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Cover image for How the 2-minute rule improved my life
Jelle Smeets
Jelle Smeets

Posted on • Originally published at blog.jellesmeets.nl

How the 2-minute rule improved my life

I am a master procrastinator. I have tried several productivity methods to get me to stop procrastinating. Most of these tools did not work for me. The 2-minute rule however is one of the few that does.

The 2-minute rule is crazy simple, and that is why it works. Here is what you need to know.

2-minute rule explained

How do you beat procrastination? By taking action. The biggest hurdle is getting started. And once I am started I usually will stick around for a while. This is the power of the 2-minute rule. Created by David Allen in his book Getting things done.

If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined.

David Allen

Why does it work? Often the biggest hurdle is to get started. Once you are already active, it's easier to keep going. Like Isaac Newton said: "An object in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.".

How it improved my life

I use to have dishes piling up, a big pile of laundry, and other small things around the house. A big mess does not start at once. It consists of many small moments of not taking action. If you have eaten dinner, how long does it take you to put your plates in the dishwasher instead of on the counter?

The 2-minute rule in action. Put plates in the dishwasher right away.
How long does it take if you put your plates in the dishwasher right away?

The 2-minute rule helped me to prevent my tasks from getting too big. Spending a few minutes to clean up after cooking, and putting the plates in the dishwasher seems like nothing. But all these small actions add up quickly. They prevent a pile-up and the need for a "big cleaning day" every few weeks.

Applying the 2-minute rule to your day-to-day life takes some getting used to. The format that worked for me, was asking myself "can I fix this in 2 minutes?" whenever I put something off. It helps if you have an accountability buddy to remind you every once in a while.

How to apply it in your career

The examples I shared above are all related to personal things. But how to apply it to make your work more productive? The 2-minute rule helps you start. In my work as an Engineering Manager I apply the 2-minute rule as follows:

  • Find a part of a big task that takes <2 minutes to complete.
  • Complete the task right there and then.
  • Usually, that momentum will keep me going on the big task.
  • (Bonus points) if you combine it with Eating a frog, tackle your biggest issue of the day first.

The tasks I am usually struggling with to get started are those big nasty tasks that feel impossible to work with. Using this rule helps me to find an angle I can start with (that does not have to be the natural beginning). I noticed that whenever I am in the flow, it is much easier to find another point to continue working on.

On several occasions, the 2-minute rule has helped me tackle big obstacles. Obstacles I had no idea if or how to climb. By just taking action and using that momentum.

Conclusion

The 2-minute rule is a great productivity tool to get you to take action. It is an easy system that lets you take the first step. And the momentum of taking action will in most cases help you on finishing your big task.

It changed my life by making me take small steps that take minimal effort to keep my life in order. And prevent me the frustration of having a "big cleaning day" every few weeks. This is one of the few productivity tools that work and stuck around.

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Top comments (3)

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abdisalan_js profile image
Abdisalan

I guess I'm pretty slow πŸ˜‚ Any "task" I've got always takes me at least 10 minutes.. πŸ€” maybe I'll go with the 10 minute rule...

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smeetsmeister profile image
Jelle Smeets Author

Don’t beat yourself up Abdisalan. I bet you are doing great!

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I'm glad your life improved.
But frankly you have the wrong goal.

I have tried several productivity methods to get me to stop procrastinating. Most of these tools did not work for me.

They don't work because it is impossible to "beat" procrastination.
It's like wanting to never experience fear.
Not possible, fear will always be there, because it's here to protect us.

Same with procrastination. Procrastination exists to guide us.
Wanting to destroy procrastination is asking to become a robot: what's the point?
Procrastination is part of human nature, it is really useful.

I am a master procrastinator.

Labeling yourself this way is like saying you are a sinner. Against the church of success of something? No, you are just a normal human being.

🌚 Friends don't let friends browse without dark mode.

Sorry, it's true.