The Two Minute Rule

I’m not going to pretend this is a tip I came up with myself (I originally found it via Getting Things Done). The “Two Minute Rule” has just been so transformative for me that I can’t NOT share it.

It’s simple, really:

When you come upon a task that requires less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately.

How does it work?

  • You grab your mail for the day. It will take you less than two minutes to sort the junk out and toss it, then open the rest of the envelopes and stack the important documents to be dealt with later, so you do it immediately, saving yourself a messy pile.
  • You get an email from a colleague with a quick question. It will take you less than two minutes to respond, so you hit “reply” and get right back to them, deleting the email from your inbox.
  • You find a bill on your desk that you need to pay. It will take you less than two minutes to write out a check, address and stamp the envelope and run it to your mailbox, so you do it right away.

How DOESN’T it work? Be ambitious at first about what you think you can accomplish in two minutes (you may be surprised!), but self-monitor to ensure you aren’t making it a five (or ten) minute rule. You want to get the little things out of the way fast, not eat time with a bunch of unrelated tasks.

Why does it work? Those less-than-two-minute tasks are just taking up room, probably adding to your stress as they lengthen your lists (mental or otherwise). They’re also things you probably put off, since they feel so minor. Tackling them as they come keeps your lists for more important tasks, keeps your mind a bit clearer, and has the nice added effect of keeping your inbox count smaller, your desk a bit neater, your bills on time, etc.

Do you use the two minute rule already? How does it work for you? What’s something you regularly put off that you could accomplish in two minutes or less?

  1. I found you through your amazing spreadsheet, as mentioned by Rena Tom. I am a fan of GTD, and I use this as well. Sometimes I forget, but if it will take just as long to add to my list as it would to DO it, that usually jolts me into action!