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Jan 15, 2016  •  4 min read

The 2 minute rule and why you should upgrade to a 2 minute list.

Among productivity experts, the 2 minute rule is very popular and comes originally from productivity guru David Allen who first talked about it in his book “Getting Things Done”.

The basic thought behind it:

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.

So, ask yourself:
Can I do this in less than 2 minutes? If the answer is Yes, then just do it.

I liked this rule form the very moment and I keep meeting people who recommend it to me. It is indeed a very powerful rule and can help you to simply get things done instead of thinking about the pros or cons or wasting time to put them on a To Do list first.

The 2 minute rule and why you should upgrade to a 2 minute list.

However, I also realized that it could easily turn you into a pinball who is flying from one side to the other, waiting for the next stroke. Let me explain you why.

How it can go wrong

On a typical day we have usually some sort of To Do list and a goal that we want to accomplish that day. Some of us will try to plan and schedule as much as possible beforehand, some will take it a little bit looser; but even the biggest planners know that there is always something that can go wrong. You will have to deal with things that you simply can’t control or didn’t plan, no matter what.

Unless you locked yourself down in the basement, you will have to interact with people that will bring you good or bad news, people that need your help or other important issues.
Now, if you would apply the 2 minute rule to all of those things, you would be running from one thing to the other, losing sight of what’s important and what’s not. In the end, if it takes less than 2 minutes you just do it, right?

But that’s the wrong way to do it.

What you have to keep in mind

The 2 minute rule is only powerful if you keep in mind your priorities.

You have to ask yourself not only if you can do this in less than 2 minutes, but also if this is a priority right now or not. It might even happen that you’re in the middle of something and another thing with the same priority asks for your attention. It’s certainly more clever to just finish what you have begun and dedicate your time afterwards to the other issue, instead of jumping from one thing to the other or going back and forth.

Most of the times, things that can be done in less than 2 minutes have a lower priority and are smaller tasks like cleaning your dishes, bringing out the trash, answering a quick email, do that phone call etc.

In fact, the 2 minute rule can most of the time be applied in 2 situations:

1) situations in which things you’re already doing go hand in hand with something else e.g. eating and washing immediately your dishes, leaving the house and bringing out the trash, confirming the meeting and marking it right away on your calendar etc.


2) situations in which you have windows of time that are too short to start or continue with a bigger task.

While the first situation requires more of a habit forming from your side, you can help yourself in the second situation.

The 2 minute list

Sometimes time is short but if you’re prepared for it, you can still get a lot done. That’s when having a “2 minute list” comes in very handy.

Mark tasks that require less than 2 minutes directly on your To Do list so you can immediately identify them, or, just keep a separate list at hand.

Whenever you have a little bit of time because you have to wait for something or you’re tired and need some easier tasks, you can look at the 2 minute list and complete a few tasks with little effort.
10 minutes means 5 things, and that’s 5 things more to cross off of your list at the end of the day!

If you have any feedback for us or have found another way how to optimize the 2 minute rule, write us at hello [at] noisli [dot] com or interact with us on Twitter or Facebook.

– Your Noisli Team

Sabine Co-founder at Noisli

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