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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Cleaning your room instead of doing your homework

We have a metaphor on the team called "Cleaning your room instead of doing your homework" to describe when someone does a lot of productive work instead of their most important priority. It's not negative per se, because cleaning your room is really important. A lot of our best code is written in "clean your room" time.

It allows us to be honest about our humanity. I myself need this freedom in my work. Regimented strict homework time is hard for me and if I'm going to be productive, I need cleaning my room to count as productivity.

For example, this post is cleaning my room instead of doing my homework, because myself and a couple folks from the team are going to be conducting some workshops at DevFestNYC and I've been tasked to finish up some integrations we have planned for the event. I really need to finish those. 🙃

Another notable instance of this for me was a time when I was working with on a post that had to go out on Monday morning. That was the weekend I created the whole comment system on the site and then I woke up really early on Monday to actually write the article. And lo and behold, that was the first post to have comments on it. 😄

Top comments (34)

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Uhm, I'm doing this right now. Thanks for the reminder, Ben!

Closes tab.

iceterminal profile image

Really like this. From my end, I often clean my room instead of doing my homework. But for me, the analogy is that I'll surf articles/videos about what I'm working on instead of actually doing the work. I convince myself that I'm learning more but in the realization that I'm accomplishing less.

rapasoft profile image
Pavol Rajzak

I cleaned up my work desk yesterday. Every cable is now hidden, I got a lot of space and there's nothing to distract me now.
It's all because I had to prepare some report :)

n8ebel profile image
Nate Ebel

I call this "virtuous procrastination" (I think I Mike Rowe used the term)

I struggle with this all time. I always feel like there is so much to try/learn, and diving into those topics often feels better than getting down to the nitty gritty of whatever main task I'm working on.

As a remote employee, I often find myself cleaning my house in the morning if I know I'm not looking forward to daily backlog.

I try and schedule out my time so that I give myself time to "clean my room" but also ensure I do my homework.

iridakos profile image
Lazarus Lazaridis


ben profile image
Ben Halpern

val_baca profile image
Valentin Baca

I call this "procrastductivity" and honestly having one looming, big, important thing to do is the only way other grindy stuff ever gets done.

lschultebraucks profile image
Lasse Schultebraucks

Nice, I like that word!

deannaswallow profile image
Deanna Swallow

Full disclosure: I am now stealing this word and incorporating it into my daily vocabulary. I need to because it describes 90% of my day to day life. Thank you for your contribution. ;)

imthedeveloper profile image
ImTheDeveloper • Edited

I love this discussion. Early in my career and through education I learnt to jump on new work early so I could gauge it's size and ultimately then end up ahead of the curve with less stress to hit deadlines. However I then joined an industry where "business and system change" is typically embryonic, fuzzy or scope is unknown.

My typical play to get ahead of the curve often resulted in stress due to the continuous change in requirements. Regardless to this I was always seen as the efficient guy who delivered work on time or early. Little did people know the cool character was near breakdown due to stress.

As my career and understanding of my own abilities (reduction in imposter syndrome) matured I learnt to adapt in order to overcome. I set very clear constraints in my mind which are:

  • Do enough to understand the initial scope
  • Wait
  • Confirm scope to self, tell others what your scope is
  • Deliver with precision

The important difference is the "wait". I gauge the size of the work and I then do nothing but clean my bedroom. This might involve preparing an approach in my mind right through to researching a subject area to gain further knowledge on the tasks ahead. The main point here is, it's not a time to do actual work, it's a time to better yourself or to complete tasks which impact my mental ability to later on deliver work without distraction.

There are huge benefits in waiting, the removal of time to procrastinate when you need to be in delivery mode brings swathes of clarity and the ability to truly concentrate on the task. I've found my productively in this window goes through the roof and guess what I'm being super lean, delivering purely value adding activities with a defined scope.

I stand back monitoring the changes against my initial review of the tasks. If requirements are removed or added I can mentally note how much extra or less work this is for me when it comes to delivery. Most importantly though, if the project or task is suddenly thrown in the bin, I've not spent hours, days or weeks delivering to an open ended fuzzy scope where I'm left deflated and burnt out.

From the outside, in still seen as the efficient guy who can stick to deadlines. But now inside I'm thousands of times more comfortable and confident knowing I have this mental contract in place ensuring I'm lean and precise in my work.

developerscode profile image
Ka Wai Cheung

I do this all the time, where "cleaning my room" usually means some form of cleaning up code -
refactoring, DRY-ing up, renaming, or even a minor or slightly-major architectural adjustment that I've stumbled upon on the normal path of work. It sometimes also means writing up a post because I just thought of or discovered an interesting thing I want to share in the moment.

The unfortunate reality is I don't think most companies explicitly allow "clean your room" time (especially those that don't see the future value of such diversions). But, I think this is essential to keeping your mind fresh and engaged. I feel more energetic having worked a 60 hour week because I went on 30 hours of passion-filled diversions than had I just stuck to the 30 hours of priority work.

tjl19 profile image

So this is basically positive procrastination, you're still avoiding the most pressing thing to do while focusing on other important things. I tend to do a lot of that, but honestly cleaning is the last thing I can focus on

tjl19 profile image
TJl19 • Edited

So this is like positive procrastination I tend to do a lot of that when I'm trying to work on my business and often cleaning
goes by the wasteside

enkaplus profile image
Enka Plus

Temizlik konusunda uzman bir şirket her alanda başarılıdır. Bu nedenle temizlik konusunda gayet ciddi adımlar atanlar uzun vaadede başarıyı yakalarlar. Ev temizliği konusunda başarılı adımları ofis inşaat ve diğer tüm alanlardada sürdüren Antalya temizlik şirketi ciddi olumlu yorumlar almaktadır.

cleaningexpress profile image
Alex Bogdanov

Cleaning must be fun. I work from home and schedule some cleaning during the day to keep myself fresh and motivated. Here are some more cleaning fun ideas.

terceranexus6 profile image

This happens to me all the time, mostly regarding to university assignments, which I should be doing instead of studying everything else I find interesting about computer science (or at least, I should be spending more time on university).

I think this freedom can lead us on discovering new amazing things, so I guess it's difficult to find a good balance between what we "should be" doing and what we "want" to do.

willamesoares profile image
Will Soares

I'm currently going through one of these moments and I feel like writing lots of blog posts (including a post about procrastination) instead of trying to fix a tough problem I'm having with a project.

elcotu profile image
Daniel Coturel

This happens to me from time to time too.

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