How I Freed Myself From Procrastination and Became a Home Cleaning Queen.
When you pull in the driveway after a busy day, do you ever experience that indulgent moment of yearning to sink down on the couch and relax? To put your feet up and let the day’s stress melt away? I do, but then I open the front door and suddenly it feels like the day’s stress is just beginning.
I knew I should have cleaned up last night. Now instead of winding down, I can feel my body winding up tighter than a coiled spring. I drop the keys in the bowl and dump my bag on the floor (because, of course, there’s no room on the coat rack). I cross to the couch and push the mountain of clean washing aside to collapse into the freed space.
I loathe putting clothes away. I do this every time. I can’t be bothered putting one load away so I leave it ‘til later. Then a second load gets added, then a third, and then I get so overwhelmed by the monstrosity piling up that it actually gives me anxiety.
I try to relax. The tension in my body eases but the pulse throbbing in my feet continues. I try to pull them up on the couch beside to me and end up tipping the pile of clothes on the floor.
I close my eyes and try to consciously push everything from my mind. It doesn’t work. With the loss of sight, the sense of smell increases and a pungent odour wafts in from the kitchen. Argh, the bins!
I open my eyes and feel depressed and anxious all at once, suffocated by the clutter lying around me. There are kids’ toys and random shoes sprawled over the floor, dirty mugs and glasses squashed onto the coffee table around empty pizza boxes and opened DVD cases. I watch in fascination as a dimming ray of sunshine filters through the window, highlighting the particles dancing in the air. I follow the beam of light till it lands on the TV screen—and a thick layer of dust I hadn’t noticed before.
I feel like crying.
Instead I go to bed. To my messy, un-made bed that lies in the middle of my messy, un-cleaned bedroom. I’m too tired to clean up; I’m too worked up to relax. So I lay there staring at the ceiling, at the small cobweb hanging in one corner. There’s a daddy long legs clinging to the silken mass and I wonder if he feels as depressed as I do?
Since opening the front door, I’ve lost the excitement of having the house to myself for a change. It’s as though the mess around me has compounded the mess within me and suddenly it’s all too much. A lack of motivation to do anything— even watch TV—engulfs me.
I should just get up and clean up. I know I should. But I don’t want to. All I wanted was some time to relax and enjoy a moment’s peace and quiet in the comfort of my own home. I had the time. I had the home. I even had the quiet. But there was no peace, and my home felt anything but comfortable right now.
After some restless tossing and turning (I think I slept for a while), I check the clock on my bedside table realise I’ve spent well over an hour lying here feeling sorry for myself. Over an hour of wallowing in my own wretched misery and nothing’s changed; the house is still a mess.
So now I berate myself for not just doing what had to be done when I came in. I would have been finished by now. I could be relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine at this very moment. Instead I’ve wasted precious time and feel even worse than I did before.
Enough, I decided. I was sick of letting my brain get in the way all the time. So I jumped out of bed—quickly, before I changed my mind—and marched straight in to the kitchen to take out the trash. I was going to clean this damn house as fast as I could and not let one single thought stop me. I didn’t care that I was tired, I didn’t care that I was angry, and I didn’t care that half the sodding mess wasn’t even mine. I was just going to DO IT!
Suddenly I felt energized and determined. I would have my time to relax even if it took me all night! It didn’t. I moved with the speed and agility of a leopard and it took me just over the hour I had wasted earlier. Done.
It felt amazing. I was exhausted—so I ordered takeout (don’t judge me)—but I was finally able to relax, to feel good and enjoy the rest of the evening with my feet up and the TV on. All it took was that one moment of action. One moment to get ahead of my brain and do what needed doing.
Mel Robbins, CNN commentator and motivational speaker, actually calls this ‘the push moment’ in her new book, The 5 Second Rule. As she herself has professed, “I was the problem and in five seconds, I could push myself to become the solution.”
From that moment on, I decided that as soon I knew something needed doing, I would do it, right away, before my mind had a chance to complain. It wasn’t long before I realised exactly how much time I wasted procrastinating and feeling annoyed at having to do something. It was actually relieving to just do the job and move on. Not only did I feel better, but I found that the house didn’t get as messy. Why? Because I would take care of the task in the moment and not let it accumulate to the point of overwhelm.
“Start before you’re ready. Don’t prepare, begin.” This has become my new life mantra. Of course there are times when I just can’t do the things that need to be done in that very moment, but as soon as I think to myself, “I could do . . .” I do it! I don’t think, I don’t hesitate, I just DO IT.
I have the whole family practicing this rule now. If anyone sees something that needs doing, we just do it. No thoughts. No hesitations. Just action. Within 5 seconds, before our brains kick in to argue. It’s become like a challenge and the kids are proud as punch to let me know they put their shoes away because they saw them lying on the floor.
Now that has been my greatest reward!