1. Not understanding the problem. Not defining it well enough. Trying to solve a different problem. Woolly thinking. Complex problems frequently need to be defined, refined and revisited several times before the right problem gets worked on.
2. Interruptions/disturbances. External and internal. Whilst there is no shortage of external interruptions, and steps can be taken to minimise these, we are also quite capable of interrupting ourselves. Checking email, making tea, stopping for a chat are all valid to some degree, but on occasions can be serious disturbances to our work.
3. Perfectionism. Believing you can’t do it well enough, which stops us even trying.
4. Vicarious conduct. Doing other things during work time. You know what they are.
5. Lack of energy. Many people work better at one time of the day or another. I’m definitely a morning person, but I know night owls who seem to work best in the wee small hours. Knowing what works best for you can, and setting up your day to take advantage, can help.
6. Taking on impossible jobs. Tasks may be impossible for a number of reasons. You may not have the ability to do them, other people may be determined to stop you, or you may not have planned the work carefully enough.
I bet this list still isn’t exhaustive, but the longer it gets, the more useful it gets. So a huge thank you to those who have contributed to the debate. And just in case you are feeling that nothing will ever get done ever again, later in the week I’m writing about what encourages us to get things done. If I get round to it, of course!