The Two-Minute Rule
As we just discussed, one of the reasons
people procrastinate is because they feel overwhelmed. Tasks seems too big. They
look painful and unpleasant. And so we end up procrastinating. The best way to
combat this, as we discussed, is to develop a next action habit and chunk tasks
down into little tasty nibbles.
Unfortunately, we often also end up
avoiding little tasks along the way—such as quickly answering a short email or
doing the laundry—and these all add up, requiring us to put in a Herculean
effort just to catch up.
Nobody wants to spend the weekend
sorting through hundreds of unread emails and washing that mountain of clothes
that’s been piling up for the last month or so. As a result, we just end up
procrastinating even more.
That’s where the two-minutes rule comes
in. If something takes less than two minutes to do, do it now. Just get it out
of the way. No more drowning in your inbox or having your apartment look like a
landfill. If something takes less than two minutes, take care of it
The two-minute rule also applies to
habits. If you’re building a new habit, make sure it takes no longer than two
minutes to execute. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to consistently execute that
habit long enough for it to become automatic.
Apply the the two-minute rule to your
life and you’ll find that you’re always on top of things. Tasks will no longer
pile up into massive mountains of work that are just begging to be
The same goes for habits. If you want to
make a habit of eating healthier, just grab a piece of fruit and eat it—it’ll
take less than two minutes. And do it the next day, and the next. Furthermore,
because of Newton’s productivity-applicable law of motion (objects in motion
remain in motion, and vice versa), you’ll likely find yourself starting to make
salads, choosing water over soda, bananas over donuts, and so on. Likewise, if
you want to make a habit of reading, just read the first page of a new
book—it’ll take less than two minutes. Once again, thanks to Newton’s first law,
you’ll probably zoom through three chapters without even realizing it.
Similarly, if you want to make a habit of exercising, just chuck on some running
shoes and go out the front door—it’ll take less than two minutes. And, once
again thanks to Newton’s first law, you’ll probably end up going for a 20-minute
run plus 30 push ups when you get back.
Procrastination is almost always solved
by simply taking the first step. The biggest obstacle to productivity is just
getting started. Once you do that, everything else tends to fall into
So just get started. As Lao Tzu said “A
journey of thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Just write the first
five words of that article or press release. Just eat one apple. Floss one
tooth. Do a single push up. Everything else will fall into place. That’s the
power of the two-minute rule. Once you get started—no matter how small or
insignificant the action may seem—the ball starts rolling. One thing leads to
another. Momentum builds. And before you know it, procrastination has long since
disappeared from the rear-view mirror. But when it does creep back upon you once
again, just pull out the two-minute rule, restart the engine, and all will be
right. But don’t worry about any of that. Just take one step. That first step.
That’s all that matters.
The Two-Minute Rule