If you’re eager to stop procrastinating and improve your time management skills, consider looking into what the two-minute rule is.
With this method, you can check more things off your to-do list — and, you’ll be building a good habit for the long term. However, just because it sounds short and sweet doesn't mean it’s easy. We'll review when to use the two-minute rule and how best to do it. Plus, we'll discuss how to stop multitasking (yes, it’s best avoided) and have a clear mind while we work.
What is the 2-minute rule?
Perhaps you've heard of productivity strategies like the Pamodoro Technique or the 20/80 rule. The two-minute rule is different. It was first established by David Allen in his book, Getting Things Done. The two-minute rule aims to banish procrastination and help people accomplish small tasks.
Here’s what the rule says: if you can do an action in two minutes or less, tackle it at the moment and don’t delay. This has the potential to deliver long-term benefits. For example, if you spend two minutes a day picking clothes up from your bedroom floor, it won’t take 30 minutes of your Saturday.
Getting Things Done is a best-selling book for a reason. It helps inspire people to tackle tasks rather than let them build up into something much larger. That’s empowering, and useful if you’re eager to stop procrastinating. But as a warning, the two-minute rule is always the most effective strategy. There are both pros and cons to this method.
Does it really work?
No strategy is foolproof. The same goes for the two-minute rule. This productivity tactic may help in some situations, but not make sense for others. To give a better sense of the two-minute rule and all it encompasses, take a look at these pros and cons.
- You develop a more motivated mindset toward accomplishing tasks
- You're rewarded with small wins that help you feel productive
- It serves as a stepping stone for you to accomplish larger tasks
- It prioritizes small things rather than your most important tasks
- Your energy and resources aren't used for bigger projects
- If it's not done properly, it can actually derail your productivity
Examples of the 2-minute rule
It's time to see what the two-minute rule can look like in action. You can apply this strategy anywhere in your professional and personal lives. How you use this rule is critical. Applying it to important tasks that demand your full attention isn’t necessarily the best use of your time and energy. Here are several two-minute rule examples to consider:
- Respond to a work email
- Share feedback on your work or projects
- Clean up the dishes right after you eat
- Water all of your plants at once
- Send a thank-you note to a coworker or friend
- Meal-prep your meals for the next day
How to use the 2-minute rule at work
At work, you need to be on top of your role's responsibilities. The two-minute rule can help you practice altruism and lend a helping hand to others when they need it or you have some time to spare. It can also be useful for managing work anxiety.
To make the most of this rule and arm up our productivity, here are tips on how to use it at work:
- Follow-up on meetings, interviews, or questions immediately
- Leave voice messages rather than having to call people back again
- Organize your work area, including your computer files, regularly
- Stay on top of your bookkeeping and filing
- Prep your workspace and gather the resources you need for the next workday
Deep work vs. 2-minute tasks
So far, we've discussed how the two-minute rule is great for small things that take less time.
This strategy can also help with kick-starting more significant tasks. You can use it as a jumping-off point for tasks that require a lot of effort. But that's if you do it properly. Choose specific tasks or work that’ll make a good start and only take a couple of minutes.
Underestimating the required time could lead to doing a poor job, experiencing frustration, or burnout at work.
An example of using the rule for larger tasks could be taking out your yoga mat and clearing a space before a long yoga class. Or, before studying, you can open and organize your notes.
As you think about if you can apply the two-minute rule to a larger task or not, consider the process as a whole. How long do you estimate the process will take you? Do you have all the resources available to you?
Author James Clear, who wrote Atomic Habits, has a similar mindset regarding small things that make a difference. According to Clear, doing little things helps overcome a lack of motivation and willpower. Plus, it can help you create a concise plan to achieve your goals. Bottom line: there are benefits to even small actions when it comes to developing new habits and both setting and accomplishing big goals.