33+ Real Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Anything Done

Is your to-do list growing? Do you feel like you’re working hard, but not accomplishing very much?

If your efforts aren’t effective, there’s a reason.

In this post, I share over 33 real reasons why you’re not getting anything done. Beware, many of these reasons will make some freelancers uncomfortable.

Why You’re Not Getting Anything Done

So, why aren’t you getting anything done?

You can think of excuses all day long, but the real reason may be a little closer to home (and a little less comfortable) than you’d like.

Here are some real reasons why freelancers don’t accomplish what they set out to do:

  1. In over your head. You don’t really know how to do what you’re trying to do. Your skills or abilities just aren’t up to the task.
  2. Don’t have the right equipment. You’re missing a crucial software or hardware tool that you need.
  3. Don’t have a dedicated workspace. For most freelancers, a dedicated workspace is a must-have. It can be time-consuming and messy to schlep your work from one place to another.
  4. Disorganized. Your mess can keep you from getting your work done. Trust me. I know this one.
  5. No clear scope. Do you really know what your client wants you to do? A surprising number of freelancers don’t have a clear scope for their projects.
  6. Overbooked and overwhelmed. It’s not a good idea to take on more work than you can realistically handle. Overbooking can also cause stress.
  7. Interruptions. Are you constantly being interrupted? It takes time to recover your productivity after each interruption. Too many interruptions can seriously set you back.
  8. Illness. Nobody does their best work when they’re sick. If you don’t feel well, address your health issues so that you can get your work done.
  9. Lack of focus. Do you flit aimlessly from one task to the next? If so, you may suffer from a lack of focus. Sit down and develop a plan for getting your work done, then follow it.
  10. Don’t really like what you’re doing. Many freelancers subconsciously sabotage themselves by putting off tasks they dislike.
  11. No scheduled time for work. Part-time freelancers with a full-time job, especially, may have trouble finding enough time in their day for freelancing.
  12. Lack of sleep. While burning the midnight oil may seem like a great way to find more time in your day, lack of sleep actually slows you down and can even make you sick.
  13. Depression. Do you struggle to get going every single day? Do you lack enthusiasm for tasks you used to love? If this has been going on for a while, depression may be the culprit. You may need a professional to help.
  14. Bad attitude. Do you find yourself angry at your clients or your situation? A bad attitude can affect the way you do your work.
  15. No accountability. As a freelancer, you’re primarily responsible to yourself for getting your work down. Some freelancers find that not being accountable to a boss is a struggle.
  16. No goals. Setting goals is an excellent way to improve yourself and your freelancing business. Without goals, you may not get where you want to go.
  17. Fear. Fear is powerful. Too much fear can keep you from doing what you set out to do.
  18. Wrong work for you. We freelancers choose our work, but even freelancers sometimes choose projects that they aren’t well suited for.
  19. Negative self-talk. Is your glass half-empty or half full? If you’re always looking at the negative side of things, you may be harming your productivity.
  20. Procrastination. It should come as no surprise that putting things off can keep you from being productive.
  21. Making mistakes. Checking over your work and being careful might seem to slow you down, but fixing mistakes and rework takes even more effort.
  22. No routine. We humans are creatures of habit. If you’ve established good work habits, they will serve you well. Having no work routine can slow you down.
  23. Too social. Thanks to social media, we have more opportunities to be social than ever before. In fact, it’s possible to lose your entire day on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
  24. Multi-tasking. Many freelancers mistakenly believe that multi-tasking is a good thing. However, recent studies show that multi-tasking can actually hurt your productivity.
  25. Don’t get help. We freelancers tend to be a DIY bunch. We hate to ask for help (even when we need it), but sometimes getting help is the best way to get things done.
  26. Giving up. Quitting too soon is another common enemy to getting things done.
  27. Sloppy work. Sloppy work and cutting corners don’t really save time in the long run. Your goal should be to get things done and done well.
  28. Don’t prioritize.With a huge to-do list, it can be difficult to know where to start. Prioritize your tasks so that you tackle the most important ones first.
  29. Perfectionism. A perfectionist often has trouble letting go of a project. Even though most people would be satisfied, the perfectionist never is.
  30. Stress. Not only is stress no fun for most people, it can slow you down and even make you sick.
  31. No passion. As mostly creative folks, passion plays a role in our productivity. Some freelancers have lost their passion and as a consequence their productivity suffers.
  32. Don’t manage time well. There are a ton of time management tools available because time management is a common problem faced by many professionals.
  33. Don’t finish what you start. Is your office filled with unfinished projects? It’s better to commit to finishing one or two projects, than to start a bunch of projects you will never finish.
  34. Bonus reason: Client demands. Many freelancers find themselves interrupted by past clients or colleagues who ask them to do minor tasks (often for little or no pay).

What’s Your Take?

Of course, most freelancers just struggle with one or two of these issues. The silver lining is that once you discover what is affecting your productivity, you can overcome it.

What holds you back? What keeps you from getting things done? Share your answers in the comments.

Image by toffehoff


  1. says

    Very good article. I agree with you on these reasons, and I believe that most of them are applicable to any body not just a freelancers… it applies to everywhere. I know some freelancers who are always too busy to work, that they can not do the quality work and cut corners… and ultimately waste time in fixing it. Shared this on FB. Thanks

  2. says

    You forgot “project creep.” You know, when a 3-hour project turns into a 25-hour project with no end in sight, and you have to put off other clients to take care of the “creeper.” That’s been my theme for this month! Fortunately, I’ve been able to plow through my “to do” list and cross some things off.

  3. says

    Right on, Laura. And many of these are interrelated.

    Sometimes the real problem is hidden under layers of negative actions. You hate what you do so you procrastinate, feel overwhelmed, do bad work, etc. You are right – you need to find the source. Good post!

  4. says

    Hello Laura :)

    We really enjoyed the post and we’d like to invite you to our productivity app for a private beta.

    A bit on IQTELL: you can run your tasks, collaborate on projects and aggregate your Evernote account, emails, calendars and more in one place.

    Would you be interested in an app grand tour?

  5. says

    Excellent list. I think it’s really worth noting the less tangible/ less obvious points that come from tiredness, stress, depression and definitely illness. For a freelancer it’s not always clear when these things are effecting your work – in a full time job you often immediately realise that you are ill or upset because you start thinking ‘I don’t want to be at work today!’ When you work from home, you don’t immediately realise there is something upsetting you because without moving location you don’t necessarily notice the physical signs.

    For me, I’ll be working ineffectively away at something, quite frustrated my lack of progress, and it’s only when I leave the house to go the shops or attend a meeting that I realise I’m aching and weary and actually ill, not just tired or lacking motivation. When things aren’t going well, you should pay very close attention to your body!

  6. says

    Team IQTELL, Thanks for that. I can take a look, but I can’t promise anything. :)

    Landon Poburan–It’s not as easy as it looks.

    Phil Williams–Excellent point! You definitely have to keep an eye on your health.

  7. says

    i’m a freelancer in Hoboken and, unfortunatly, i’m not getting workdone because i have no power. Luckily my ground floor office wasn’t flooded despite 3′ of water right outside the door. This week was a wash but i hope we have power back on next week.

  8. says

    Absolutely great list. This is an eye-opener to a lot of freelancers. Thanks for sharing! Now I have something to look back to when I feel like I don’t get any work done.


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