Over the years, I’ve discovered some common themes when I don’t get my work done. I began collecting them into a document. If I had a solutions that helped me overcome the challenge, I would add them as well.
As a result I have a collection of solutions to common problems I have in getting my work done.
While some of it is unique to me and my working style, a lot of it, I suspect, is universal. So I thought I would share it.
Reasons Things Don’t Get Done
(Alternate title: How To Stop Losing To Yourself)
Here’s some problems (and excuses) you might run into and proposed solutions. Some problems can have one or more causes and/or solutions. My solutions are not the only solutions.
This is my list created only with myself in mind. It wasn’t intended to be used by anyone else. The way I talk to myself might not work for you. Grammatically, I go back and forth between the imperative and declarative and sentences and fragments and first person and third person because I’m using what speaks strongest to me.
I present it only as an invitation for you to take it, edit it, and develop your own list from it.
- Couldn’t find time to do the work.
- It wasn’t on the calendar.
- Solution: Time is created not found. Make an appointment with yourself to do the work. Keep the appointment like your life depends on it..
- You weren’t very clear on what the goal was.
- Solution: Make sure your goal or task is “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Yes it’s a business cliche. But it works.
- An unrelated “opportunity” came up.
- Solution: You need to decide to say no to more stuff.
- This work is not a priority for you.
- Solution: Stop lying to yourself and go do something else.
- Life keeps getting in the way.
- If this is honestly true, just accept the fact that you’re not going to get it done and give up on the goal.
- It wasn’t on the calendar.
- “New Shiny Things” and “New Shiny Projects” look like better idea or more fun than current mission/goals.
- Solution: Understand new ideas are always more fun. If you really spent time to get your mission/goals right then you can trust this is a passing fancy or the temptations of The Resistance. Put these “shiny new things” on a “someday” list.
- Was trying to think about it.. but mind went blank and I went into “The Void”
- Solution: Ask yourself: What were you doing right before the void happened? There’s almost certainly some fear keeping you from going there and “protecting” you by blanking you out.
- Couldn’t get started.
- Solution: Use the 5 minute strategy. Schedule 2 hours or more to work on it. Tell yourself you only need to open the docs and work on it for 5 minutes. If you still don’t want to do it after 5 minutes, you can stop and do something else. (If you don’t have motivation, act! That will create motivation usually. Waiting for motivation is the strategy of fools and the fearful.)
- Solution: Corollary to 5 minute rule: if you are on a roll and have other plans and you can get out of those plans, do it so that you can keep things going. If your “best work time” is the morning but you are on a roll at midnight, don’t stop! THIS is your best work time right now. Who knows if tomorrow morning will be as good? Keep going until you are done.
- Desire to get it all “perfect” or “right”
- Solution: Apply the 80% rule. Done is better than perfect. Ship it. Perfection is only for losers and life or death situations. Remember that most people will only see the basics, not the details. Do you really want to attract a bunch of picky perfectionists to your work? Take the “B”.
- Didn’t keep your calendar appointment with yourself.
- Solution: Try to think back to the point where it failed. What were you feeling? What were you thinking? How can you change your strategy to prevent those things from happening again?
- Felt tired of working. Or too tired to work.
- Solution: Review your working strategy and plan. Are you doing self-defeating things like multi-tasking? Are you booking too much in your schedule?
- Solution: Are you sleeping and eating right? Are there other life factors? Be sure not to blame them unless they truly are to blame.
- Workplace was distracting, off putting or difficult in some way.
- Solution: Find a regular place that your subconscious will put you in the state of mind related to your mission. Get rid of the physical and audial clutter. Remove the friction to getting started by making it very inviting and easy to sit and work. But don’t let setting up your workplace become the whole day. Just get it done.
- Feeling Lost or overwhelmed with the work itself.
- Solution: Your next step is probably not clearly defined. Make your next step “figuring out the next doable step”. If you feel overwhelmed, your next step is probably too big. Break it down into smaller steps.
- Solution: Maybe you chose a medium that is too far removed from skillset. Choose a medium that is more adjacent. Or accept that you must first take on the project of developing that medium in your skillset.
- Solution: Admit that it is harder than you thought. Back up. You might need to spend a lot of time reflecting to see the big picture more clearly
- Solution: Was your goal “Think about ABC”? That’s not a goal. That’s an escape tactic.
- Got caught up doing research, reading or looking for a good tool to “help” productivity.
- Solution: Admit this is almost certainly procrastinating bullshit. Stop it.
- Beating yourself up, thinking you’re a loser, thinking you can’t do it, etc.
- Solution: It’s not you. The process has some really difficult parts and there’s no changing that. There’s no growth without some strain but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
- Solution: If your strategy fails to get the work done, the solution is not “trying harder” or “being harder on yourself” or “applying more willpower”. The solution is changing your strategy. Do some reflection.
- Continually avoiding reaching out or having a hard conversation.
- Solution: Remember that it’s more painful to avoid than to push through the fear and do it. Also remember there’s no way to avoid putting ourselves out for rejection or disappointment. As they say, success is directly correlated to the number of difficult conversations you are willing to have.
- Was hoping that ABC would happen but I’m not really doing much to help ABC happen.
- Solution: Remember – hope is not a strategy. What could you have done to help hope? How can you create a situation more favorable to ABC happening?
- General Procrastinating and debating whether to do something
- Solution: Ask yourself ”How am I going to feel about this 10 minutes from now? How am I going to feel about this 10 months from now? How am I going to feel about this 10 years from now?
Now go do some work.