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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 October 15, 2019

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

    Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

    Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

    Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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    1. Make a list of your goal destinations

    Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

    So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

    Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

    If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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    2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

    This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

    Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

    3. Write down your goals clearly

    Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

    For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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    4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

    Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

    These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

    5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

    Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

    For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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    Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

    6. Schedule your to-dos

    Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

    Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

    7. Review your progress

    At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

    Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

    Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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