For a healthy mind, body and business when you work from home

How to avoid procrastination: The House Cleaning Trap

Some days, I am not proud to admit it, but my home is immaculate. The grouting around the bathtub has been scrubbed and the TV screen shows no sign of my toddler’s face-squashing, hand-smearing antics the day before. Why would I not be proud of such Stepford-esque cleanliness? Well, it’s a trap. The whole house-cleaning thing. So how do you avoid such procrastination when you work from home?

The kids might be at nursery, my computer open and ready to go and I am stood, mop in hand, cleaning a kitchen floor, which, although a little porridge-smeared from the morning’s breakfast, is not exactly covered in a layer of grime. Then I spot the dust on the mantlepiece and the fluff in the corner, which could really do with that end-attachment on the vacuum, and I am off. Yep, I can even be bothered to switch hoover attachments, and what busy, working mum has time for that shizzle?

Seriously, the house-cleaning game is a classic procrastination technique, and one which seems to get me every time I don’t quite know what I’m doing next (apart from the ironing. Ask my husband. I’m not sure I even know where our iron is kept).

When else has my laundry basket developed such magnetism, the window squeegee such appeal? 

As soon as I have focus or a deadline, I can overlook the crumbs on the kitchen bench and the need for the kettle to be descaled and I crack on. Sometimes though, it is really difficult.

It is one of the downsides of working from home. I can find a million and one things to do before actually doing any work.

How to avoid procrastination: Refocus

I’m a believer in “eating the frog” and getting jobs you don’t like out of the way. Sometimes, however, it’s pointless to try to force myself to sit and work on a job I’m procrastinating on. I’ll inevitably waste more time staring at the blank page or screen. I need to get up and do something else to switch my mindset.

Often, concentrating on another task allows my subconscious to get to work, the ideas to flow and before I know it, the motivation to start the real work is there.

So, instead of using this time to clean inside cupboards and scrub grouting (which might be worthwhile if Great Aunt Irene is about to make an appearance, but otherwise, nope), it can be a good time to get out, do some exercise, listen to a podcast, implement some self-care into your routine.

Changing my location, doing something physical, or switching focus can be an instant energiser and really helps with getting my mind and creative juices flowing.

Redirect your energy

Alternatively, look to do a quick job, which can still prove productive. For example, if cleaning is the trap, why not pick up all those random receipts lying around the house, scrunched into pockets, stuffed into purses or shoved in to that ‘odds and ends drawer’ (admit it, you do have one) and methodically go through them, throwing, keeping or recording as required. It can be a productive task, but one which often never gets done. 

Equally, instead of cleaning the kitchen, organise and zone your desk (there are some great productivity tips on this in issue 1) so that you know where everything is. This saves you a lot of time, hunting for missing pens and paperwork in the long-run and once done, can help you feel motivated to get on with your real work.

Rid yourself of distractions

I am not condoning living in squalor! In fact, a certain amount of cleanliness, tidiness and organisation is necessary to get work done (see above on the desk tidying). So, how to avoid procrastination when there’s mess everywhere?

When I’m sitting, twitching nervously at the thought of the breakfast dishes piled up or can see yesterday’s cookie crumbs ready to be trampled into the carpet by a couple of juggernaut toddlers, I need to get those jobs out the way.

For me, a quick vacuum, chucking the lego and tea set into the toy box and keeping kitchen surfaces clear has an instantly restorative effect. Superficially, the place looks tidy and it’s amazing what a quick vacuum can do for the overall feeling of clean! Those few jobs can often be enough to stop the housework from becoming a distraction.

I am possibly portraying myself as a slightly obsessive cleaner. I am not. I do sometimes use it as an excuse to delay work.

If social media is your trap, turn off notifications or mute a particular app. Look at what gets you drawn in and then think about how to minimise its effect on you.

Reflect: How to avoid the trap

Understanding why I am procrastinating has been key to me doing it less frequently. Usually, it boils down to a lack of focus and direction, which is how goal-setting can help you avoid procrastination.

If I do not have a specific goal set for the day, or even perhaps for that hour, then I am more likely to wander off course. Importantly I also have to specify what needs to be done in order to achieve that goal. A short, actionable list will usually suffice.

Here is my framework:

  • Setting the goal
  • Noting the actions needed
  • Prioritising the actions
  • Scheduling the actions

There are more in-depth productivity tips on goal-setting and time-management in issue 2.

Working from home throws up a lot of distractions. What are your worst procrastination habits and what have you found to overcome them? Let us know over on the facebook community


For super-effective productivity tips on how to manage your time, accomplish your goals and generally start working more efficiently from home, subscribe to The Homeworker magazine. Each quarter you’ll get your issue straight to your inbox packed with expert tips, strategies and practical guides.


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