RACT insurance[1] to investigate our ability to claim for land-slippage (30 minutes).
  • Talk to our neighbours about temporary housing for our 5 remaining chickens (i.e. a temporary cupboard in our vegetable garden) (1-2 hours).

A few hours work. Yet quite doable.

True, I was still in shock and felt angry about having to restore our flock and our chicken shed. Yet through this process, I gained clarity about what I needed to do next. I had identified a few different strategies to solve big issues and therefore (surprisingly) had a growing sense of peace that everything would work out o.k.

In other words, I had discovered hope through the use of sequential thinking.

(Oh — and it did work out in the end. Here’s our new and improved chicken shed!)


If you’ve ever organised a wedding, moved house, completed a 1000 word puzzle (or used a government website), chances are that you’ve used sequential thinking.

Sequential thinking is the ability to:

  • Group overwhelming goals into separate bodies of work (which we call projects);
  • Breakdown projects into smaller tasks (so that they’re doable);
  • Sequence tasks into a logical, workable order and;
  • Identify the very next action/s to do next (yes, that means today!)

In other words, it’s simply the practice of breaking bigger stuff down into smaller pieces.


Life is always changing.

When life becomes complex and overwhelming, don’t give up (or dive in and compulsively do more without thinking).

Stop. Reflect. And break things down.

This simple practice will help you become productive and feel more in control each day.

Hey, you might even get inspired to build a chook shed of your own along the way!


This year we’d like to help you master the power of sequential thinking.

We can help you to clarify your goals, breakdown projects into doable next actions, plan your week and master each day — by creating a killer to-do list!

If interested, we encourage you to contact us to discuss List Assassin training or coaching.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)


  1. RACT Insurance were fantastic and supported our claim, making it possible to rebuild our chook palace. I reckon it’s worth giving praise when it is due.


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