Monday, 28 May 2012

6 More Reasons for Not Getting Things Done

Friday’s post "6 Reasons We Don’t Get Things Done" provoked a bit of discussion.  Being specific about a problem can be a breakthrough in finding the solution, so it’s worth a bit of thought.  Here are six more reasons why things that should get done, don’t:

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!


  1. My absolute favourite, "not understanding the problem".

    If I say "what is the problem we are trying to fix" one more time my boss is going to sack me.

    My wife doesn't take to it too well either

    I shall point them at your blog

    Thanks for the post


  2. I do think there are inbuilt cultural issues at play here. When I think about something I would like to do, I generally set about thinking how to do it. My wife, on the other hand, suggests that we put it off until - when? Well any time but now, even if she professes to think it is an interesting idea. This is after over 40 years of marriage; proof that marriage does not result in people becoming homogenised (quite proud of that, actually). I think she has an inbuilt caution, caused by her lack of self esteem as a child which, even as an assertive modern woman, she can't get over. So I don't think it always can be rationalised in the way you have sought to do. Which is not to say that I think that your ideas are not valuable, because they are. Just that they aren't comprehensive. But did you expect them to be?

  3. Well I guess the answer is in the title - these things are never comprehensive - just ideas. As for being rational, we are human beings not machines so being rational is not one of our strong suits. All that said, it has been useful for me to think about why I get certain things done, and why others stay on my guilt list for too long. But one thing I can be sure of, urgency is a huge motivator. I might have replied to your comment tomorrow, only I'm going on holiday so am racing through my To Do List today. This is perhaps my favourite reason for Getting Things Done!