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Hey, guys. It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And today, I have my 17th iced coffee of the day, so I am feeling fired up and ready to go. And in the spirit of drinking too much coffee, I wanted to talk about how to get the things done throughout your day that you need to get done in way less time than you're probably doing them. Now I am certainly not one of those, like, efficiency gurus whose entire thing is figuring out how to optimize your life to, like, a robotic level. I think there's something really beautiful in wasting time sometimes and, you know, letting yourself really indulge in an activity and not feeling like everything has to be for a purpose. But I also think that if you're going to be wasting your time on things, it should be a moment that you enjoy. You should be lingering over cooking a long meal or going on a long walk to nowhere or even just staying in bed a little bit longer and listening to the birds outside. What is kind of sad, though, is wasting a ton of time throughout your day that you don't even get to enjoy or be present in, because it's just you not doing things in an efficient way. There can be something wonderful in taking the long way to do a nice, mindless activity. But that same mindlessness when applied to something like answering your daily emails can feel exhausting. So that's why I'm here to share with you seven unique ways to get more done in less time, so you have more time to do whatever the hell you want with.


Number one is meticulously tracking your good habits. So one of the best ways to keep doing things that are working well for you is to make sure to keep track of when they're working. Here's one really good suggestion from TFD team member Holly. "My 2019 New Year's resolution was to exercise more regularly via Pilates and bar classes. I drew a pink dot in my planner for each day I made it to class. I found it very motivating to see my own progress by simply having a record to show for it. I made it to three classes a week on average last year, which is so much more exercise than I've had in my life regularly since I was a teenager." And as someone who works with Holly every day, I can attest to how friggin' jealous I feel every time I'm like, "What are you doing?" And she's like, "Oh, going to class," like it's nothing. And there's a real reasoning behind this. Author James Clear explains why this is such an effective tactic to doing more of what works. "The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with a routine." For example, if you meditate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each of those dates gets an X. As time rolls by, the calendar becomes a record of your habit streak. And this can also work for things like work tasks. For example, every day that you make it to inbox zero, you can give yourself an X, or every day where you check off each item on your to-do list, that can get a gold star. Basically, it's nice to be able to look back and see that each thing that felt maybe a bit insignificant in the moment added up to real patterns and made your life markedly better.


Number two is batching your related tasks together. One of the things that can make us feel most ineffective is constantly having to jump from one task to another. Often, differing tasks will use different parts of our brains and different skill sets. And even that small transition between them leaves us feeling like we're lagging behind and like we're totally distracted. Even moving from one set of tasks on our computer to another uses up valuable time by having to toggle between them. And it can also really pull us out of a flow state that we can get into when we're really involved and engaged with a specific type of thinking. For example, if we're working on something that requires a lot of writing, we'll often find that we really get into our writing once we've had a nice, long, unbroken streak of it. And you can easily be pulled out of that flow by having to jump over and answer a random email. So start by identifying a few specific things that you often have to do multiple times a day on a daily or near-daily basis, things like domestic tasks, email, writing, research, et cetera. And start to set dedicated times for just those things. Whether it's a certain time of day or a certain number of days of the week, make sure that there is always a space in which you can focus on that and that alone before moving to something else. A perfect place to start with this is with your emails. Challenge yourself to set no more than two times per day where you're checking and responding to your emails, perhaps once first thing in the morning and once towards later in the afternoon. In addition to greatly improving your focus and clarity on the task at hand, this will also start to send a message to people who email you that you're not constantly available 24/7 to drop what you're doing and respond to them, which will create healthier boundaries in your work life and also make sure that you're not constantly being interrupted by things that you feel like you can't look away from. When we find ourselves often being bombarded by people at times that are not really even appropriate to be sending work emails, part of that is often because we've made ourselves overly available, sometimes even without realizing it. Good email hygiene sets the right tone for everyone around you.


Number three, shorten your to-do lists. A lot of people in our generation experience what is called "errand paralysis," basically, avoiding life admin tasks to the point where they feel totally overwhelming and create anxiety. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that are on your to-do list, start by paring them down to just the essentials so they can feel more manageable. Giving yourself a six-item maximum on these to-do lists is often referred to as the Ivy Lee Method, named after a productivity consultant to Charles Schwab in the 1910s. The method is as follows. One, at the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks. Two, prioritize those six items in order of their true importance. Three, when you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task. Four, approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day. Five, repeat this process every working day. This means that not only do you get to that experience of completion sooner, which helps keep you motivated for the next day, but it also removes that really daunting feeling of having to create a new list of tasks. You know you're limited in how long it can be, and therefore, it can always feel more manageable to you.


Number four, use the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. Now this one is particularly useful for people who find that they have a hard time staying on a particular task or staying motivated. But going into everything with that knowledge that you have a limited amount of time in which you absolutely need to be focusing on this thing and that you're looking forward to a nice little mental break at the end of it can help you power through the task at hand. It keeps you focused and also helps motivate you to actually follow through and finish. Plus, you can use those five-minute breaks themselves for something that helps you feel even better, like, for example, getting up and going for a walk around your working space, which, by the end of the day, could easily add up to 10,000 steps, no problem.


