Sharing Some Personal Tips: The Two Minute Rule

By Alice Boyes, PhD. | Uncategorized

I love hearing about the time management tips that other people ACTUALLY use.

I thought I’d share some of the tips that I use.

The first one is “the two minute rule” and comes from a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

What’s the two minute rule?

The two minute rule is that if you think of something you need to do and it will take less than two minutes then do it straight away.

If it will take longer than two minutes, add it to your to do list rather than task switching from whatever you are currently doing.

The two minute rule is a heuristic – its just a rule of thumb for when you want to decide what to do.

I don’t apply it all the time, but I do find it a handy rule of thumb.

Why it’s useful

– Using the 2 minute rule can help reduce your avoidant coping (avoiding doing behaviours that might trigger difficult thoughts or feelings) e.g. putting off calling someone to ask a question you need to ask.

Usually I apply more of a “10 minute rule” if the issue is that I’m putting off doing something. If I can do the task in less than 10 minutes I make it the next thing I do so I can stop thinking about it.

– “Working memory” is the term psychology PhDs use for the type of memory people use when they are trying to hold something in mind. For example, when you look up a phone number and try to remember it long enough to dial it. Trying to keep too many items in working memory is energy draining. Writing down your thought when you have a “to do” thought helps reduce the cognitive load on your working memory.

– If you tend to have lots of half-finished tasks: The two minute rule can help prevent excessive task switching i.e. switching to another task because the task you’re doing has become hard, boring, your energy is waning a bit, or you’ve become distracted. Sometimes people who are recovering from disorders like depression or anxiety have lost confidence in their ability to complete tasks. Using the two minute rule (in conjunction with other tips) can help you regain confidence in your ability to complete tasks. It can help you persist with tasks in situations in which persistence is helpful, and paradoxically can be a good antidote to perfectionism because persistence typically causes people to focus more on getting the task done rather than getting the task perfect.

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