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Method For: The 2 Minute Rule

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December is month where you don’t have a lot of extra time. All of the joys of the season are layered on top of the regular stuff you have to do every month: school, work, kids’ activities, family obligations, etc., etc.  It can make for a bell-to-bell situation each week as the days march inexorably forward to Christmas. There is an especially effective tactic that can help move the month-of-crazy along while minimizing your stress level. It involves taking care of small things as you go so that they never even make it on to your To-Do list. Employing this tactic is a powerful strategy because it works like a snowball going downhill; you gain momentum very quickly. The tactic I’m referring to is the 2 Minute Rule (slightly different than the 2 Minute Rule in James Clear’s Atomic Habits) and it involves addressing tasks that take 2 minutes or less to execute.  I use this tactic all of the time. I find it to be one of the most effective tools in my efficiency arsenal; it was a big reason I made it through raising a family while working full time with my wits intact. December represents a perfect opportunity to practice using the 2 Minute Rule because it’s busier than any other month. If you work on it throughout the month you will emerge in the New Year with a fully-baked habit and won’t need a resolution to keep it going!

I have defined 3 ways in which you can leverage this tool effectively. I’ve listed examples from my life to illustrate how I use it but you can likely come up with many other scenarios that are pertinent to your lifestyle. It’s so versatile, which is one reason why it’s so effective and easy to use. Here are 3 times to put The 2 Minute Rule in play:

ACT immediately as a thought occurs

Imagine you are going about your business in your home. Maybe you are cooking, maybe you are paying bills, maybe you are changing into cozies after your day outside is done. As you do whatever it is you are doing you A) remember something that needs to be done or B) notice something in the house that needs to be done. If you are employing the 2 Minute Rule you will stop what you are doing and take care of said thing – because it only takes 2 minutes! 2 minutes will not throw you off track with whatever it is you are currently working on. Just take care of it.  If the thing you remembered or noticed will take more than 2 minutes then use the rule to make a note (on your phone, preferably) of the thing so you can get back to it when you have more time. The most frequent example for me is noticing or remembering something that I need to order. Amazon helps in this example by making the ordering of things so easy that it takes less than 2 minutes on the app.  I’m out of poop bags, I need taper candles, I think of a great gift idea – as these thoughts occur to me I just stop and take care of them. Sending texts is another big one – I just do it immediately as I think of it: Dad, which day can you walk this week? Jay, we now have plans on Saturday night! Kids, I just booked your flights home!  And because I do them right away these little things never even make it to my To-Do list – yay!

use waiting time

There are always precious minutes to leverage when we are waiting for something/someone.  Waiting for the kids to get their shoes on, waiting for the barista to finish our coffee order, waiting on hold. These are precious opportunities to leverage the 2 minute rule and make those minutes work for you.  If you are waiting in your house take a look around, is anything out of place? How long will it take you to return that pile of items to your bedroom?  Sort through the pile of mail on the counter?  Fold up a blanket that someone left crumpled on the sofa?  If you have good systems in your home then tidying up shouldn’t be a big burden and you can get a lot done in the 2 minutes (or 5 minutes?) you are waiting for your kids to get their shit together so you can leave the house!  My favorite way to be productive while waiting is taking care of small things when Jay is taking a bathroom break during our evening TV time.  Since his bladder is the size of a pea this happens at least 2 times during our 90ish minutes of TV-watching each night. He pauses the show and I jump up and fill up Gus’ water bowl, put away my laundry that Jay folded (he’s the laundry guy at our house) or re-order a prescription Those small actions save me from doing them at bedtime when I’m so tired I can barely get my teeth brushed (and sometimes don’t!)

leverage gaps while cooking

Some activities have built-in gaps of time. Cooking is the best example. You are always waiting for water to boil, oven to preheat, sauce to reduce. You can use those gaps to take care of small things that save you time later. Like washing out the mixing bowl you just moved, returning spices to the drawer or emptying out the compost bin. If you utilize those gaps you can essentially take care of your clean up before the meal is even finished. Even if you don’t cook a lot you can use the gaps of time that happen when you are in your kitchen to tidy up and keep it a pleasant place to hang, since it is usually the place that everyone hangs.

All of the 2 minute things you do accumulate by a magnitude over the course of a month. The whole is 10x the sum of its parts. That is time you can use to binge a holiday movies with your teenage daughters or go on a date night with your partner. There is also the little satisfying sense of accomplishment that happens when you take care of something that needs to be taken care of. Often the little things I do are follow-up items that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks. This tactic is such a sleeper – I hope you try it if you aren’t already doing it. What a difference it will make in your crazy month of December!

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