When I stumbled into the two-minute productivity rule recently, I decided to give it a whirl. And to my surprise, I’ve been using it with enormous success.
Now, now. Stay with me. This is more important than the two-minute warning (oh ye sports fans), niftier than the five-second rule (when food drops on the floor), and tastier than the seven-minute egg (a classic).
Why is that?
Both personally and professionally, the two-second productivity rule is remarkably helpful for those who procrastinate. Likewise, for those whose plates are filled to overflowing to such a degree that they’re routinely swimming in “overwhelm.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the two-minute rule, it couldn’t be simpler: If it takes two minutes or less, do it. Do it now.
This is especially true if the task is important, if other critical activities depend on it, or it’s something you’ve been putting off.
Get It Done. Get It Done Now!
I don’t know what your to-do list looks like each morning, but mine is frequently daunting. Like most of us, numerous items qualify as Seriously No Fun, ranging from wildly complex to tiresome and tedious.
- Setting priorities is a must — by size, due date, or importance.
- Choosing to divide and conquer helps — breaking larger activities into bite-size pieces.
- Setting aside tasks temporarily may be necessary if up against conflicts in scheduling or, for the “creatives” among us, the muse is MIA.
Naturally, the unpredictable can appear out of the blue — the unavailability of a critical resource, a technology FAIL, a brand new need that is urgent — and there goes the day’s usual rhythm.
Also in the mix: Many women (especially) tend to over-multitask. While experts tell us that women multitask more (better?) than men due to the way our brains are wired, might we also consider that society has divvied up our typical tasks such that women must master the mad juggle?
Speaking of getting things done, it turns out the guru of the two-minute rule is David Allen, author of a best-selling productivity bible by that name.
Two-Minute Rule: An Example
Here’s an example of my use of David Allen’s two-minute rule. Tax season is upon us. Now, it’s still early, but I can’t say that I like having the tax time shadow hovering overhead. I’ve been planning to get started for two weeks, and I’ve been putting it off.
A few mornings ago, I glanced at the stack of forms and files I’ve been gathering for the past month, and I felt overwhelmed. All that self-employment record-keeping! Managing digital details and paperwork can be very time-consuming.
Sometimes, just getting started on a thing lightens the stress of it. That’s when I remembered the two-minute rule. Could I actually complete my usual “step 1” — a checklist I use every year — in two minutes or less? Would using the two-minute rule fend off more procrastination?
I added a dose of carrot-and-stick motivation. I’m not much for the stick, but I’m very big on the carrot. I was dying for more coffee, and with fresh ground French Roast waiting in the kitchen I told myself: “Just give it two minutes. Then brew another cup.”
That’s exactly what I did, and yes, I accomplished step 1 in two minutes! It was painless, I was pleased, so I kept going, made great progress, and then lingered over my cup of java.
The Productivity Police
For example, if you need to ratchet up your productivity game so you can “make time” for a mindful getaway, experts offer advice like this:
Get organized. De-clutter. Streamline.
There’s nothing wrong with this advice, and space can be key to productivity. However, when we treat rules of this sort as if handed down from the mount, we may overestimate their importance and underestimate the time and cost involved. Worse, we get so caught up in preparing for the work that we divert our energies from the goal itself.
The two-minute rule?
As an element of a personal and professional system from the author of “Getting Things Done,” David Allen, it’s as applicable to an apology as it is to a challenging project.
This Washington Post article does a nice job of providing insight into Mr. Allen’s methodology, highlighting five steps. The first two in particular speak to me.
… The first stage is “capture,” which means identifying the things that are not on cruise control. What’s bugging me? What’s nagging me? What’s incomplete? …
… step two is to clarify. What’s the very next action you need to take… Get things down to that level of granularity…
If It Works, Do It!
Maybe you buy into the de-cluttering craze as a pathway to productivity. Maybe you see its value in moderation. But do you really have to toss out common sense ways of getting things done like last year’s orange pillows or monster platform shoes?
Well, maybe the platforms.
Here’s the bottom line: What we can do is be practical, incremental, and more moderate in applying what works. The two-minute rule requires no training, no tools, and no particular state of mind. In my tax prep activities, forward movement was all about Mr. Allen’s granularity, and the speed with which nagging tasks could actually be accomplished.
Remember: Getting things done feels great! So often, it’s not the work itself that causes stress but rather, worrying about it. And for me, the two-minute rule buys more focus, more productivity, and less “crazy” in my jam-packed days. Care to give it a try?
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