This Two-Minute Rule Is Going To Make Crossing Things Off Your To-Do List A Breeze

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To-do lists have a way of growing longer by the minute, especially if you handle a lot of responsibilities at work or have a million chores to attend to when you get home. This is probably why we sometimes procrastinate. How bad can it be? You'll take the garbage out tomorrow. You'll reply to that email on Monday. You'll respond to that text next week.

But more often than not, procrastination has a way of becoming a constant companion if you're not careful. A day can turn into weeks and before you know it, you have more tasks on your to-do list. You can't even remember if you responded to that email or made that payment. According to productivity consultant David Allen, author of "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity," there's a better way to tackle tasks. In fact, what he proposed in his book is the two-minute rule, which is the antidote to procrastination. Like changing your to-do list into menus, it's an exercise in becoming more efficient. 

Allen defined the concept for Getting Things Done on YouTube. "The 2-minute rule, quite simply, is that if you decide on an action and you actually have the capability of taking that action and you can finish that in two minutes or less, you should do it right then if you're ever going to do it at all," he said.

The two-minute rule makes small tasks easier

When it comes to tasks that genuinely require two minutes or less — think putting some laundry away, washing the dirty dishes in the sink, or dropping a file off on a co-worker's desk — the two-minute rule can be a real game changer. 

It's easy to feel like simple tasks can get done another time and on another day, mainly because you can tell yourself that they're a breeze to do anyway so adding them to tomorrow's list won't make a big difference. But the problem lies in how many times you procrastinate like this. A list of five small tasks can quickly grow into 10 or 15 depending on how long you take to tackle them.

The idea is not to fill your entire day doing jobs that require only two minutes, as Allen explained on YouTube. "The whole idea is that you want to be able to not have any accumulated inventory of things that could have been finished in two minutes or less," he said. Rules have a way of bringing order to chaos. That is why experts have even found a way to bring them into relationships — for example, the 80/20 rule helps you manage your expectations for happier relationships. By including the two-minute rule in your life, you can cross tasks off your list a lot sooner than you otherwise would have. 

The two-minute rule can also help you start bigger tasks

Author James Clear referred to Allen's two-minute rule in his own book, "Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones." He shared that the principle can also be used to tackle big tasks like reading a book, doing yoga, working on an assignment for your course, or taking up a new hobby. The idea is to start with a small task, such as reading one page or rolling out your yoga mat, and setting the momentum, so to speak. 

On, the author writes, "People often think it's weird to get hyped about reading one page or meditating for one minute or making one sales call. But the point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up." Oftentimes, big tasks or establishing new habits scare us because of their enormity. By dedicating time — two minutes or less — every day to just do one actionable task toward accomplishing a big goal, you're setting a pattern in motion. Clear called this a "gateway habit" that will eventually lead to bigger things.  

Does your to-do list include big-picture things like hitting the gym everyday? Clear argues that even if you show up at the gym and exercise for only two minutes every day, you are "casting votes for your new identity." And that can be powerful.