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What Dental Floss Can Teach Us About Time Management

What Dental Floss Can Teach Us About Time Management
    Smile...you're managing your time better!

    Flossing your teeth is one of the best examples of the principles of time management. Why?

    Well, we all know it’s something you should do, yet probably don’t do.

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    After you see your dentist, you vow to do better this time, you stay on it for a few days, maybe, and then let it go again, until your next appointment. Why does this happen? Well, flossing is a hassle, and the payoff is in the distant future. If I told you I’d give you a million bucks if you flossed your teeth right now, you’d run out and get some floss and make it happen, right? Of course!

    But that’s not your reality.

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    The reality is that if you spend a few minutes now before bed time, you will be less likely to get cavities, lose your teeth, or suffer gum disease in the future — perhaps in the distant future, decades from now. When you are 75, you will wish you had started flossing when you were 30, but by then it will be too late. Furthermore, research has shown that people who floss actually live longer then people who don’t. Think about that. When you are on death’s door decades from now, you will wish you had a few more healthy years in you, to see your grandkids, to share with your husband or wife, to continue your life’s work. That puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? You can give yourself that gift, but you will need to start flossing today.

    So, how will you stay motivated today when the payoff won’t come for so many years? You know you should floss, but should is not enough. You need to create a visceral, emotional payoff that you can experience now, that will motivate you to keep going. Perhaps it’s as simple as a mantra you repeat to yourself as you pick up the floss each night: “I am giving myself the gift of a longer life,” or “I’m going to have a sexy smile when I’m 75!”

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    Or maybe you imagine smiling as your grandkids bounce on your knee, or as you walk your granddaughter down the aisle to get married, or play golf with your best friend, whatever has meaning for you. Is that worth a few minutes of hassle right now? Of course it is!

    Now, perhaps you are motivated by avoiding pain. In that case imagine something awful, like having no teeth, not being able to enjoy a juicy apple or hearty steak, but you can avoid that with a few minutes of work right now. Worth it, right?

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    Maybe none of that is sufficient. The payoff is too far away, too abstract. Fair enough. If you have kids, or if you have ever worked with kids, you surely know that they can be motivated by immediate rewards. Floss your teeth, and get a gold star on the chart! Collect ten stars and you get a reward, like a favorite coffee drink or a trip to the movies. Yes, this is bribery, and every parent and teacher on this earth has resorted to it many times, because used well, it works! Find a reward that is motivating and use that to incentivize yourself to floss. Create a chart if you need to, or find an app.

    When I was 10, my aunt told me she would give me five dollars if I finished my green beans. I choked them down in seconds. She thought it proved that I actually liked them. I didn’t, but I had a clear picture of the reward for doing something I didn’t want to do — which was the five dollars she promised.

    The bottom line is you want to find a way to experience some satisfaction today, even though the benefit of flossing won’t be felt for years. Create this kind of reward for yourself, and not just flossing — but anything — becomes possible.

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    Dave Kaiser

    An Executive Coach who helps people make better use of their time, from productivity to living their life's mission.

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2019

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Procrastination is something many people can relate to and I, myself, have been there and done that. Yes, I write all about productivity now, but when I first started out on my career path, I would often put off work I didn’t want to do. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

    So what changed?

    I thought to myself, “why do I procrastinate?” And I started to read a lot of books on productivity, learning a great deal and shifting my mind to the reasons why people procrastinate.

    My understanding brought me a new perspective on how to put an end to the action of procrastination.

    Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It rears its ugly head on a regular basis for a lot of people. This is particularly apparent at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

    But, why do people self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work life.

    1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

    Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

    If you put off a task enough, then you can’t face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things ‘just right’ may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

    Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

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    How to Tackle It?

    Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

    For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confident, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

    Imagine your boss telling you how great you did and you were the best person for the job. Think about how it would feel to you and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

    2. A Dreamer’s Lack of Action

    This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

    The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

    How to Tackle It?

    Write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable for progression. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

    If you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering across to different ideas.

    Learn about how to plan your time and take actions from some of the successful people: 8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

    3. An Overwhelmed Avoider

    This is one of the most common reasons for procrastination; the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

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    The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

    The search then starts for a more enjoyable task and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

    How to Tackle It?

    Break the challenge down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

    For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles. Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

    A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

    If you want to know how to better handle your feelings and stay motivated, take a look at my other article: Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

    Either you have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

    Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another or spending too much time deciding what to do.

    How to Tackle It?

    It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

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    Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and make a list in order of importance.

    For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with ‘urgent’ emails from colleagues but, you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

    Help yourself to prioritize and set a goal of working through your list over the next few hours reassessing the situation once the time is up.

    In my other article, I talk about an effective way to prioritze and achieve more in less time: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    5. The One with Shiny Object Syndrome (Distraction-Prone)

    This is another common cause for procrastination; just simple distraction.

    Our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time and it looks for something else. So throw in a bunch of colleagues equally looking for distractions or checking your phone mindlessly, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    How to Tackle It?

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting what you need done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

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    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focus, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Bottom Line

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    You could be trapped in the endless cycle of procrastination like I was, that is, until I decided to find out my why behind putting off tasks and projects. It was only then that I could implement strategies and move forward in a positive and productive way.

    I killed the procrastination monster and so can you. I now complete my tasks more efficiently and completely killed that feeling of stress and falling behind with work that procrastination brings.

    I know it’s not easy to stop procrastinating right away, so I also have this complete guide to help you stop it once and for all: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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