Just Do the Thing: A Guide

How to stay focused on one big goal and stop getting sidetracked by shiny distractions

Sam Rogers
May 31 · 25 min read
All illustrations by the author.

How To Use This Guide

In order, start to finish. That works great!

  • Are you procrastinating?
  • Are you smiling and laughing?
  • Are you vaguely annoyed?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

- Mark Twain

What is the Thing for me?

I’ll keep making reference to your Thing (aka the Thing). This is as specific and unambiguous as I can be without knowing what you’re up to.

Defining Done

When you define Done, you’ll know what it looks like so that when you arrive there — you can stop. If you don’t know what Done looks like, you might stop just short of success (or put in waaaaaaay too much effort!) and never realize it.

  • What will be measurably different in the world as a result?
  • Who is one person that will notice (without you having to point anything out)?
  • What is something that will be possible once the Thing is done that can’t happen until it is?
  • Where will you be after the Thing is done? What will be better in your life?

Something Important

If your Thing isn’t very important, I politely suggest you pick another Thing. Seriously.

Something Attractive

If you’re not attracted to Your Thing, you’re less likely to do it. This is not rocket science.

  1. Love the Thing you’re with

Something Specific

Be Specific. Specific Things can get specifically done. General Things may get generally done, but more often don’t. Why is that?

  • Now focus on something far away.
  • Now focus on the tip of your nose.
  • Now focus on all three at once.

Something Doable

When picking a Thing, try not to go too grandiose.

Something Measurable

You learned about the importance of Defining Done, and hopefully wrote down a definition for yourself. What was that again?

Doing the Thing

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

One Thing

Where To Start

There are many right answers to the question “Where do I start?” Here are a few:

  • Wherever it’s hardest
  • Wherever makes the most sense
  • Wherever makes the most difference
  • Wherever you feel pulled to
  • Something that starts with the letter A
  • Wherever your parents told you to start
  • The opposite of wherever your parents told you to start

When to Start

Now.

How to Start

Step 1: Remove all distractions

Instructions: Anything that might go “ding” will take you away from your Thing if it does. So temporarily eliminate such distractions from your world. Go fully offline. This means your phone, computer, watch, whatever.

Step 2: Set Reminder

Instructions: Create a countdown for the amount of time you have to spend in this distraction-less and unreachable mode. If it’s four hours or four minutes, do it and do it fully. A simple, self-contained timer is best.

Step 3: Just do the Thing

Instructions: Go!

Where to Stop

Stop in the middle of something.

When to Stop

When do you stop doing The Thing?

How to Stop

It can be tempting to just keep doing and driving until done.

Avoidance & Distraction

(a.k.a. Not Doing The Thing)

“It’s not about knowing what to do, it’s about doing what you know.”

- Tony Robbins

Too Many Things!

Until now we’ve been focused on one Thing at a time. This is the ideal way to do it, especially for big, life-purpose kinds of Things. But it’s true there may be several smaller, project-level kinds of Things that you can toggle between. Take on one. Stay fully present and engaged, then switch over to the next with the same complete focus and commitment.

Talking About The Thing

When you are talking about The Thing, you are not doing it. Because talking isn’t doing.

Planning the Thing

Some Things require a detailed plan to get to Done.

Buying Stuff

Buying stuff to do your Thing often feels good. This can even look like progress.

Forgetting

“I was gonna do the Thing, but I forgot.”

Visioneering

Engineering a vision of the future is a very good game to play.

Work-Life Balance

Balance is a dynamic act, it’s not something you do once and move on. At any snapshot in time we may appear balanced, or not. It’s the snapshots grouped together that we care about. Work-life balance is averaged over time.

Time Management

You do not have the power to manage time, nobody does.

Priorities

You do not have the power to manage your priorities, nobody does.

The Beauty of Giving Up

Is there a value difference between a Thing that’s Done and one that’s merely Dropped?

Getting Back on Track

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

- Vincent Van Gogh

Noticing

As I write this, I should be writing something else.

Always Practicing Something

We are always practicing something.

Pushing Your Buttons

This guide may press some of your buttons.

Today’s First Domino

Forget what made sense yesterday, go with what makes sense today.

  • What would provide the most leverage, the most momentum with the energy you have right now?
  • What is the lead domino for today?

Other People’s Decisions

You do not get to make decisions for other people, sorry.

Smile

Your brain can get confused, play tricks, and second guess, but your nearby teeth do not have this problem. Your teeth don’t care how often you think about brushing them. They are only affected when you do.

On Your Marks…

The most critical hour in your day is the first one. It could be 5–6 am or 12–1 pm, makes no difference.

Get Set…

Having a simple routine at the beginning of every day is a real asset.

Go!

The just in Just Do The Thing also means not doing other things.

What Remains

“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.”

- Budda

And so the moral of the story is…

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Sam Rogers

Written by

Likes to do things. Lots of things. Also writing under https://medium.com/@onemouthband

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.