I was at the beach the other day watching a glorious sunset. Breathtaking.
The waves were gently breaking against the rocks on the beach, the water was aquamarine, there were fluffy clouds in the sky catching the pink light, and flocks of birds were flying somewhere, who knows, to sleep?
A few pelicans were still fishing and would swoop and crash dramatically into the water whenever they saw prey.
Sounds sublime, huh? And yet there I sat, melancholy, and not knowing why.
Then if occurred to me. I was feeling that I ought to be feeling all kinds of spiritual and uplifting emotions. That I was connected, enlightened, with some sort of witchy incantation to the setting sun on my lips. Or standing in some sort of yogic posture with a shamanic fire burning luminously, bidding farewell to the fading day.
No, instead, I was feeling irritated and a bit restless, and annoyed with myself for wasting this beautiful moment. That I ought to be feeling or doing something different.
Ought to. Ought. Roll it around in your head. Is that word ever welcome?
The other day a client was bemoaning the fact that she felt overwhelmed by everything she had to do and it spoilt her joy and wellbeing. She worked on her business from home and had a million ideas and responsibilities that needed to be acted on.
Ever been there?
I remarked that yes, we can be overpowered with too many things to do all at once. And too many things all at once frequently means whatever we are doing, we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing one of the other many things we need to do. We never feel we are doing what we should be doing and the result is frustration about not being good enough, or organized enough, somehow.
On the same beach holiday mentioned above, I was enjoying an afternoon alone on the balcony of our hotel room, reading my kindle, enjoying creative thoughts and making notes. Then suddenly my internal voice pitched up yapping ‘you ought to be down on the beach enjoying it while you’re here! You shouldn’t be doing this stuff when you’re in this lovely setting!’ Dang. There it was again.
Ought, ought, ought. That word trying to wriggle in and spoil my peace of mind. Telling me I’m never doing the right thing—there’s always a million other things that are better, more productive, good for me. Anything but this, Sunshine!
But I caught it this time. Drop kicked it over the balcony and into the sand.
Start noticing if the word ‘ought’ comes into your thinking. It does with me, often. I’m now noticing when I feel I ought to be cleaning the kitchen when I’m sitting on the veranda. Or I ought to be thinking about lunch when I’m working on this blog. Or I ought to be taking the dogs out for a walk instead of whatever I’m doing (now that’s probably true!).
Don’t talk to me about the treadmill. I always ought to be on that.
I’m dropping that word. Or at least taking note when it rears its ugly head. Banishing it. I invite you to join me in this experiment.
Just say no to any oughts that creep in.
Instead, give yourself permission to focus on whatever you’re doing and rebelliously give it your complete attention. Sit and bask in the sunset just for the beauty of it and lounge on the veranda with a book for as long as you like and feel good about it. Have a glass of iced tea and thumb your nose at even the slightest notion that there’s anything better to do.
The irony is you’ll become more productive, more focused, feel more peaceful and able to enjoy whatever you’re doing.
I am the world’s greatest procrastinator. And I have an array of tools to assist my expertise.
The Internet is one of my best. A guaranteed sink-hole for goals and plans.
I am forever listening to podcasts, online courses, downloading kindle books galore on all kinds of subjects—all of course relevant to something important I need to be doing. Indeed.
Did I mention YouTube? Another wonderful option for dealing with those ‘I’m not quite sure what to do next’ moments. You. Can. Spend. Hours.
Let’s not talk about email or social media.
I do make attempts to combat it. I can make an amazing list and then lose the list. Every time I start something I immediately feel there was other stuff I should be doing instead. So I stop, look for the list, change course and do something else. Until I remember the other thing that needed doing. Put it on that dang list so I don’t forget.
My head is stuffed full of wonderful ideas that would help a lot of people, generate a fabulous income, and make me a New York Times best selling author….
I could make a difference!… if I would just put them into action.
