It takes just 2 minutes to get supercharged. I’ve been looking for the magic sauce that will do three things:
Get started building a habit.
Start a Big Rock project I’ve been resisting.
Clear away those small annoying tasks that clutters my task list.
All I needed was just 2 minutes.
Clearing my inbox with the 2-minute rule
GTD’s 2-minute rule has been a tricky beast for me to master. If I am processing my inbox and encounter a task that takes two minutes or less to do, I should just do it. Entering it into my task manager may add overhead and friction when my task list slowly grows heavy with a long list of 2-minute tasks. But I think I’m OK with that.
I get distracted when I stop my inbox processing and proceed to do this “small” task. If I encounter a 2-minute task like "collect all the coins from between the sofa cushions,” I walk over to my sofa and collect all the coins. But then I realize that the magazines on the coffee table are outdated and I should toss them out. Next, I see dust bunnies under the coffee table and I run over to the kitchen to grab a rag to eliminate the dust bunnies. Then I see a whole list of other 2-minute tasks that starts rolling in. In the heat of the moment, I’ll completely forget about processing my inbox.
I do get a long list of 2-minute tasks that starts to clutter up my daily action list but I have an idea to combat that. But first, I’ll look at how I view inbox processing and clearing out my 2-minute tasks.
Planning Mode vs Action Mode
One of my main tenets in my productivity system is to either go into Planning Mode or into Action Mode.
Planning Mode is a mindset where I do nothing but plan. I go into my Mad Scientist phase and start reviewing my projects. I brainstorm new ideas into projects as well as delegate, delete, or defer existing projects. I don’t do anything with them but planning. I do my daily review and weekly review to set the next day’s MITs (Most Important Tasks) and Big Rock to focus on.
Action Mode is where the real work happens. I stay out of my task manager and just work on my short list of tasks I chose the day before. I am cranking away at my tasks and projects. I don’t get distracted back into doing more planning and dreaming up new projects. Going into Planning Mode does not help me complete my projects. Staying in Action Mode does.
Inbox processing is part of my Planning Process. The 2-minute rule is an Action Process. Clearing out my inbox requires me to stay in Planning Mode. If I do encounter a 2-minute task, I can assign a tag such as
2min or set the estimated duration of my task.
I don’t work on any 2-minute tasks while I am still processing my inbox. I just keep going to the next inbox item. After I finish my inbox processing, I can exit Planning Mode and enter into Action Mode. I start a new time block of 10-30 minutes and knock out as many 2-minute tasks that I have assigned. Batching all of my 2-minute tasks allows me to stay in Action Mode. I’ve never liked working on a 2-minute task while I am still processing my inbox.
Batching My 2-Minute Tasks
I love working on my Big Rock projects but I also need to spend time working on all those annoying 2-minute tasks that clutters up my task list. I can’t ignore them but I can set aside time to work on them. I devote a time block that will chip away at these 2-minute tasks so I can get back to working on my Big Rocks.
When I finish processing my inbox, I schedule a time block to work on a whole batch of 2-minute tasks. I create a smart list or custom perspective that look for any task that is less than 5 minutes long:
Or I can look for any tasks that have the
2min tag assigned:
I schedule a time block in my calendar and work on a batch of 2-minute tasks:
I visit my smart list with all my 2-minute tasks and just churn away until the time block finishes or I finish my last 2-minute task.
These 2-minute tasks start to clutter my task list. They’re small but annoying. I don’t like to do a series of 2-minute tasks sprinkled throughout the day. Completing a time block that holds all of my 2-minute tasks lets me run the table and get back to doing the Deep Work as Charles Duuhig likes to call it. Working on a Big Rock project (or Deep Work) and then switching to a 2-minute gets me out of my flow. Dedicate 15-60 minutes every day to work on 2-minute tasks will clear the day for me to get back into meaningful work in my Big Rocks.
Two Minutes To Start A Habit
James Clear’s Atomic Habits uses the 2-minute rule to help create new habits. Sometimes starting a habit is the hardest thing to do. One way to start habit is to commit 2 minutes to the first step. Perhaps it’s 2 minutes to start a run on the stationary bike or the treadmill. Or it’s 2 minutes to just organize my desk at the end of the day. If I start the first 2-minute task, I get on a roll and decide to just keep going. It all starts in the first two minutes.
Two Minutes To Start A Project
There are times when I am faced with a project that intimidates me. I procrastinate and try to save it for later. Many times, I didn’t break down the next action into something that is manageable. If I’m stuck on a Big Rock’s next action, break it down so that it takes only 2 minutes. This is the same idea with the 2-minute habit rule. If my next action is
Write up big essay about macroeconomics in the 21st century, that would be a vaguely written task. Instead, I can retitle the next action to
Create first topic sentence for macronomics essay in the 21st century. This retitled task should take approximately 2 minutes and is much easier to accomplish.
Break The 2-Minute Rule
I don’t always need to set a 2-minute rule guideline. I can be flexible and change a task to 5 minutes in length. Not all small tasks are 2 minutes or less. I can batch together a series of 5-minute tasks to work on. Or I work on a series of tasks that will take 10 minutes. The number of minutes is up to you. Be flexible and decide what your threshold is.
Getting To The Finish Line 2 Minutes At A Time
My ambitious Big Rock projects, life-improving habits, and the small mountain of micro tasks in my task manager can be whittled away starting with just two minutes. Do you have a bunch of stuck projects, an avalanche of micro tasks, or habits that you want to make progress on? Two minutes is all you need.
What have you done to get your projects, habits, and micro tasks moving towards completion? Reply in this post or create a new post!