Embrace Possibility Top 5 Reasons Why People Don’t Get Things Done

Top 5 Reasons Why People Don’t Get Things Done

busy man blurThere are people who just can't get things done.

Maybe you're one of these people and you're not sure why you don't get things done.

Maybe you deal with these people and they drive you crazy.

Maybe you do get things done but you want to get more things done.

No matter what the situation, it is worth understanding the most common reasons things don't get done.

So ... why don't people get things done?

Not Sure What to Do

One of the main reasons is because they are not sure what to do. They've been assigned a task at work or they want to accomplish a personal goal but they don't do it because they don't know how. People in this group are paralyzed because they either:

  • have no idea what to do or where to start
  • have so many options and are frozen by the fear of choosing the wrong one.

If you are in this situation, I highly recommend that you stop trying to guess and ask someone, who has already accomplished what you want, how he/she achieved it. If possible, choose someone who has similar values and beliefs to you so you are more likely to resonate with their course of action. Once you have a better picture of how to do what you want to get done, start right away.


No Deadline

If you want to make sure you procrastinate on your next project, don't set a definitive deadline. Just tell yourself you want to accomplish X in the vague future and leave it at that. You'll quickly find that when there is no deadline, it's easy to let other activities or projects, usually the easier ones, skip in line regardless of their importance. Also, you'll find that Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British scholar, was right when he said:

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

- also known as Parkinson's Law

This is why you can get so much done right before you go on vacation. When you set a vacation date, you've given yourself a deadline to finish all the tasks you need to do before you go. If you give yourself a lot of time to complete something, you'll end up taking all that time despite being able to do it faster. Your boss at work knows this and that is why he/she gives you such tight deadlines.

Are you taking advantage of Parkinson's law?

Do you set firm deadlines for your own personal or professional goals?

If not, set one today.


Unclear of What Final Outcome Looks Like

People don't get things done because they don't know what "done" looks like. They keep doing and doing but they don't know when to stop.

For the things you want to get done, what does done look like?

How will you know that  you've accomplished it?

What will you see?

How will you feel?

What sounds will you hear?

Take time to paint a vivid picture of "done"


Not Held Accountable

Getting things done is not easy. It's even harder when you are doing it all by yourself. We have the incredible gift of being able to talk ourselves out of doing difficult and effortful tasks. So what's the difference between the times we actually do the difficult work and the times we talk ourselves out of it?

For me, I find that I do hard, effortful work when someone else is counting on it being done.

People who usually "motivate" me to do hard work are my clients, the readers of my blog, my friends and my family.

I would never wake up on my own to go running at 6 am in the morning but if I know my friend is going to be waiting outside, I get out of bed no matter how cold, dark, wet it is outside.

Who is counting on you?

If you're not getting things done, set up situations where people are counting on you to do what you say. If no one is counting on you, it becomes much easier to wait until tomorrow or when you have more energy. I recommend finding an accountability partner who will check in on you to make sure you are getting things done. The beauty of this setup is that you're counting on each other to make sure you keep this partnership going.


Don't See the Consequences

"You're fired."

That's a clear consequence of not getting things done at work.

How about in your personal life?

What are the consequences if you don't get things done in your personal life?

A divorce?

A heart attack?

A big debt?

These are all serious consequences but for some reason when it comes to our personal lives, we become blind to the consequences until it's too late.

  • Not fixing the roof doesn't seem like a big deal until a big storm hits and your ceiling caves in
  • Being too lazy to go to the gym for some exercise seem justifiable when it's raining outside until you are 70 pounds overweight and feel horrible about yourself
  • Staying at a dead-end job that pays well may seem comfortable at the moment until you get laid off and find that you'll have to take a 50% pay cut because you haven't worked on any useful skills for other employers

No matter what we do or don't do, there are consequences.

Remember this the next time you want to put something off.

If you want to get something done, make sure you:

  • know what to do
  • have a firm deadline for getting it done
  • know exactly what "done" looks, sounds and feels like
  • have someone counting on you to get it done
  • understand the negative consequences of not getting it done and the positive consequences of getting it done

Good luck!

Photo by kripptic

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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  1. Glynis J. Jolly October 12, 2012 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed your post. So much that I copied the 5 points you made at the end so I can print it out and put it above me computer.

    • Robert Chen October 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Glynis,

      I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and that you found it helpful. Thanks for the kind comment!

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