The Two-Minute Rule

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One of the most effective tools to help you start introducing productivity techniques into your life is the “Two-Minute Rule”, which is this: If it takes less than two minutes, just do it now!

The two-minute rule can be applied to anything, whether it be with work, family, home or personal growth. It helps you get stuff done and efficiently, which is what being productive is and means. Not only is it a great way to start being productive with minimal effort, but in the long run, the practice will change how you operate. The ultimate goal of this method is to get to the point where when you are confronted with a task you know will take less than two minutes, to just do it then and never procrastinate on it. When something comes up in your life that has a quick fix, just do it at that moment, because otherwise, you will inevitably have to deal with it later, which in the end will take up more of your time.    

The Two-minute rule is an easy method for beginners to take action on things that need to get done and that can get done fast. The rule works for two scenarios: the first being that if something comes to mind and is a task that can be completed in two minutes, then you should just do it at the very moment the thought was conceived. The other way this method can be applied is to just tackle any two-minute task that you know you can complete. Learning how to knock things out the second they come up and finishing other tasks that have lingered will literally train you to become a “doer”. And, you won’t believe how something that takes just two minutes can make such a huge positive impact on your life. I kid you not, practicing this rule alone can be a game-changer that will not only change your mindset but could very well alter your entire existence.

Why: Successes will make you enjoy the process

Originally coined by David Allen in the book Getting Things Done, following the two-minute rule is the fastest way to get a jump start on any task at hand and that is why it is especially helpful for anyone prone to procrastination and laziness.

The way Allen describes it is this: “If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined.” 

This means that if an action or a task either comes to mind or if there are simple tasks on your to-do list in line; if you apply the two-minute rule, chances are you will be able to complete that task, check it off and feel rewarded from the entire process. It is this sense of accomplishment that will make you want to repeat the process or dive even deeper into other tasks as you will become addicted to the rewarding feeling of completing something. The best path to becoming more productive is to enjoy the process. It is these little successes, the “cheap wins” as Allen calls it that will make you want to come back for more. 

So many good intentions and ideas fall by the wayside because we do not act on them. But these moments are actually extremely valuable in life and so if you can learn how to just mobilize on a positive thought the moment it arises, you will be surprised at how many doors opening this practice leads to. 

Many of us see our childhood friends or family on social media and sometimes a funny joke you could share or a compliment that could be delivered comes to mind, but so many times we don’t act on it. The same can be said for connecting with work colleagues and coming up with ideas and sharing them, which will inevitably improve your work life. When we don’t act on the little things, we miss big opportunities to progress, share and connect. Using the two-minute rule to just do what comes to mind and to do it quickly, does in fact have a ripple effect. When you make an effort to communicate with people no matter how big or small, it is remembered because you can truly impart a lot in just two minutes. 

Another great example of applying the two-minute rule would be for chores you have been dreading such as hanging up that frame or raking the leaves. Ideally, you just want to get the menial tasks like that done as quickly and as soon as possible to mitigate its negative effects. If you can’t do something that instant, make the task me to take a mental note and just make sure you jump on the task the moment that you can and life at home and work becomes easier and relationships rewarded.   

This is the first step to become a “doer” 

By simply tackling and completing two-minute tasks, you condition yourself to become both a “starter” and a “finisher” at the same time, which works to transform you into becoming a “doer” in life. Plus, trust me, taking just two minutes to complete a pressing task can literally make you feel both better and accomplished, which with consistency is ultimately what will have a significant impact on your life. 

Keep it simple. For example, tasks you can tackle in this short time frame could include sending that complimentary message to an acquaintance or a “thank you” letter expressing gratitude to the in-laws or a coworker. The task could be preparing that pressing work email or simply filing a document sitting on your desk. However, the ultimate point of this practice should be to never let that piece of paper just sit on your desk. Through this practice, you will end up training yourself to file or deal with what you need the moment it arrives, simply because it takes less than two minutes to do. There is always something we can do and no matter what you choose to do, you and everyone around you will be better off for it. 

If you are hung up on where to start and feel you are completely lacking motivation, then it might be time to designate two minutes to pay a visit to your North Star and let it be a guiding light to figuring out what you actually want to be putting down on your to-do list! Once you know your own personal mission statement and have the vision of how you will fulfill your mission in life while living according to your core values, it becomes easy to define the way you want to spend your time. 

north star document
North Star Document from Managing Happiness Course

But, let’s admit it, sometimes we can feel overwhelmed and scrambling for time and certain tasks can seem just too hard to handle. If you define what the first step is in a grander task or figure out what part of it will take just two minutes to complete, you can at least start. And trust me, nothing will ever get done if you do not start. You will also find that spending this short time now will save you both effort and time in the long run. 

There is the analogy of a glass of water not being heavy until you have to hold it for a long time, in which case its weight can become unbearable. Similarly, we should just put the glass down immediately by easily knocking off things that come to mind, before letting them take space in our conscience and weigh us down. This is because doing things before they even make it to your do list, will one-hundred percent help to clear your mind. Plus, the act of getting stuff down and acting on positive impulses to commend or connect with others, will become contagious to those who see how much these practices benefit you. 

In addition to building social relations, this practice is imperative for relieving your workload, because if you respond timely to the small tasks you can get done fast, then there will be less on your plate. If you respond to those work emails the moment they come, you will build stronger relationships with your coworkers and will be perceived as reliable and present. The same process works for chores at home, if you don’t do them as they come up, then you will have to devote a significant amount of time to cleaning up later. It’s like weeding a garden. Doing simple small tasks as they arise, is truly the best way to save time in your life. 

Exceptions:  If you can’t do that, do this…

If you are still stuck and even two minutes seems like too much to handle, then you can start with just five seconds. I mean come on, everyone has five seconds. And they do, I mean the speaker behind this concept is Mel Robbins in one of the most highly watched TEDTalk’s ever so the message has resonated. Basically, the five-second-rule is to just write something down on your to-do list or if you have a great idea in a notebook, your phone, or just a piece of paper and you can solidify the intention to return to it later if you choose, but in the meanwhile, you free up your mind. And remember, an “A-ha” moment is just that, a moment captured in time. 

Just two minutes can change your life 

Apply the “Two-Minute Rule” to get quick stuff done whenever you can and you will end up becoming the type of person that is proactive, responsive, and available for those around you. Furthermore, in addition to checking things off your to-do list, you will become clearer and more focused simply from this practice.  

The Two-Minute Rule will change you. You will become grateful and addicted to how good making connections and completing tasks feels. As a result of this tool, you will begin to seek out tasks in your backlog or new ideas will come to you and you will begin to act on them. Others will see the changes in you and your actions will make them feel better. These small successes serve as a win-win for all, which will add significant value to your life, and those around you. It changes the way you think, in that you no longer spend time thinking about doing what you can when you can, you just do it. You become a “doer.  

The two-minute rule is a process that can also be applied to habit formation as well as for capturing those brilliant ideas that come to mind and then disappear because we didn’t take the time to write them down or act on them. The process conditions you to get stuff done and at the very moment it surfaces and as a result, you get to celebrate a win from having dedicated just two minutes of your time. With consistency, you will get to experience small successes throughout your day, versus previously dreading those very same tasks and by turning these negatives into positives, you inevitably end up doing the same to your entire life. The Two-Minute Rule is an excellent starting point to change forever and always remember that if you don’t start, you will never finish.

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