Behind on a freelance project? That can be one of the most overwhelming and debilitating situations to find yourself in when you are freelancing! In this essential guide for drama-free freelancing, I reveal exact steps you can take to overcome the overwhelm and take back your control of the situation with confidence.

How to Cope with Feeling ‘Behind’ on a Goal or Project

Ever wrestled with gripping guilt, anxiety and insecurities when you fell behind on a goal or project?

If you’re anything like the women I work with on scaling their service-based brands like freelancers and coaches, you know this pain intimately.


The problem is, that indulging in those typical thought patterns and limiting beliefs that have been drilled into us by the patriarchy and bro-culture marketing will only diminish your capacity to catch up. Then you start to fall further behind, feeling even worse about yourself and the project or goal, until it snowballs into a vicious cycle that leads to…you guessed it: burnout.


So the question becomes: How do I cope with these feelings and prevent myself from repeating this behavioral cycle that is holding me back from the quality of life I deserve?


Thats what I want you and I to honestly examine in this post and the conversation that follows in the comments thread so that you can get yourself back on track TODAY.


But before we dive into the juiciest parts of this post, would you help me pay some bills by subscribing and sharing? If you’re not open to either of those though, just know you being here at all means the world to me because your time is your least renewable resource, and you’re using it to spread my legacy just by reading, so thank you, and I love you for that!


Okay, now let’s roll up our sleeves and liberate you from your inner critic to get you confidently caught up on your goals.

The Mindset of Feeling Behind

Falling behind on a goal, project, or milestone that is meaningful to you and your business can be one of the most stressful everyday events for solopreneurs and small teams.

Not only has our patriarchal society been drilling the idea that our worth as a human is tied to what we produce since the industrial revolution, but now social media has added extra layers of pressure.

Pressure to fake it till you make it (which is causes extremely toxic levels of imposter syndrome).

Pressure to constantly “show up” no matter how sick, or stressed, or burned out or behind we are.

Pressure to win even when you’re losing?!

So it’s no real shock that in this digital age and environment that you might start to panic, shut down, procrastinate or throw a tantrum at how impossible it all feels.

But you know as well as I do, that indulging those fight, flight and freeze responses for more than a moment leads to a snowball effect that can become crippling.

For now, I want you to really focus on your “I’m behind” feelings.

But “behind” is not an actual emotion or feeling, right? Its a descriptor we use for our experience of our true feelings. So now we need to dig deeper to examine the root feelings underneath.

  1. Inadequacy: One of the most common feelings associated with being behind is inadequacy. It’s the nagging thought that we’re not good enough or that we’re failing in some way. This feeling can stem from personal standards or external pressures, making us question our capabilities and worth.
  2. Anxiety: The uncertainty of not meeting a deadline or achieving a goal can lead to anxiety. This emotion is characterized by excessive worry, restlessness, and physical symptoms like increased heart rate. The more significant the perceived gap between where we are and where we want to be, the higher the anxiety.
  3. Guilt: Especially for those who are deeply committed to their responsibilities, falling behind can evoke feelings of guilt. This emotion arises when we believe we’ve let ourselves or others down.
  4. Overwhelm: The sheer volume of tasks or the complexity of a project can lead to feelings of overwhelm. It’s the sensation of drowning in responsibilities, unsure of where to start or how to catch up.
  5. Frustration: When obstacles, whether internal or external, hinder our progress, it’s natural to feel frustrated. This emotion is a response to being blocked from achieving something we desire.
  6. Shame: Closely related to guilt, shame is the feeling that there’s something inherently wrong with us. It’s not just about what we did or didn’t do; it’s about who we are. When we’re behind, especially if others seem to be ahead, it can trigger feelings of shame.
  7. Fear: At its core, the fear of consequences drives many of our feelings about being behind. Whether it’s the fear of financial repercussions, damaged relationships, or lost opportunities, this emotion can be a powerful motivator or paralyzer.

Understanding these root emotions is the first step in addressing and coping with the feeling of being behind. By recognizing and naming what we’re truly feeling, we can better address the source of our discomfort and find strategies to move forward. Remember, it’s natural to feel a range of emotions when pursuing goals or projects. The key is to harness these feelings, understand their origins, and use them as a catalyst for positive action.

No strategy on the planet will work for you until you have the right mindset. Now that you recognize the feelings underneath this problem, you can begin to reverse the toxic behavioral cycles that cause you to wind up here often and reverse them.

But to be honest, that is not an overnight fix.

So, in the meantime, while you work to eliminate the limiting beliefs upholding those feelings, let’s look at what you can do in the here and now to get back on track with your goals so you no longer feel “behind”:

1. Self-awareness and Acceptance: Before you can address these feelings, you need to recognize and accept them. Denying or suppressing your emotions can lead to further stress. Take a moment to introspect and identify what you’re truly feeling with some shadow work journaling.

2. Reframe Your Perspective: Understand that everyone progresses at their own pace. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your journey and growth. Remember, it’s not about where you stand relative to others, but how far you’ve come from where you started.

