Blog Post

5 Reasons Why We Don’t Get Stuff Done

We all have a bazillion things to do and for many of us, when we get to the end of the day it feels as if we have achieved nothing. Not one tick on that long list that has been following us around for years. How is it that we never feel like we get stuff done?

I am a prolific list writer, a trait handed down by my dear father. He was a chef and hotelier and I always remember him having a clipboard with multiple lists attached to it. He was a doer and was pretty good at working through his lists. I wish now I had asked him what his secret was. My sister and I have taken list writing to a whole new level and whilst we are also doers, our lists can at times be somewhat devitalizing (is that even a word?).

Why is it, that when we seem to be so organized as to have all our to-dos in one place, we still fail to get stuff done? Surely this is not the actual case otherwise, how would we have fed our family, got kids off to school, gone to work?

In my quest (ongoing, I might add) to make life simpler, lower stress and turn down the noise I often find myself pondering this. Why the heck do we struggle so much to get stuff done?


In this age of digital distraction, we are bombarded by so much information. As a consequence, we are constantly being told that we need to be someone or we need a particular product – or we need to have a certain life. 

All these little suggestions make it onto ever-growing lists. Apart from many of these superficial need-to-dos being completely misguided, they either never get done or even worse, overshadow items of far greater importance.

What happens here is we start to sweat the small stuff. We should be taking our tasks down to a granular level, to assess what is really most important, what is longer term or what (importantly!) would give us most joy to complete. Instead, we see a huge mass of unfinished judgment, reminding us of how we’re failing.


I wake up at 5.45am to have some solitude before the family gets up. Then from 6.30am it’s the school day routine (breakfast, nagging, teeth, packed lunch, a bit more nagging, rushing to the car, the 90-minute school run). I then get home, check emails, respond to messages, and begin my tasks for the day. 

I get a call from school saying one of my kids isn’t feeling well, so I have to go and collect them. Another 90-minute journey. By the time we get back home it is gone 1pm and apart from not getting any work done, I haven’t managed to return items to the store, clear my unread emails, write a blog post and begin research for a college essay I need to submit. Never mind exercise (what about my me time?) and preparing supper. How did I ever think I would achieve that before leaving at 2pm to collect child two? 

Frustration then sets in and that familiar feeling of not achieving starts to take over.

Where does it come from, this need to do it all? Social and mass media have huge parts to play, but childhood experiences also shape how we perceive achievement.

Motherhood was a big trigger for me – going from a busy career to stay-at-home mum and losing that regular validation of a job well done. I was doing a good job, I was nurturing a child and running a household, but no-one patted me on the back or gave me a raise. It caused me to seek endorsement through achieving as many tasks as I could on any given day.

If we don’t get those to-dos completed on a specific day, we need to learn to let them go and look to tomorrow. Focus on what we do achieve and be proud of it.


Nor is it a badge of honour. 

When it comes to prioritizing, managing, retention and recall, recent research has shown that the brain can only do four (yes, four) things at once. If you have more than that in your head at any one time, your cognitive function becomes compromised. You will be driven instead by what is most recent – or loudest.

Why is it then, that in this era of “busyness”, we regard multitasking as an admirable character trait? In fact, I remember it being in most CV frameworks under the positive traits section.


Screen time stats from 2019 show that people check their phones an average of 58 times a day. Each time someone picks up their phone they spend around 1 minute 15 seconds on it. That’s around 18 days a year – or 23 if you remove 8 hours of sleep per day. Almost an entire month, just checking our phones.

Now, even though we often legitimately need to respond to a text or check a diary, these events often lead down a social media rabbit hole. Apart from the obvious time-thievery of digital devices, every time we pick up that phone we are distracting ourselves from potentially completing the task we were working on.

Mobile phone #busy


Each day we are faced with a barrage of mini stress triggers as we navigate our fast-paced, digitally-driven, desk-bound, sugar-fuelled universe. Some of these are just plain old life stresses and whilst the stress response itself is not detrimental to our health, prolonged, continuous stress is.

The world health organisation called stress the “health epidemic of the 21st century.” Now, this was pre-corona but that being said, the added stress of the 2020 pandemic will just have added further fuel to the stress fire.

When we’re stressed, we are more likely to procrastinate. It’s challenging to focus when you have several stresses whizzing around in your brain, so you put things off. The fact that these things have been put off then cause further stress, which leads to overwhelm. So the cycle continues and ultimately leads to a negative loop which can become debilitating.


Depending on what the reason is in the first place, there are things we can do to get unstuck. Feeling like you never progress is psychologically draining and is not an efficient way to live. If any of the points above resonate, I would start with considering the following:

  • Clear the cranial clutter
  • Break large tasks down into smaller goals, within realistic timeframes
  • Write a ‘done’ list at the end of every day – and put a tick next to each item
  • Prioritize and don’t try to do everything at the same time
  • Manage your digital consumption
  • Take steps to minimize stress

Regardless of what’s stopping you from achieving your goals, start making changes today. If you would like to find out how I can support you, contact me at to schedule a free discovery call.