Number five, follow the two-minute rule. Basically, if something will take you less than two minutes, you do it right now, as in, right now, turn off this video. Just kidding. Never turn off a TFD video. But in all seriousness, if there is something that's been lingering on your to-do list that you can't quite move yourself to do but know that it would take two minutes or less, just do it. This is stuff like making appointments, sending a simple email, responding to someone, doing a simple domestic task, the kind of thing that could easily give you a little brain itch for days and even weeks on end, but could easily be resolved in a matter of minutes. It can seem counterintuitive that those super small items are often the things that trip us up. But they have that weird capacity to feel both overwhelmingly tedious and also like something that you could just easily do tomorrow, and it would be no problem, which is why forcing yourself to do it in the moment is such a good way to ensure that you're not going to constantly be kicking it down the road. Plus, that little boost of accomplishment that, hey, I did this thing I was putting off or would have otherwise put off helps motivate you for bigger tasks. And this can also be a great technique with building habits. "When you want to start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. You'll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version. For example, 'Read before bed each night' becomes 'Read just one page.'" For most of us, particularly when it comes to starting something brand-new, those first, initial steps can be the absolute hardest, things like getting yourself out of bed at a certain time, picking up the supplies to do the thing, opening the book, starting the workout video. Whatever it might be, just getting yourself to that first step can feel the most difficult. So by saying to yourself, "OK, self, you have permission to just do this little two-minute thing, and if you do that, we're giving you the gold star for the day that you worked on your habit," you'll often find that once you're already in the process of doing something, continuing to do it feels so much easier. Plus, even if you do only do the two-minute version of it, that's another little check mark in your calendar of days you did the good thing, which, when you look back on it, will motivate you to keep going.


Number six is give all meetings and conversations a hard stop. One of the easiest ways to lose valuable time at work is to let meetings and calls and conference calls and conversations run way over the time they really should be taking, particularly if it's a meeting or conversation that could be fairly open-ended or involve a good amount of group discussion. So keeping yourself to a strict deadline when it comes to these meetings and conversations and always making them shorter than you think they should be is a really good way to ensure that you're going to stay on topic during the conversation and that you're going to force yourself to do your best thinking, because you know you don't have an infinite amount of time in which to do it. We have probably all felt the cognitive burnout that you experience at the end of an extremely long meeting that has gone way overboard when you're still trying to think of things, but all you can think about is how your legs are falling asleep, and you really want to go get food and also probably pee. So avoiding that is the number one priority. But also remember, even if you are keeping yourself to a shorter deadline than you think you might need for a particular conversation, if you find yourself at the end of it absolutely needing to regroup, you can always regroup, or even, in many cases, potentially extend the meeting by a few minutes. But you should have to arrive at that decision after absolutely trying to do it in a shorter amount of time, rather than give yourself an hour for a meeting that should really take 15 minutes. Your time is valuable, so treat it that way. One really great way to make sure that everyone stays on their best and most focused behavior is to practice a stand-up meeting for meetings that usually get a little off topic or run too long. It's what it sounds like. People literally have to be standing for the entire meeting. And you'd be surprised at how much more effectively and clearly people tend to think when they can't sit down while doing it.


Lastly, number seven is to create a visual map for your goals with built-in rewards for meeting certain milestones. Now if you are someone who is a visual learner or who tends to be very motivated by really tactile, clear-cut evidence, a visual map of things like goals and habits can be incredibly effective, especially when these are longer, more abstract goals, things like debt repayment. One TFD contributor actually use a color map to keep herself motivated while repaying $26,000 in debt. We'll link you to her story in the description. "I decided that each swirl on the map would represent $100, because it was easy to count. I committed to coloring a swirl every time I paid $100 toward my credit card debt. It looked like an awfully big canvas, and I honestly didn't know how many swirls were it, but it seemed like the right time to get started. I figured I could always add more on if I needed." But you don't have to be an inherently visual person in order to create this from scratch. There are tons of templates on places like Pinterest for maps to keep you motivated when working towards certain goals. And another really great way to make sure that you stay on track while using this visual motivator is to set yourself predetermined rewards at certain milestones that you will only get to do if you reach them. It could be taking yourself out to a dinner and a movie night, a home spa evening, or even a trip to go see a friend. Whatever it is, making sure that you are keeping yourself moving in a linear fashion and always giving yourself real praise and a real moment of enjoyment when you've reached a goal is a really great way to stay motivated but also very focused on the task at hand. We can often lose a lot of time in reaching these longer-term goals, because we either feel demoralized and we put them off, or we have trouble visualizing how much further we could get if we restructured our habits and routines a little bit. Using tools like these to help yourself stay motivated and clear with your time use means that you're ultimately going to be giving yourself more time to do the things that you love and losing less of it in a way where you don't even know where it went half the time.


Going from a life where you check your email, like, 30 times a day and are constantly feeling overwhelmed with tasks that you can't even focus on one to a place where you are in control of your workflow will make everything you do feel so much easier, better, and more manageable. And then you can waste the time that you have on things that you love, such as watching Love is Blind or The Circle. And as always, guys, thank you so much for watching. And don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Bye