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One of the basic productivity principles of David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) method (not an affiliate link), and a basic part of his method is the 2 minutes rule. 2-minute rule, says that every task you can accomplish under 2 minutes, you should do it right away and remove it from your list … and your mind.
This is an important tip, that has supercharged my productivity. I use it every time, and every time I find its positive effects in both my personal and professional life.
The Best Productivity Tip, Ever: The 2 Minute Rule
The 2 minutes rule pays off a great deal, especially in focusing on important issues. Everybody has a list of tasks he or she has to carry out in a day. Many of those are important ones, others are errands or chores you have to do, others need special attention.
Not all tasks merit the same amount of thought or concentration, but, sooner or later, you should process every task in your list. Given that among the important stuff there is always a smaller or larger time gap, or that small, emergency, tasks can be accomplished right away, the 2-minute rule, come to end a lot of our daily clutter of to-dos and small tasks.
As David Allen put it in his interview 1-on-1: David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule:
I have a two-minute rule that says: If you determine an action can be done in two minutes, you actually should do it right then because it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it. If you don’t avoid the question about what’s the next step, lots of two minute items could be done right then. Now, there are many times that you have a next step that’s going to take longer amount of time, like drafting some big new spreadsheet. You wouldn’t want to do that in two minutes. It’s a good idea to keep a whole lot of little things to do when you get those strange little windows of time, like clean up old e-mails, or purge some of your files. There’s a lot of things around me to do when I get a weird little window of time and when I don’t have a lot of energy. Let’s say I finished a big phone call and I don’t have another one for seven minutes, I’m likely to just be cleaning spam out of my e-mails or you know purging a file, or perhaps going and getting a cup of coffee.
Developing 2 Minutes Productivity Habits
When I first read the 2-minute productivity rule in his book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity“, I was shocked by its simplicity and elegance, but I had never realized its potential, until the moment I start using it in my daily workflow.
At first, just for fun and trying to see its limits, I was deliberate planning small tasks, to be done under 2 minutes and start to complete them, just for erasing them from my task list. It was easy, it had to be done and provide a sense of enhanced productivity.
Later I tried to combine it with timeboxing techniques (setting for instance 30 minutes aside in order to see if I could accomplish more than 15 tasks !!!).
These trials and errors, prove to me, that the 2-minute productivity rule could be used in every situation, either for professional or for personal tasks.
Now, for me, the 2-minute tasks mean the things to be done, that does not have a next action (!!!).
This productivity rule works basically as a FIFO filter (First In, First Out) for my task list, excluding some chores even to become tasks. I use it especially well for chores, like:
- De-clutter all the small things gathered around and distract you from your major tasks,
- De-clutter your mind,
- Prepare yourself for the next event, presentation, meeting, hour, etc.
- Remove junk e-mail leaving in your email inbox only the important stuff,
- Organize important papers (receipts, accounts, bills, etc.) and electronic files in their proper folder,
- Scan a receipt, a bill or important paper for later usage,
- Delete obsolete files from my computer and tasks are no longer valid,
- Clear up clutter in the house and in the office (put something in its place, file something else, charge your mobile phone, or another device, quick cleaning some spots in your house, etc.) and be creative,
- Provide quick and on the point answers for standardized e-mail, by sending quick, canned e-mail responses (combined with templates, auto-responders, and text expanders),
- Build a quick standard agenda, report, spreadsheet for your tasks in your work or your personal ones (by using standard or custom-made templates),
- Develop the outline of an idea by taking short notes,
- Read an inspiring quote or passage and reflect on its meaning for your,
- Prepare your gear, documents, notes for a next occasion (for exercising, mobility, later reading, business or personal meeting, etc.)
- Print out some documentation for later use,
- Schedule some future tasks, chores or events,
- Take a 2-minute break, when you are feeling tired,
How I Use The 2 Minutes Productivity Rule
As you have noticed, in my professional and business life, I combine the 2-minute rule with templates, and text expanders, to give me an extra boost in productivity. But, the 2-minute productivity rule it really pays off when it combined with daily routines.
Everybody has, intentionally or unintentionally, daily routines, he or she follows dutifully. There is always a lot of house, office, telephone, computer, and other chores to be done. Each one of us follows familiar paths for their accomplishments (therefore routines !!!) If you introduced the 2-minute rule into your daily routines, the results would be astonishing.
In order for the 2-minute rule to work effectively you should:
- Observe the duration of a task might fall into the category of the 2-minute rule
- Accustom or train yourself with its completion and practice yourself of completing it in less than 2 minutes
- Focus on this task
- Intend to eliminate it (by doing it!!!).
- Complete it
- Remove it from your list and your mind
You should not schedule a time. Use it naturally, when something demands your immediate attention and falls within the 2-minute rule, do it and forget it.
What do you think? Can you use the 2-minute rule in your everyday life? If you do use it, what are your impressions or your reaction? If you do not use the 2-minute rule, give it a try to see if it is work for you, and write your comments.