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Two minute rule

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  • Two minute rule

    People seem to rave about the two minute rule. Book reviewers on Amazon love it. During “Getting Things Done Fast” David says that it is the feature of GTD that generates the most feedback.

    However, from my own experience, I have never been able to keep anything under two minutes, apart from the physical act of dropping unwanted brochures in the waste basket. I feel as if I am missing out on a big secret here!

    What types of tasks do people find they can get done inside two minutes?



  • #2
    2 minute warning

    BusyDave: You touch on the first major Aha moment in my GTD experience. Throwing (or purging) out non necessaries has be my greatest bane in my battles of GTO (Getting things Organized). I have a habit of picking up bags of literature at the home and garden show for instance, for reviewing later at my convenience. I'm still finding these bags tucked away in closets. So now my wife and I have to look at them as we walk around the show. We never seem to find any that just "have to" come home with us. If that bag would have made it home, I would have 40+ more "stuffs" to next action. I am on a goal to get rid of 1/2 of my stuff from my house, so purging is a very important 2 minute rule for me.
    Out with the old, and slow down on the new, I say!


    • #3
      Re: Two minute rule

      Originally posted by Busydave
      People seem to rave about the two minute rule. Book reviewers on Amazon love it. During “Getting Things Done Fast” David says that it is the feature of GTD that generates the most feedback.

      However, from my own experience, I have never been able to keep anything under two minutes, apart from the physical act of dropping unwanted brochures in the waste basket. I feel as if I am missing out on a big secret here!

      What types of tasks do people find they can get done inside two minutes?



      Some of my two minute taks include:

      - quick reply to e-mail (you have to be judicious with this)
      - file "stuff" (rather than dropping it in my Inbox)
      - respond to meeting requests
      - Send requested materials (by e-mail - requires a good search tool or filing system)
      - Sort mail (inbox or round file)
      - Sync my Palm

      You need to be realistic about the two-minute rule but I find there a lot of small tasks that are better addressed immediately than added to my Inbox. I try to balance my ability to react to something "right now" with the scope of my day. On really busy days, I tend to be a lot more rigorous. On slower days (increasingly rare!), I may be a bit more lenient in terms of work-as-it-appears.

      It depends how my hard landscape and lists look on a given day.


      • #4

        “Reroute” might be a good catch-all for most of those categories (even rerouting stuff into the waste basket).

        I was actually doing a good bit of rerouting and short busts of dictation during my reviews, so maybe I was in the two-minute club without realising it.



        • #5
          For me, the power of the two-minute rule (which, I think, is really more of a guideline) is that I don't put off things that are easily accomplished. This usually takes the form of a quick email, a quick phone call, or quick Internet research (getting a phone number, for example).

          Previously, in my attempt to get organized, I would put everything to do on my list, no matter what. So I'd write these quick actions down, or put them in my PDA. Then when I went through my to-do lists, I pick the quickest items, just for the feeling of accomplishment that comes from shortening your to-do list. End result: I spent more time writing those things down in my tracking system (whatever it was at the time) then just doing them, because I had this rigorous idea that everything needed to be in the system, rather than just the things I needed to move on.

          Like mochant, the actual two-minute rule is flexible - could be five minutes, could be 30 seconds, depending on the day and the amount of stuff I need to process.

          Lately I've been timing a lot of my actions, in an effort to determine how long things really take and to better make time estimates for myself and my clients. It's amazing what you really can do in two minutes!


          • #6
            I love the two minute rule! Like the previous poster though, I'm not that strict about it actually being two minutes. Sometimes it's 5. Some examples: emails, adding someone to our email distribution list, filing, sending a fax, looking up phone numbers, checking websites for updated information, quick phone calls (e.g. confirm something with a vendor - stuff I'm reasonably sure will actually only take 2 minutes), cleaning out my email inbox, writing short letters (thank-you's etc.), paying a bill online. It is good to actually time it. Two minutes is much longer than you'd think, and once I started using it my lists got significantly shorter.


            • #7
              Two-minute rule

              I don't wish to sound overly pedantic but . . . for me the value of the two-minute rule lies only when one views it in the context of the entire system.

              Pre-GTD I had no in-box. Stuff would just be put on my desk. I thought to myself that I had to do whatever showed up. But of course, I did not do lots of what showed up because much of it involved difficult decisions or multi-action projects. So I would let it sit on my desk as a reminder or, eventually, I would put it in a stack someplace in my office.

              GTD introduced me to the concept of Processing. Now, something arrives in my consciousness and I process it. I decide if there is a next action.

              In his recent blog, DA suggested asking the following processing questions:

              1. What is this?
              2. What is the purpose of this?
              3. What is the next action for this?

              I would add

              4. Can I do the next action in less than x minutes?

              If the answer to 4 is no, I would add it to my NA list. If the answer is yes, I would do it.

              But the power of the two-minute rule is available to me only because I know that there are many next actions that I don't do immediately. I feel more free now not to do NAs because I am comfortable in knowing that those NAs are on my lists and that I review my lists weekly.

              But I do not want to clutter up my lists with lots of tiny NAs that take more time to enter and organize and review than they take to do. Those NAs I do immediately in accordance with the two-minute rule.


