The Power of the 2 minute rule

Beth Price

2 minutes

I read a fantastically insightful book recently called “Getting Things Done” by David Allen that transformed my approach to work and essentially getting things done both in my work life and personal life. Whether you work in recruitment, generalist HR or even in a marketing position I found the practical advice transformational and I don’t say that word lightly!

By far the most valuable component that can be implemented immediately is the power of the 2 minute rule. The definition of the 2 minute rule is that whenever something enters your world (typically an email), if it takes less than 2 minutes to do or less, you do it or action it immediately, because by the time you organise to put it somewhere else to do later and then retrieve it again it’s not worth the time or hassle. The best advice is to do it there and then in the moment, get it out of your mind and done!

Of course you don’t want to be an email answering machine but you can certainly cut through an awful lot of work by utilising the 2 minute rule and it relieves the stress of email anxiety and paralysis of an ever growing overflowing inbox. I have found that anywhere from 60% to 80% of stuff that comes into your world can fall into the parameters of the 2 minute rule; everything from clarifying and confirming something, FYI emails and general reference material that you just need to be aware of.

When something does enter your world you need to ask yourself this key question: Q. Is it actionable? There are 2 possible answers.

If No – you can either delete it or file the information away for future reference.

If Yes, you do it if it’s less than 2 minutes and if it’s over 2 minutes you defer it for another set time/date depending on it’s importance and priority. If it’s not something you can action or do, you can delegate it to someone else or finally file away for future reference.

The power of the 2 minute rule can be tailored and adjusted according to your priorities and busy-ness so the next time your inbox is overflowing use the power of the 2 minute rule to get things done and alleviate any email/analysis paralysis.

As with all efficiency driving techniques, the biggest factor is ensuring you find the technique that best suits your personality type as well as the type of work you do. If you are generally an easily distracted person you may find the 2 minute rule creates excuses not to focus and it should be something you use with great discretion! Try for yourself and see how you go. There is no right & wrong – it’s all about experimentation!

David Allen has a great TED talk, you can watch it here Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, with David Allen