When it comes to productivity, times have changed. There are always endless distractions to keep you from getting things done. As a founder and entrepreneur doing business in COVID-19 times, you simply cannot afford to let any distraction affect you and make you lose sight of your goals.
Having said that, in our current work-from-home scenario, distractions have more than doubled. So what is the solution?
The good news is that there are some amazing time management strategies you can use to bypass these distractions and finish tasks on time. In this article, I will talk about one such powerful time management technique called the 2-minute rule.
The 2 minute rule
The 2-minute rule is a productivity tool developed by productivity expert – David Allen. It focuses on getting more work done in less time. The idea is simple: As you go through your to-do list, ask yourself a simple question: Will this task take less than 2 minutes to finish? If yes, then simply do that particular task right away rather than writing it on your to-do list.
The reason behind this is that it will take less time to actually do the task than to write the plan down on your to-do list for the future. The more tasks you add to your to-do list, the more intimidating it becomes from a psychological perspective. You are more efficient in doing such short tasks right away and getting them over with than writing them on a to-do list that weighs you down.
Here’s an example to explain the point further. Let’s say you have to send a reply to a client regarding a project quote. Next, ask yourself – Will sending this reply take me less than 2 minutes? Well, unless you are planning to write Homer’s Iliad as a reply, the answer will be most likely a YES! So, instead of writing it down on your to-do list and pushing it for later, why not simply open your email and send the requested quote right away? This will make you finish this task right away and save you from adding it to a to-do list that you would be too overwhelmed to complete later on.
Stacking the 2-minute rule for longer tasks
The 2-minute rule is a great time management model for shorter tasks. But what about longer tasks? Can the 2-minute rule be used to handle them too? Well, yes!
Productivity expert and author of the best-selling book, Atomic Habits, James Clear, has used the 2-minute rule to develop a mental model called the inertia of life. It mainly focused on using the 2-minute rule to manage longer tasks and build habits for deep work.
Here’s how it works: When planning to do a lengthy task or build a heavy-duty habit, scale it down to just 2 minutes or less. So, if you are planning to write a long article of 5000 words, just write the first 30 words and stop. If you are planning to work out for an hour, just scale it down to the first 2 minutes and stop. If you are planning to do yoga 5 days a week, just take out your yoga mat every day and stop. All this might seem counterintuitive but stay with me.
What this does is that it makes you master the art of showing up and building a habit. A habit must be established and become a standard in your life before you can optimize and scale it up. Most people get bogged down in just thinking about the task and the hamster wheel of planning it all up for optimization. The way to break it is by actually building a routine of showing up repeatedly, thus rewiring your brain to form a new habit. Once you do this act of showing up continuously, you will find it is easier to actually do the whole task than to not do it.
How to put the 2-minute rule into action?
You can put both versions of the 2-minute rule by stacking it with some other tools and tactics.
First and foremost, make the first action of the task as frictionless as possible. For example, if you have to build a habit of playing the guitar, keep your instrument at a place that is easily accessible. Keep it at a place where you can simply reach out to it with minimal effort and start playing from the get-go. Making your habit-building environment easy and frictionless makes the brain more receptive to the new habit. You can apply this for smaller tasks too. For example, while sending a project quote to a client, you can keep your email draft ready with a formatted template. This will help you reduce any friction that can come up when formatting a reply from scratch.
Secondly, build a habit of consistency with your timing. So, if you are practicing guitar, make it a point to practice it at a specific time every day. This will rewire your mind to automatically recognize that set time as a cue to do deep work on the activity. When practicing the 2-minute rule for longer tasks, this is particularly helpful as it makes you aware of showing up to do action. You can stop after 2 minutes, but showing up consistently leads to building strong habits.
Finally, you can amplify the effects of the 2-minute rule by using a set of free tools.
Firstly, to eliminate distractions, you can use a tool like News Feed Eradicator to eliminate your FB news feed (no more cat videos for the day). You can double it up with Block Site to block any unwanted site that is stopping your productivity.
Next, you can use a tool like Noisli to improve concentration by ambient background sounds.
Finally, you can use a Pomodoro timer like Egg Timer to start work sprints of 2 minutes to a few hours.
Now it’s up to you. How will you use the 2-minute rule to scale your productivity?
Photo Credit: @carlheyerdahl on Unsplash