Are you finding it hard to start tasks, or get overwhelmed by a growing to-do list? Well look no further, today I’m exploring the 2-minute rule by both David Allen and James Clear.
While both are under the same name, Allen and Clear’s rules are vastly different, however, they both tackle the same issue of procrastination.
These rules have considerably improved my productivity and approach to procrastination, and I’m excited to see if it works in your life.
Anyways, let’s get straight into the two 2-minute rules.
David Allen’s 2-Minute Rule
Created by David Allen in his book ‘Getting Things Done’, the rule says that “if an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined.”
If you come across a small task, don’t put it off or postpone it, complete it the moment you come across it.
The two-minute rule is perfect for procrastinators, and those that love piling up tasks on their to-do lists, no matter how small or easy to complete.
It’s mainly about getting straight into work, and not allowing a small task to snowball into a much larger problem in the future.
2-Minute Rule Examples
So, if you’re asking yourself, what can be done in under two minutes? Here are a few ideas:
- Clean your workspace
- Respond to an email
- Make your bed
- Putting dishes away
- Give feedback to coworkers
- Put on a load of laundry
- Delegate a task
- Water your plants
- Wipe down a surface
I like the two-minute rule, and think it’s the perfect way to build momentum through your workday.
- Builds a sense of accomplishment: When you tick off a task from your to-do list, you release dopamine and feel accomplished.
- Gets small tasks out of the way: There’s no point adding five small tasks to a to-do list if they only take one or two minutes to complete.
- Stops lingering tasks: You get things done straight away, no need to have this thought in the back of your mind when completing other work.
- Removes potential stress: Small tasks can snowball into bigger problems, so getting them done straight away eliminates the potential burden.
All in all, it’s great for small tasks that don’t require much critical thinking.
Every good procrastination technique comes with its weaknesses, and David Allen’s 2-minute rule is no exception.
- Many tasks take longer than two minutes: Numerous tasks may seem quick and easy to complete but will run longer than five to ten minutes.
- Focusing on small tasks that may be irrelevant: It’s easy to seem “productive” when completing numerous 2-minute tasks, but they might be entirely unrelated to your main goal or objective.
- Can be used as a way to delay important work: Could be another form of procrastinating, where you’re still completing tasks, but ones that have no relevance to your important work at hand.
- Potentially mess up your workflow: The rule states you should complete something the moment it’s defined, but that could mess up your workflow if you’re actively trying to complete a big task.
Master David Allen’s 2-Minute Rule
First things first, this rule can be a double-edged sword, and you have to be realistic with your two-minute tasks.
If you’re randomly cleaning for two minutes, or unloading the dishwasher instead of working, then you’re still procrastinating, but using the 2-minute rule as a cover.
Or, if your entire day is filled with two-minute tasks, then it may lead to a false sense of higher productivity, even though you might not have actually achieved anything important for the day.
I sometimes like to schedule some two-minute tasks to be completed at the start of a big block of work.
So, I could spend ten minutes at the start of a big task just completing two-minute jobs. It helps to group them all together and get them done consecutively.
James Clear’s 2-Minute Rule
Created by James Clear, the rule states “when you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
The idea is simple and makes new habits a lot easier to start. Instead of jumping deep end into a new habit, you ease into it, to build a solid foundation to rely on.
80% of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February, and a big reason is that they expect to just jump straight into these new habits without any hiccups.
But, just using two minutes of your day to start a new habit, can snowball into sticking to these new habits for life.
James Clear’s 2-Minute Rule Examples:
The entire premise of the 2-minute rule isn’t to immediately create new habits, it’s to show up, and prove to yourself over time that you can stick to these habits.
- Instead of “running 5km,” it’s now “run for two minutes”
- “Writing a blog post” is now “open up WordPress”
- Instead of “meditating for 20 minutes,” it’s now “meditate in silence for two minutes”
- “Journalling daily” is now “open up your notebook”
- Instead of “reading one book a week,” it’s now “read one page a day”
- “Starting a YouTube channel” is now “setting up the camera”
- Big tasks are made less daunting: Instead of thinking of a task as a whole, you break it into much smaller chunks, to begin with.
- Showing up is better than nothing: Even if you only complete two minutes of a new habit, two minutes is better than zero minutes.
- It’s quick and easy: The thought of running 5km may be intimidating, but the thought of running for two minutes is made a lot less daunting.
- Can be confusing, to begin with: Trying to comprehend what counts as two minutes when starting a new habit may be confusing.
- May not work for big procrastinators: Even after completing two minutes, some might just stop working and do something else.
Master James Clear’s 2-Minute Rule
Essentially, this rule is to help you create and stick to new habits. It isn’t about having all the answers to sticking to a habit, it’s simply about starting it.
So when you come up with a new extravagant goal, strip it back into a two-minute version to help you succeed.
When I wanted to start running more frequently, I gave myself the option to start running for two minutes, with the idea that I can quit after two minutes if I’m over it.
This helped me become a lot more consistent with my running, and it felt like an attainable goal to reach. Just two minutes of running, and I can stop after that if I want to.
In many circumstances, I don’t stop (because I’ve already started), and that’s why the two-minute rule is so valuable.
It gets the ball rolling, and you’ve also got an attainable goal to begin with.
So, instead of thinking of a goal as this huge milestone, strip it back, and think of the steps it’ll take to reach the goal.
The main goal of these rules is to eliminate procrastination, so if you come across a small task that can be achieved within two minutes, just do it, and don’t add it to your to-do list.
The rule is probably one of the most valuable procrastination techniques I’ve learned in the past couple of years, and it’s dramatically shaped my approach to starting new tasks and increasing my productivity.