Being productive while brushing your teeth

July 19, 2020

An underrated moment to get a little more done is the time when you’re brushing your teeth.

Think about it: you brush your teeth and wash your mouth twice a day. You should be brushing your teeth for at least two minutes. And let’s say you wash your mouth for a minute each time. That’s three minutes, times two, makes six minutes a day.

Many of you complain that you get more email than you can handle. Well, how long does it take you to respond to a typical email? Let’s say, conservatively, that it’s two minutes. Then by answering emails while you brush your teeth, you can process at least an extra three emails a day.

Voilà, productivity!

I hope you realize that I am kidding here… If you didn’t, you clearly don’t know me very well yet. ;-) Trying to be productive while brushing your teeth and washing your mouth is ridiculous!

That moment when I brush my teeth and wash my mouth has been on my mind, though. I live in a flat in Amsterdam with my girlfriend, but for the past two weeks, she’s been abroad visiting family. I’ve been here by myself. And having been by myself, I noticed all sorts of habits that I’ve formed. Some good, some bad.

One bad habit is that I instinctively reached for my phone while brushing my teeth, almost every time. This was especially true in the evenings; I tend to brush my teeth right before going to bed, and I don’t bring my phone into the bedroom at night, so I think my brain had gotten in the habit of desperately soaking up some additional bits of information from the shiny object that is my phone, before turning off for the night.

And I realized that it was stressing me out to be on my phone while brushing my teeth! It’s surprisingly hard to brush properly while, say, reading an article. I noticed my attention going back and forth between my toothbrush and my phone. Sometimes it was so bad that I’d drop some toothpaste on my shirt—particularly when I combined the phone-toothbrushing with lying on my bed.

I’ve been using this time of being home alone to investigate how often I try to do several things at once. It’s astonishing. The urge to be on my phone is stronger than ever. But it is also more obvious than ever how ridiculous constant multi-tasking is.

That’s why I’ve been deliberately practicing doing just one thing at a time. Just brushing my teeth. Just washing my mouth. Just washing my face. Just doing the dishes. Just going to the toilet (without my phone!). It’s quite relaxing. But it takes effort to change these habits. So far, I’m doing well on the no-phone-while-brushing-my-teeth front. On the other fronts, there is still much progress to be made.

What about you? In which ridiculous ways do you multitask?

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