The problem with this is I waste my day and end up feeling bad about myself. There were things I meant to do, yet somehow didn’t. The time just slipped away. It’s not fun and it’s not satisfying. It’s yuck. I feel out of control.
Then the best time management tool ever, fell into my inbox.
While fooling around I happened upon a bit of advice in one of the many email lists I subscribe to…that actually changed everything. It was a blog by Derek Doepker and it addressed this very problem. Derek (a best selling author, business coach and marketer) said that the best advice he had for managing those days when you can’t seem to focus was this:
Three little words.
Can I just…?
And then fill in the rest of the sentence.
Can I just get hold of that important contact number? Can I just get a title and subject for that script? Can I just spend 5 minutes starting that project that’s looming over me?
An amazingly powerful procrastination blaster. In fact, I don’t just use it for those overwhelm times—I use it every day. Can I just get these 4 things done today?
The idea is that if you can just, or at least, get something done, it’s better than not getting anything done and simply throwing in the towel on your day.
Can I just get X, X, and X done today? The secret of course is you will end up getting lots more done. But if you can at least get this done, your day is not wasted.
These three words will transform your life, I promise. You’ll feel in control, pleased that you’ve accomplished something, and that you’ve earned your Netflix fix at the end of the day.
Derek is now my coach
I was so impressed with this that I engaged Derek to be my coach. He’s amazing. I’m much more focused and not procrastinating nearly as much as I used to.
I got my new book finished by just finishing a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter. Or just looking up a phrase that I wasn’t sure about.
Now. Can I just get this blog finished before lunchtime?
Yes, I believe I can!
Check out my life-coaching—local if you are in San Miguel de Allende, and online if you prefer coaching from your couch, your dog on your lap, sipping your favorite beverage. No video I promise. Margaretnashcoach.com
Here’s my new book, all credit for finishing and publishing to Derek, on kindle at
I’m just back from London where I had the happy job of helping look after my brand new granddaughter for 2 months. Amazing how one tiny person can take up the entire attention and care of three doting, (and frequently frazzled) adults!
But despite the inevitable anxiety mixed with bliss and hard work, there was something strangely de-stressing about what I was doing. I had one job—rocking a baby for hours on end. So I couldn’t, and didn’t worry about all the other stuff I should be doing. No multi-tasking allowed. There was nothing more important I needed to do. Period.
It made me realize how seldom I am that focused in my everyday life.
One of the downsides of being self–employed and semi-retired is that I have to be a self-starter. The result is a long list of things to do and nobody to make me do them. Usually I fool around awhile with several at once getting nowhere and eventually get going on some great life-changing million dollar project.
The Saboteur strikes!
This is when I inevitably sabotage myself with thinking about all the other things I could be doing. The obvious solution is to go on Facebook. Just to see what’s happening since I last looked five minutes ago, otherwise I might miss something important. I may as well make some tea while I’m at it.
There’s no one to make me prioritize, focus, or concentrate. It’s just me and the computer, and it doesn’t care. No one to answer to except my demanding dogs. Am I the only one who finds this challenging? I don’t think so. Most of my life-coaching clients complain at some point about not getting enough done, wasting much of their time on distractions, and feeling frustrated with their absence of discipline.
All of this is down to lack of focus—the ability to concentrate on one thing at a time.
Learning to relax, do one thing at a time and do it well—rock the baby so to speak— is the number one key to feeling happy, productive, and at peace.
Just aim to do one thing each day. Focus on it. Do it until it’s done and don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked. At least you will have accomplished something.
Stop multi-tasking. It’s a curse. Rock the baby.
Please contact me if you would like some life-coaching— whether in person here in San Miguel or online.
In person life coaching: 600 pesos per one hour session. Cash or Paypal. San Miguel location.
Online coaching: $50 for 40 minute session using Facebook Messenger Call or Zoom (no video so you can be in your PJs in bed). Paypal only.
I also do Hypnotherapy if it seems appropriate to your issue. Talk to me.