3. Break Tasks into Manageable Steps: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of a project, break it down into smaller, more achievable tasks. This makes the work seem more manageable and provides a clearer path forward.

4. Prioritize and Delegate: Not everything on your to-do list may be of equal importance. Determine what’s urgent and essential and tackle those tasks first. If possible, delegate tasks that others can handle.

5. Set Realistic Expectations: It’s essential to set achievable goals. While it’s good to push yourself, setting unrealistic expectations can lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration. This was (and sometimes still is) a struggle for me as a creative with capabilities that vastly outweigh my capacity until I put in some serious work to heal.

6. Practice Self-Compassion: Want to instantly increase your capacity? Be kind to yourself. Everyone falls behind or faces challenges at some point. Instead of being overly critical, treat yourself with the same compassion you’d offer a friend in a similar situation.

7. Seek Support: Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This could be a friend, family member, coach, or therapist. Sometimes, just verbalizing your feelings can provide clarity and relief.

8. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help you stay present and reduce feelings of anxiety. They allow you to focus on the current moment rather than getting lost in worries about the future.

9. Limit Exposure to Triggers: If constantly checking social media or certain environments exacerbate your feelings of being behind, consider reducing your exposure or taking breaks.

10. Celebrate Small Wins: Recognize and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This can boost your confidence and motivation, reminding you of your capabilities. I do this every single day with my daily planners and reflection journaling and ever since I started I feel proud and accomplished Every. Single. Day.

11. Re-evaluate and Adjust Goals: If you consistently feel behind, it might be time to reassess your goals. Are they still relevant and achievable? Adjusting them to align with your current circumstances can alleviate feelings of being perpetually behind.

12. Practice Gratitude: Focus on what you have accomplished and the positive aspects of your life. Keeping a gratitude journal can shift your focus from what’s lacking or delayed to what’s abundant in your life.

What If You Fall Behind On A Freelance Client Project Unexpectedly?

As a content strategist and writer with a decade of experience, I understand the pressure of deadlines and the commitment to delivering quality work on time. Ideally, you would set expectations with clients about how you plan to honor your capacity in the typical unexpected events like waking up sick, having a family emergency, or any of the other chaotic surprises that life brings.

But if you are already into a project and have fallen behind, odds are you’re sweatin in your Spanx right now so let’s look at how to address your clients and get yourself back on track the healthy way – like yesterday.

Setting the Stage: First and foremost, proactive communication is key. It’s natural to want to hide or hope you can catch up before anyone notices, but transparency is crucial. Reach out to your client as soon as you realize there’s a potential delay.

Here’s how:

Acknowledge the Situation: Start by acknowledging the delay. A simple, “I wanted to update you on the project timeline due to some unexpected events,” can set the tone for an open conversation.

Be Honest, But Brief: Explain the reason for the delay without diving too deep into personal details. Whether it’s illness, a family emergency, or another unforeseen event, a brief explanation provides context without oversharing.

Provide a Revised Timeline: Offer a new, realistic deadline for when they can expect the deliverables. Ensure this timeline accounts for any additional unexpected hiccups.

Reassure Quality: Emphasize that the quality of work will not be compromised despite the delay. Clients value quality, and knowing that standards won’t slip can ease concerns.

Getting Back on Track: The Healthy Way

Falling behind can be stressful, but it’s essential to approach the catch-up process healthily. Here’s how:

Prioritize Tasks: List out all pending tasks and prioritize them based on urgency and importance. This will give you a clear roadmap of what needs immediate attention.

Avoid Overworking: It might be tempting to pull all-nighters to catch up, but this can lead to burnout and compromise the quality of your work. Instead, set specific work hours and take regular breaks.

Seek Help If Needed: If the workload is too much to handle alone, consider outsourcing or seeking help from a colleague. Delegating tasks can ensure timely completion without sacrificing quality.

Practice Self-care: Remember to take care of your mental and physical well-being. Whether it’s a short walk, meditation, or simply taking a moment to breathe, self-care can help reduce stress and improve productivity.

Learn and Adapt: Once the project is back on track, reflect on what caused the delay and how you can prevent it in the future. Whether it’s setting more realistic deadlines, improving communication, or implementing better project management tools, use the experience as a learning opportunity.

My biggest downfall in this area for years was setting unrealistic deadlines for myself with clients which came from a place of people-pleasing. Learning to set more realistic deadlines with a cushion built-in for the unexpected allows multipassionate creatives with a lot of simultaneous projects like me to “over-deliver” by being ahead on most deadlines and projects most of the time now. That way, when I do have a delay it is easier to my clients to be patient with me because they know it isn’t my M.O..

In conclusion, while falling behind on a client project is not ideal, it’s a situation many professionals encounter. The key is to handle it with grace, transparency, and a commitment to delivering quality work.

Remember, everyone understands that life happens; it’s how you respond and adapt that truly sets you apart.

And those other assholes that don’t? Dump em! No client no matter how big they are is worth you compromising your integrity or health.