Workaholics United : The Two Minute Rule

According to the Two Minute Rule, if an action takes less than two minutes, you should do it right then, even if it’s a low-priority item. Otherwise it would take more time to write it on a list and review it later. The converse of the rule is that if an action takes longer than two minutes, you should write it down to avoid getting lured into an activity whose priority hasn’t been evaluated against other tasks on your list.

That’s good advice if understood in context. When you’re batch processing an in-basket, the best way to avoid getting derailed is by adhering to the guideline that each item should take no longer than two minutes. So if you have 40 items in your intray, it should theoretically take a maximum of 80 minutes to process it to zero. In practice, it should take far less, since many items will be filed or discarded more or less instantly.

But there are times when the two-minute interval should be lenthened, shortened or dispensed with altogether. When I’m doing a weekly review, even doing two-minute actions can pull my attention away from a more appropriate project-level focus. So I write them down with checkmarks denoting them as action items to do immediately after the review.

If the action takes longer than two minutes, and you’re not in processing mode, then it might be more efficient to handle the item in the moment, especially you’re reasonably sure that it will only take a few minutes. If you’re not sure that something else might take precedence, don’t hesitate to review your calendar and action lists.

But the main point is that if there’s something that you need to get done, challenge yourself to see if there’s anything you can do this very moment to carry it forward. What can you do right now?

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