The Two Minute Rule (Legit or Not?) and James Clear’s twist on it

The Two Minute Rule (Legit or Not?) and James Clear’s twist on it
Photo by Matt Ragland / Unsplash

Raise your hand if you’re aware of the famous “2-minute rule”, yet it still takes up to five business days to reply to emails or take out the trash on time.🙋‍♀️

We've all been there.

This seemingly simple rule promises to declutter our lives, one two-minute task at a time. In other words, the rule states, “If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, then do it immediately.”

But why do so many of us struggle to implement it consistently? Is it the rule, or is it us?

After pondering on it, the conclusion was that if you try to implement the rule the wrong way, it will actually do more harm than good. And most of us instinctively do it the wrong way.

In this issue, we’ll go deep into the good and the bad of this well-known productivity tool and how to leverage it as a supporting tool and not turn it into a deflection.

Origin of the 2-minute rule & the 2 Main Variations

The original two-minute rule, popularized by David Allen, focuses on productivity and freeing mental luggage by tackling undemanding tasks.

“If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, then do it immediately.”

Then there's James Clear's adaptation, emphasizing habit formation, that goes like this, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do." Putting it simply, by reducing the friction associated with starting a new habit, you increase the likelihood of consistently performing the habit until it becomes ingrained.

We’ll focus on the original rule for this article.

Positives when executed correctly

Reduces Procrastination: Quick tasks? Done!

Declutters the Mind: Less mental baggage.

Boosts Productivity: Small wins can give you the boost that leads to big victories.

Enhances Responsiveness: Addressing tasks promptly can improve your reputation for being reliable and reinforce a reliable sense of identity.

Creates Momentum: Starting with small tasks can set a positive tone for the day, making it easier to tackle bigger challenges.

Negatives, when executed poorly

Distractions: Risk of losing focus on the “big picture” and on tackling the demanding tasks.

Prioritization Issues: All tasks aren't equal. Switching to executing easy tasks constantly can be a form of procrastination in and of itself.

Overestimation: That "two-minute" task? Took ten.

Reactivity: You might become more reactive, always addressing immediate tasks and neglecting strategic planning.

Mental Fatigue: Constant task-switching, even if brief, can be mentally draining over time – way more than just postponing the activity in the first place.

Examples of 2-Minute Tasks

Off the top of my head: quick email replies., washing your dish after eating a snack, jotting down a to-do list, making your bed, deleting unnecessary files from your laptop, making an overdue phone call, refilling your water bottle, and many, many more.

How can you mitigate the negatives of the two-minute rule, aka “do it the right way”?

Step 1: Set a priorities list
Make sure that significant, high-priority tasks are scheduled and protected from interruptions. Only apply the two-minute rule when it doesn't hamper these tasks.

Step 2: Allocate designated times for Quick Tasks

Instead of addressing two-minute tasks whenever they arise, set aside specific times during the day to handle them. For example, you might decide to tackle these tasks first thing in the morning, right after lunch, and after your workday.

Step 3: Review and Reflect

At the end of the week, review how you spent your time. If you find that the two-minute rule is leading to more distractions than benefits, tweak your approach.

Extra tip:
Doing Pomodoro or deep focus sessions? Tackle two-minute tasks when you’re on a break. That way, you’ll take an active break while ensuring that you don’t use the two-minute tasks to procrastinate.

Action Step of the Week

Sometimes, completing a two-minute task can really get your productivity gears going. Just ask yourself first, “Am I doing this to maximize effectiveness OR to avoid dreadful tasks?”


How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the "2-Minute Rule" (

How To Get The Best Sleep Of Your Life: Six Secrets From Research - Barking Up The Wrong Tree (

The 5 Minute Rule - YouTube