Tip 16: Use the 2-Minute Rule

by Annie

in Fall Into Productivity

Image of covered boat dock on lake with trees and autumn leaves and a text overlay reading "#16 - use the two-minute rule"

This is a post in Pajama Productivity’s first (hopefully) annual “Fall Into Productivity” month. (Clever wordplay, right? The llamas came up with that.) All month long in October 2016, we’ll be publishing lovely autumnal graphics with a fresh productivity tip each and every day. You can catch all the fall fun right here on the PJP blog, on our PJP Facebook page, or on Twitter @pjproductivity – use the #FallIntoProductivity hashtag to find all posts.

Day 16 is upon us, and on this laid-back Sunday, let us pause to consider the flip side of yesterday’s exhortations to carve your own individual path amongst the many, many trees in the productivity system forest.

And that flip side is one of the most useful freakin’ things I’ve ever culled out of a productivity book: The tw0-minute rule.

Animated image of young man standing up and saying "Huzzah!"

Yes, I feel the same way, my young friend. Huzzah, indeed.

The two-minute rule is insanely useful. Here’s how it works:

You’re chugging along, doing your intake on your task list on whatever app you use – or maybe you’re hardcore analog and only use pen and paper. Whatever.

You pick up a piece of paper. A letter you need to reply to. Or you open an email you have to process and respond to. Or you remember that you need to finish up a website wireframe for the new client.


So with this thing either in hand or in mind – this thing you’re about to add to your list of stuff to do – you pause, and you ask yourself one simple question:

“Is this something I can do in two minutes or less?”

If it’ll take more than two minutes, add it to the task list.

But if not – if you can finish this thing in two minutes or less – skip the task list, and do it right then and there. Just get it done. On the spot. It never goes on the list at all**.

Getting a stream of little, two-minutes-or-less things done can give you a cumulative boost of energy and confidence that’ll help you tackle the bigger shit, too.

Give the two-minute rule a try this week, then come back and let me know how it worked for you, ‘kay?

**NB: I used to say it was fine if you added it to the list and then marked it off, if you needed a little mental confidence boost – and crossing things off as done definitely gives me a boost, but maybe that’s just me – but these days I think it just takes up time and gets you out of the “doing” zone, breaking your momentum.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dustyn October 17, 2016 at 5:03 pm

I’m loving this tip, I think this is something that I’ll personally have to become more conscious of and start implementing into my own personal work flow.

I agree that crossing things off does add to a sense of visually seeing that things are getting done, so it might be especially useful for those who need this visualization to take up on this practice of putting it down even if they already completed it; just to see it’s been done and checked off the list.

Keep up the awesome tips, loving them! 🙂


Annie October 18, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Hey Dustyn, thanks for the comment! Yeah, I definitely agree – there’s something super satisfying to some folks about crossing off those “done” items, especially for those who use pen and paper. If I still did, I think I’d probably feel the same, to some extent. But personally, it just became another way to delay real work for me, so I switched to Asana in an effort to help bring my focus back to the work, as opposed to the “trying to get the work done more productively” – if that makes sense? Productivity can become a distraction for some! Glad you’re enjoying the series!


Jen February 21, 2017 at 1:11 pm

This really helps. Thanks!


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