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< Productivity Glossary
2-Minute Rule

What is the 2-minute rule?

The 2-minute rule (or two-minute rule) states that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, you should do it immediately instead of putting it off. The 2-minute rule is a time management strategy developed by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. By quickly completing small tasks right away, individuals can free up mental space and reduce procrastination.

How does the 2-minute rule work?

When applying the 2-minute rule, there are two options. Firstly, when faced with a new task, ask yourself whether it would take less than two minutes to accomplish. If yes, do it straightaway rather than adding it to a to-do list. 

Secondly, scan through existing items on your to-do list and execute any that meet the two-minute criterion — thereby completing quick tasks right away. Over time, consistently implementing this practice leads to increased efficiency and reduced clutter in workflows, rather than adding them to a scrawling to-do list you ultimately put off for the near or distant future.

What are the benefits of the 2-minute rule?

The 2-minute rule offers several key benefits that boost productivity and reduce stress:

  • Prevents procrastination: By tackling two-minute tasks immediately, you eliminate the mental energy drain of deciding to do them later. This will help you stop procrastinating and reduce the buildup of unfinished tasks.
  • Increases efficiency: Completing numerous small tasks throughout your day saves time in the long run and makes your overall workflow more efficient.
  • Reduces mental clutter: Checking those small tasks off your mental to-do list frees up mental space, allowing you to focus on more complex tasks and important projects.
  • Creates momentum: The sense of accomplishment from completing small tasks builds positive momentum, giving you the motivation to address larger ones.
  • Promotes a bias for action: The 2-minute rule helps you develop a habit of taking action rather than putting things off, leading to a more productive mindset overall.

Best practices for the 2-minute rule

To get the most out of the 2-minute rule, follow these guidelines:

  • Be honest about time: Don't trick yourself into thinking big tasks can be completed in under two minutes if they really can't. 
  • Have a "Do It Now" list: Keep a running list of tasks that fall under the 2-minute rule. This provides a quick reference when you have a spare moment.
  • Context matters: Be mindful of when you apply this rule. Avoid interrupting deep work for a small task unless it's urgent.
  • Batch similar tasks: If several small, similar tasks need attention (e.g., emails), consider grouping them into a dedicated time block for efficiency.
  • Don't neglect big goals: Prioritize important tasks over a flurry of smaller ones. The 2-minute rule shouldn't replace strategic planning and focused work sessions.
  • Celebrate small wins: Acknowledge each two-minute task you clear off your list. This reinforces the positive feelings associated with the rule and builds momentum.

The challenges of the 2-minute rule

While the 2-minute rule is a powerful tool, you'll need to be aware of some potential pitfalls:

  • Misjudging task duration: It can be easy to underestimate how long a seemingly quick task will actually take. Starting a "2-minute task" that ends up taking longer can disrupt your focus and workflow.
  • Distraction risk: If you constantly interrupt your work to tackle tasks, you risk losing focus on more important projects. This can lead to context switching and decreased productivity.
  • Prioritization problems: Focusing excessively on small tasks can distract from larger, more impactful goals. Strive to maintain a balance between immediate action and long-term priorities.
  • Potential for overwhelm: If there's a constant stream of small tasks, trying to handle them under the 2-minute rule might feel overwhelming instead of productive.

Examples of the 2-minute rule

The 2-minute rule can work across various areas of your life:


  • Wash that single dirty dish in the sink.
  • Put away clothes immediately after taking them off.
  • File a document or piece of mail as soon as you open it.
  • Wipe down a bathroom counter after use.


  • Reply to a short email.
  • Schedule a quick meeting or appointment.
  • Update a task status in a project management tool.
  • Organize a few files on your desktop.


  • Respond to a text message.
  • Add an item to your to-do list.
  • Book a reservation or buy a ticket.
  • Stretch or do a quick breathing exercise.

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