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time management

The Simple Rule I Use to Get More Done

October 23, 2018

Reading Time: 5 minutes

READ TIME: 5 MINUTES

“How do other people do time management?”

“How can I get more stuff done? I need more hours in the day!”

“Life is so overwhelming lately – How do I dig myself out of this?”

As Time Management Coach, I get questions like these all the time from friends and readers.

Sometimes they come in via email, or Instagram DM.

And sometimes they’re whispered quietly with a hint of shame or embarrassment.

Truth is friends – whether you realize it or not, time management is something that we’re all struggling with.

Sure, we’ve got different sets of responsibilities.

Some of us are moms.
Some of us are working toward second or third degrees, or building businesses.
Still others are building a side-hustle in the wee hours after their day jobs.
Some are serving as caretakers for their parents, while trying to manage their own household.

We’ve got student loan debt. Rent or mortgages to pay. Tuition for our little ones.
Not to mention relationships to tend with friends, family and significant others.

Y’all – we’ve got a lot on our plates.

But the common denominator among all of the question-askers is a desire to spend their time doing something they love.

So, what if I told you that there’s a two-minute solution to knocking out physical and mental clutter – so you can spend more time (and mental energy) focusing on what’s really important to you?

INTRODUCING THE TWO-MINUTE RULE

And no – the two-minute rule does not mean eating food that’s been on the ground for two minutes or less. That’s the 5 second rule. (Which is also different from the Mel Robbin’s 5-Second Rule.)

The Two-Minute Rule comes from David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.

In a nutshell, if something takes 2 minutes or less to do, DO IT NOW.

Simple enough, right?

I could just end this blog post now, but let’s be real – if something as simple as the Two-Minute Rule were really that simple – we’d all be living perfect, clutter free lives of ease and leisure.

So let’s dig into some of the challenges you’ll face when using the Two-Minute Rule in your life – and how you can tackle them to get more things done.

THE CHALLENGE: MAKING YOURSELF JUST DO IT

It’s so much easier to sit on the sofa than it is to load the dishwasher. Right?

It’s so much easier to just put your yoga pants that you wore for just an hour around the house on “the chair” instead of putting them away.

So most of the time, one of the biggest challenges to tackling these little things is getting past the “I’ll do it later” syndrome.

  • Use a mantra to get moving. It doesn’t have to be anything weird. Somewhere recently, I read the phrase “Default to Action.” Basically – when it comes to doing something, your choices are act or don’t act. And if you make taking action your default function, action becomes a habit and you get things done. That sounds pretty good to me. So sometimes when I’m feeling lazy, I say the words “Default to Action” and I get off my butt and do what needs to be done.

  • Think about how much better you’ll feel once it’s done. Personally, I love the look of an empty sink. An empty inbox tray. An empty laundry basket. A folded blanket. It’s no wonder that one of author Gretchen Rubin’s Secrets to Adulthood is “Outer Order Contributes to Inner Calm.” When our outer world is orderly, we just function better. Picturing that end result might be just what it takes to get you to rinse that coffee mug and put it in the dishwasher now – instead of waiting until 9PM to put away an entire sink of yucky dishes. Bleh.

THE CHALLENGE: BEING REALISTIC ABOUT HOW LONG THINGS TAKE

Two minutes goes by quicker than you think. And a lot of what we write on our to do lists is going to take longer than two minutes.

It’s SO easy to get caught in the trap of “let me just do this one thing real quick.” Except “real quick” turns into 30-45 minutes because we’ve thought of 12 other related things that also need to be done.

What you thought would be a 2 minute email, turns into a 30-minute drafting session.

  • Know what two minutes feels like. We’re supposed to brush our teeth for two minutes. Next time you want to use the Two-Minute Rule, ask yourself – Can I knock this out in the time it takes me to brush my teeth, or less? If the answer is yes – go for it! If the answer is no, add the thing to a list or schedule it to do later.

  • Set a timer? For a lot of us, our first reflex will be to grab our phones and set a timer for two minutes. Honestly – it’ll probably take you 30 seconds to fumble with your phone each time you want to set a timer. Time. Wasted. Plus – it’s way too easy to get lured into tapping on your Facebook or Instagram app and losing yourself in the scroll.

    If you really need a helper, try this little cube timer guy. It doesn’t have a two-minute setting, but it’s got a 1 and a 3 and it’s super easy to use. I have the 1, 5, 10, 15 minute cube timer and use it to stay on track when I meditate or read during my morning routine.

THE CHALLENGE: THE THING I NEED TO DO TAKES LONGER THAN TWO MINUTES

Did you know that most of us are doing our to-do lists wrong? Instead of writing actual action items, we’re compiling a list of nouns.

  • Dentist’s Appointment

  • Oil Change

  • Taxes

  • TPS Report

  • Daycare for Baby

Chances are, a good chunk of what’s on your to-do list requires multiple steps to complete. And then we get frustrated when the same item stays on our to-do list for weeks, and we feel like we’re not moving the needle on anything…

  • Can you break any of your to-do items into two-minute parts? For example, I realized recently that I have a ton of out of date contacts in my phone that are creating some serious clutter, and taking up space on my phone. Sitting down to go through all of my contacts from A-Z would take a while. Instead, every few days I sort through a letter or two – deleting old media contacts or work-related contacts that I haven’t needed in years.

  • Don’t do it now. Put it on a list and schedule a time to do it later. Writing down action steps is a lot like writing down goals. And statistics show that people who write down their goals have an 80% (or higher) success rate in achieving them. So if things you need to do are swimming in your head like too many open tabs in your browser, WRITE THEM DOWN. Get them out of your head and on to paper, or in your favorite task manager. Trello is my favorite. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you let your notebook, planner or online list/reminder tool do the heavy thought-lifting for you.

    Albert Einstein said “Never memorize something you can look up.”

    And that goes for stuff you need to do taking up mental space in your brain.

TO RECAP:

  • If something takes two minutes or less, do it now.

  • Use a mantra, like “Default to Action” to get moving.

  • Think about how good you’ll feel once it’s done.

  • Know what two minutes actually feels like.

  • Break your to-dos into two-minute parts.

  • Write down and schedule stuff that takes longer than two minutes.

  • Never memorize something you can look up!

ASK YOURSELF

  1. How can I use the Two-Minute rule in my life to clear out physical clutter?

  2. How can I use the Two-Minute Rule in my life to clear out mental clutter?

  3. How can I write my to-do list to include action items, instead of just nouns?

LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE

  1. Think of a mantra you can use when you don’t feel like taking action.

  2. Find a consistent place to capture the ideas and to-dos that are swimming in your head, whether it’s on paper in a notebook, in your planner or in an app.

  3. Share the Two-Minute Rule with a friend or coworker today.

  4. Let me know in the comments below how you’ve used the Two-Minute Rule to get things done!

What will it take you to get from chaos to calm?

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