Happy new year! I wish you all the best for 2023. Last year, for my first blog post of 2022, I shared a habit-building tip called habit stacking. This year, I’d like to keep the trend going by introducing you to the two-minute rule. Well, two two-minute rules I follow to make sure I stay productive and build good habits.

The first two-minute rule

The first two-minute rule I’m going to share is from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. It’s a pretty powerful tool to help you stick to new habits. It may seem a bit silly at first. It certainly did to me, but bear with me here.

One of the common mistakes people make when starting new habits is they try to do too much too soon. The first two-minute rule states the following:

“If you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

If you’ve never been a runner and you suddenly have a goal of running five miles daily, you’re unlikely to follow through with it for long. However, if you make your habit as simple as putting on your running shoes, you’re much more likely to go for a little run. You’re already wearing your running shoes, after all.

It doesn’t really matter how far you run at this point, it’s all about ritualizing the beginning of a process to make it automatic. It’s about showing up. Once you’ve mastered the art of showing up, what used to be your two-minute habit will just become a little ritual at the start of a much larger habit.

You need to form a habit before you can optimize it. You cannot improve on a habit that doesn’t exist.

The second rule

The two-minute rule as outlined by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done is a productivity technique that helps you to get small tasks off your plate quickly. The idea is this:

“If something can be done in two minutes, then it should be done right away.”

– David Allen, Getting Things Done

The sheer number of tasks most people have on their plates is often overwhelming. This two-minute rule technique is a simple way of dealing with this issue. If you have too many tasks you might find it hard to decide what to do next. This might cause you to put off some tasks for later when you could have benefited from getting them out of the way immediately.

So when you think of a task, take a second to estimate it. Can it be done in two minutes or less? Do it right away.