Do the thing in front of you

As you start this week, may you heed the advice I was given back in college during finals week, and has stuck with me ever since: “When you don’t know what to do, do the thing in front of you.”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’ve got a full week—especially on a Monday as you’re just revving up for the potential crazy. There are bills to pay, floors to clean, meetings with bosses, appointments with pediatricians, errands to run, and mouths to feed (including your own). You need decent sleep, you’d like time with your spouse, it wouldn’t hurt to squeeze in some exercise—and yet you still keep stepping on the LEGO the kids left out again.

Life can get crazy, and really? A bit ridiculous.

But instead of looking at the whole—look at the pieces. Take things one at a time. Today, don’t focus on Friday. You’ll get there soon enough. Right now, simply focus on what’s next. Focus on the thing in front of you. Do that task, and when you’re done, do the next. One at a time.

When you’re overwhelmed, take a deep breath, maybe rub your temples or stretch your neck, and enjoy a few seconds to yourself. Quiet your thoughts. And then? Roll up your sleeves, and just focus on the moment.

Just do one thing at a time. It’ll all work out.

25 Comments

  1. Bec @ The Plumbette

    Thank you for this timely reminder. I think everyone needs to remember this with the silly season coming up soon – Christmas.

  2. Jamie

    My husband just had back surgery…outside the US where pain meds aren’t as widely used…and we have 3 little ones, which he can’t pick up. I’m overwhelmed to say the least. I sat down to my computer for the first time in days and this was the first thing I read. It is so timely and I will probably write the title and post it somewhere. Thanks!

  3. Jennifer

    Thanks for this wonderful reminder, Tsh. As I stare down another busy start to another busy week, these words were definitely what I needed to read.

  4. Jill at I Rather Quilt

    Thank you for this tip. I always get overwhelmed as I think I can do it all. My mind wants to do more than what is physically possible time wise.

  5. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Every time I read these posts I am always focused on one thing: getting my morning coffee. That Joe is one way to get things done!

    Excited for YOUR week ahead!! 😉

  6. Alice

    So simple, but wise. One step at a time.

  7. Kerry

    Wonderful reminder, thank you!

  8. Jen

    That was my week last week. Keeping focus on the thing in front is key and yes, Friday arrived soon enough! Have a good week.

  9. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    These Monday posts are always so timely!

    My husband is always preaching this (focus on the piece, not the whole) but somehow it also helps to hear it from another mom :).

  10. Sharon

    Thanks so much for this! Perfect for me to read this morning as I’m a bit overwhelmed with my grad school and family responsibilities. Going to get my list going and focus on today.

  11. Karen

    Tsh,
    It will be 7 years, Nov 27, that I became a widow. I was one week away from turning 59. Ted was 56 and the love of my life.
    He lived for one year with the diagnosis of a stage 4 brain tumor.
    I was numb , but the advice I was given from a fellow widow, was just do the next thing. Sometimes that meant, just get out of bed, or brush my teeth, or pay a bill. For a long time, that phrase and God’s help kept me going. This is a lifesaver at times.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Caroline Starr Rose

      Thank you for sharing this with all of us. If you could do this, I can do what’s ahead of me today.

  12. Breanne

    I’m gearing up for winter and Christmas plans while still finishing up autumn food preserving and my husband is going into finals (so that quote was very applicable!) and this is exactly what I needed this morning.
    I really love these Monday benedictions. Always so timely!

  13. Faigie

    I always think of that when I am in an extremely messy kitchen and don’t know where to begin. I just hit the first thing,(usually a counter) in front of me and go through the rest slowly. Its kind of a metaphor for life.

  14. MBH

    THANK YOU. needed this today 🙂

  15. Betsy

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tsh. This was JUST what I needed to hear on this Monday at the start of crazy week. 🙂

  16. Betsy

    As a sweet mentor at my church told me, don’t look up the stairs, just step up the steps.
    Thanks for the reminder this morning.

  17. AN

    Totally needed this today! Thank you!

  18. Kristina Morris

    Perfect for me today. I have the worst sore throat and I have a 6 year old to “school” along with a new cat who just here last night. This encouragement helps with what I need to focus on in this next hour, and be able to be okay with less than perfect.

  19. Lisa

    This is such good advice! I get this way sometimes, and my daughter does, too. I find I can break things down easier for her, than for me…It’s like the outsider looking in can see through the mess much easier than when you are in the muck of it.

  20. Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake

    Please don’t ever stop writing these Monday posts. Each one is such a blessing. 🙂 I have heard “do the thing in front of you” before, but it is so true, wise, and always good to be reminded of it again!

  21. Elizabeth

    Wow! That was my weekend in a nutshell. I’ve been SO completely overwhelmed by the abomination that is our basement, but decided I had finally had enough. I kept doing the next thing all weekend and though we’re still far from done down there, we kept moving right along and it turned out that we made tremendous progress.

  22. Morgan

    Some version of this will find its way on my desk tomorrow at work. I need this reminder daily.

  23. Theresa

    I appreciate the reminder to do one thing at a time…I think that is truly the only way I can stay in the present with my kiddos. Otherwise I get caught up in too many things & end up not giving my proper attention to any of it. Just because we can multi-task doesn’t mean it is better to do so.

  24. carolyn

    Yes! This. today. Thank you, Tsh!

Get our weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where we share new stuff from the blog and podcast—that way you’ll never miss a thing. Tsh also shares other goodness from around the web... It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.

(You’ll also get her quick list of her 10 favorite essays and podcast episodes from around here, helping you wade through a decade of content.)