Beat procrastination in 2 minutes

May 12, 2022

Most of us have a raft of things that we’d need (or want) to get over the line, then procrastination, busyness and overwhelm get in the way. 

A few years ago, I came across an article by the World Economic Forum which discussed how applying a two-minute rule could help beat all these issues. Since then I have used it regularly to great success.

Over time I have found three ways to implement this principle.

Tip one

If a task is going to take less than two minutes, do it right there and then. Don’t leave it till later. Don’t walk past it. Instead, put that mug in the dishwasher, reply to the email you just read and pay that invoice you opened. Basically, if it’s going take a really short amount of time to deal with then just do it. Why? Because what happens otherwise is, we let all these small tasks building up thinking we’ll deal with them later by which point they have accumulated, and together become a much bigger task to sort out.

Tip two

If you are struggling to get started on a task try committing to a short burst of activity. This could be two minutes, five minutes or any amount of time that feels doable. You are more likely to get the task done using this approach because it isn’t overwhelming. It also opens a loop on the activity making it more likely you will finish.

For example, let’s say you are trying to get a presentation started but it feels too big and you don’t know where to begin. Instead of approaching it as a single task try setting a timer for a couple minutes. Tell yourself, “I’m going to work as hard as I can on X for two minutes”. If you get into a flow you can of course keep going, but if you want to stop when the timer goes off then stop! Either way you will have broken the paralysis.

Tip three

The final trick is setting two minute habits that support bigger goals. This might be laying out your clothes for the gym the night before, or setting aside 2 minutes planning time at the beginning of the day. The habit might not be big in itself but it sets you up for success on bigger ticket items.

If it feels simple that’s because it is! But from experience it is also incredibly effective. Try experimenting with all three tips and see what works for you.

After all, how hard is it to find two minutes?

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