Thursday, May 31, 2012

The two minute rule

My clients are familiar with the two minute rule, as it is one of my favorite ways to describe to them how to know when to do something now and when to save something for later. When processing an inbox (physical or email), an action pile, a box of random things from around your house, or even your entire garage, the two minute rule can save you a lot of decision making hassle. In order to make progress, my rule of thumb is if you can do the action associated with the item in two minutes or less, then do it right then. If not, then save it for a time when you can spend longer on completing the project (this is time you would want to schedule in your calendar).

Some examples:
  • You are going through your physical inbox and see a card from the dentist reminding you that you need to schedule a cleaning. Two-minutes or less? Yes! Pick up the phone and make the appointment, then put it in your calendar and recycle the card.
  • You are going through your physical inbox and see a stack of insurance reimbursement forms you need to fill out and mail. Two minutes or less? No! Schedule a half hour or however long you think it will take you on your calendar for a day when you can spend some time in your office taking care of it, and move on.
  • You are going through your garage, trying to make room for your car to actually park in it. You find a rake that you borrowed from your next door neighbor a while ago. Will it take you two minutes or less to return it? Yes! (Unless your neighbor is really chatty, in which case you might just want to leave it by their garage door.)
  • You are going through your closet, paring down your wardrobe by pulling out anything you haven't worn in a year. You come across a couple of nice items that need mending. Can you fix them or have them fixed in two minutes or less? No! Put them by the front door to take to the dry cleaners next time you are running errands, or put them in a place where you will sit to do your mending, and mark off some time on your calendar to do so.
The two minute rule is a bit subjective; what takes you two minutes to do might take someone else five. But it's simple and effective for making progress when you have a lot of processing to do. 

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