              • #8
                I see a skill-through-experience scenario emerging here: if the average time per item is two minutes, then do them.

                I often come across things I want to do straight away during my weekly review. But I know they will take more than two minutes. For example, if I pick up an item and realise it is just right for delegating, I feel a surge of momentum to go delegate it. But then I realise that it will take maybe five minutes. But I may have killed off other items in under two minutes. Therefore, I should go for it.

                I found in previous weekly reviews that items were stretching to fifteen minutes each, and the review was therefore dragging on for hours. But I guess it is just a case of practiced judgement.



                • #9
                  2 minute rule

                  Busy Dave,

                  Use a timer to time some of your routine task..

                  You will be AMAZED at how little time it takes to do them.

                  Using a timer is also a way to become faster at these routine tasks...You set a timer for the amount of time you think it will work and race yourself to get them done.

                  I keep this on a chart and the improvement has been remarkable.

                  This is also a great way to break procrastination problems....When you realize HOW LITTLE TIME it takes to do those SCARY tasks, you just do it!! And the feeling is fabulous after they are done.



                  • #10
                    Thanks Bridgette

                    I like the idea of a timer: brings me back to my 4 X 100 days! I like a challenge. It's on my shopping list.




                    • #11
                      two-minute rule gets easier in some ways, harder in others

                      Sometimes it is a matter of creating a situation in which it takes 2 min or less to do something. This can be achieved regarding some things by having the supplies at hand, locating them well, having printed labels on files so you can find them easily, having the optimal number of categories for like items (if too many categories you have to search more folders and you can create confusion, if not enough you have too many papers in a folder to search through fast). For me, keeping supplies at hand includes keeping my reading glasses on a cord around my neck, a supply of trash bags in the trash can itself, roledex cards at hand, scrapbook sleeves at hand, an object to mark the position of a folder so I can replace it readily after I take it out, using some dummy folders that have on the file tab where to find the thing (e.g., Marshall High Schoo SEE Schools, Maine), a box just for items to shred, a bold marker, and a box for scrap pere (I also make a line through writing on any paper that I intend to use reverse side for scrap paper or I end up re-processing it). All this allows faster processing. However, I still don't know what to do with things I want to read carefully--it takes a long time to make a list and it is counter productive to make a stack-- so I don't know the answer. Also, anything I want a family member to review and return I have learned to make a copy of immediatly and then file my copy but this takes more than five minutes. However the biggest challenge to the two minute rule is that when finding a paperwork item that I know is part of project support material , I have to reviw my project list to determine which project, then which pasrt of the project it goes with, then see if it is a duplicate, if I dealt with it or it is otherwise superceded, if it is dependent on another action. Going through that can take me a lot longer than 2 minutes but if I don't do it it then and there it just becomes another pile. This is the price paid for letting things build up. I think you can tell that one of my projects is processing my backlog using GTD methodology.


                      • #12
                        The 2-minute rule really can change the way one works and increase productivity, especially if your normal method of setting priorities tends to focus on what has the greatest emotional content or what just showed up and is demanding your attention. As stated before, it's amazing what you can accomplish in 2 minutes if you actually think about it and devote all your attention to the task at hand. This discipline also helps you to think about those snippets of time when you need to shrink it to 1 minute or when you can afford to expand it to 3 or 4 minutes. I agree with all the previous suggestions about what one can do in 2 minutes, and one thing I would add to the list is "post a helpful note on a relevant Discussion Board".


                        • #13
                          I find the 2-minute rule is very useful if it is applied in the right context. I find it disruptive to my focus on the current task if applied on an arising basis (as something occurs), and it interferes with the flow of my weekly review if I jump around while I ought to be planning. Keeping Processing separate from Collecting allows me to get 2-minute items done in a separate context (while Processing). It is often just as easy to do an item as to write it on a List (Organize). Apart from some sense of achievement, this stops me from clogging up my Lists with things that coulda-shoulda been done already.

                          One way to see the real value of the 2-minute rule is to write down every 2-minute item before you do it and cross it out as you do it. That piece of paper will make you feel good - so will throwing it away afterwards.



                          • #14
                            Deciding to Do in Two minutes

                            I ask myself when encountering single actions during processing "Why can't I do this now?" If there is no reason I can't then I do it. Also a lot of single actions never make my list because I do them as they come up. ie "Let me call this person right now". Things to tranport home from the office are triggered by physical reminders ( put them in the breifcase when you realize you need to take them home). I also respond to all e-mail possible when it's viewed for the first time. The messages that get deferred are saved as reminders w/ alarm in groupwise with a note on why it's waiting.The reason they are waiting gets put on the list. Clothes to go to dry cleaners - put them on the front passenger seat of your car before you leave---you will remember them.

                            Just My Way,


                            • #15
                              I use a 5-minute rule, rather than a 2-minute rule. I find that I can answer most e-mails, make most phone calls, print out invoices, file documents, etc. in less than 5 minutes. It does make a difference, especially since I am a great procrastinator.

                              Don't think the "2" part is inflexible; set it to the time you feel is right for you.