• David Strittmatter

How a simple rule can boost your productivity

Success is the sum of small efforts - repeated day in and day out - Robert Collier

Summary:

  • Since the day I applied the two-minute rule the first time, I've never procrastinated on small tasks again

  • The satisfying feeling of getting little duties done is more than enough to justify the application of the two-minute rule

  • The rule will not only make you accomplish many things that would have otherwise simply felt off the map but also save you much time

Practical advice:

  • Simply spoken, the two-minute rule states that if a task will take two minutes or less to complete, we have to do it as soon as possible

  • We cannot respond to every request right after we receive them if we want to maximize our productivity

  • Don't simply do a job just because it only takes two minutes. Make sure that the two-minute task you are completing is one of your priorities


Dear friend,


Doctor appointments, dirty dishes, trash piling up, email requests,... Too often, we procrastinate small duties, and undone little things take up our brain space.


But why?


It's not that these kinds of jobs are difficult to accomplish. The opposite is often the case.


And that's actually the problem: These little tasks are often not very urgent and barely important. Hence, we don't prioritize but subordinate them. Individually, they have little to no impact, though, in sum, they lead to unwanted stress.


In today’s blog article, I want to talk about a cure to this issue - the so-called two-minute rule, its benefits, and how it's applied.


The two-minute rule


Since the day I applied the two-minute rule the first time, I've never procrastinated on small tasks again. It's such an ease now to accomplish all the little duties I face every day.


And the rule is pretty simple: If a job takes two minutes or less to complete, you should just do it. Don’t think about it, don’t add it to your to-do list, don’t put it off for later. Just knock it out.


Some examples when I adhered to this rule:

  • Received an e-mail request I could answer in a minute

  • Had a snack and washed the plate immediately

  • Put a new trash bag in the trash can

  • Called my dentist for an appointment instead of writing it on my to-do list

  • Answered a WhatsApp message asking for something important

  • Wrote down an idea for my YouTube channel or blog

Applying this concept to my life, I've experienced several benefits. Not only I accomplished so many things that would have otherwise simply felt off the map, but also I saved so much lifetime by not postponing these little tasks and had fun in doing so.


Why the two-minute rule works


The first time I heard about this rule - that was when I read through David Allen's Getting Things Done - I was very skeptical whether this concept could really benefit my life. I used to write down these little tasks on my to-do list, whether it was taking out the trash, washing the dishes, or making an appointment with my doctor. That took some time but also allowed me to plan things out. And when I forgot to note them down, I thought they probably weren't important enough.


Yet, I sometimes forgot crucial duties, and things got messy as a consequence, e. g. dished pilled up, a non-urgent email request suddenly became very urgent. Thus, I gave the rule a try. And as I wrote in the last paragraph, it brought various benefits to my life.


For me, this rule works quite well because I feel virtually forced to do a task when I don't note it down. And since these tasks are by definition easy and quickly done, they'll be accomplished for sure once decided to tackle them.


Additionally, the psychological effect of the 2-minute rule shouldn't be underestimated: What's accomplished is accomplished. Done. Checked off. This satisfying feeling of getting even these little duties done is more than enough to justify the application of this guideline.


Moreover, the two-minute rule isn’t about the results you achieve, but rather about the process of actually doing the work. The focus is on taking action. You don't even think about the duty anymore. For instance, if you don't like calling your doctor or washing the dishes, you will have a much easier time doing it.


It’s all about quick wins - how to apply the rule


Simply spoken, the two-minute rule states that if a task will take two minutes or less to complete, we have to do it as soon as possible. Of course, we cannot always accurately estimate how much time a job requires; yet, we can often make a good guess. In doubt, I choose to do the task.


At first glance, the two-minute rule seems to be pretty easy to implement. And yes, it actually is - under the right circumstances. Nowadays, distractions from our electronic devices are significant. When we don't turn off the constant influx of notifications, we'll never get to our real duties because we'll be busy doing two-minute tasks the whole day.


We cannot respond to every request right after we receive them if we want to maximize our productivity. Rather, we need to block time slots in which we check our inflow channels (mailbox, WhatsApp messages, etc) and work through the messages. Then, the two-minute rule is a great tool.


Moreover, don't simply do a job just because it only takes two minutes. Make sure that the two-minute task you are completing is one of your priorities. Don’t get sucked into someone else's yes when you didn’t mean to. That is not a productive use of your time. You can do someone a favor, for example, wash the dishes for your flatmate or answer a quick survey for a colleague. But even if these jobs take less than two minutes, they won't increase your productivity.


Generally, you also should use idle time - such as small time frames in which you're trapped between meetings - for small low-value tasks. For instance, I take a break at least every 50 minutes. Right now, while I'm writing this blog post, I reserved my next break for washing my dishes even though I could have done it right after lunch. This way I use idle time more efficiently.


Eventually, the two-minute rule should increase your productivity so that you have more time for the things that matter to you; it's not about just doing more things in less time. Therefore, you shouldn't blindly apply this rule.

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