Skip to main content

Don’t let the meta drag you down; the two minute rule

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, keeping my inbox at zero is a huge part of my organizational process, and I attribute much of my productivity to it.  Having your inbox clean makes it much easier to prioritize new messages so you’re always on top of everything that you’ve got going.

A big part of inbox zero is having systems in place to keep everything.  I put my tasks in Nozbe, file attachments in Dropbox, passwords and other notes into Evernote, and I count on auto-resurrection to bring emails back when a response comes in.  If you don’t have a great way to deal with every email in your inbox, you’ll never be able to get them all out of there.

The two-minute rule

However, another big piece of the GTD method is the two-minute rule.  If you get a new task and it’ll take less than two minutes to do, then do it immediately.  If you wait on it, then you’re adding more meta data to the task that will ultimately slow you down.  For example:

  • Adding it to your task list takes a minute to do, as does crossing it off later and prioritizing it in the meantime.
  • Leaving it in your inbox just gives you one more item to look past as new items come in.
  • It’s more difficult to have a “mind like water”, since you’ll probably be thinking about it until it’s done, at least subconsciously.

Even better, I’ve found that clients love it!  People are amazed when they send me an email with a minor update to their site and it’s done (with a reply back to them) in just a few minutes.  I certainly don’t always respond that quickly, especially if I’m in the middle of another project at the time, but I work hard to respond as quickly as possible.

Distractions

This idea could really lead to another conversation about distractions.  The nature of my work requires that I stay on top of client requests during the day as much as possible, leading to many (paid) interruptions.  However, for most people, processing email in scheduled “chunks” throughout the day (instead of responding each time a new one comes in) is often a more productive way to handle it.

Not always just two minutes

Another thought is the length of time that you fit this rule into — I often stretch it to the “5 minute rule”, or even a bit longer.  If it’s something that needs to get done at some point that day, and it’s a 5-10 minute task, I’ll still usually tackle it right away.  If it’s a longer task, or something that isn’t a priority for today, then I’ll add it to the to-do list and worry about it another day.

Regardless of how often you process your email, the two-minute rule is gold.  Get it done and move on!

About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

View Mickey's Profile

More from Our Blog

Leveraging Internal Links to Make Your Website Even More Powerful

Most everything we do when designing a powerful, effective website benefits two main audiences: a site’s users and Google. Internal and external hyperlinks within well-written…

Read More
cyclone fence in shallow photography

Think Digital Marketing is Environmentally Friendly? You’d Be Surprised

Many modern businesses focus on sustainability and being environmentally friendly because consumers are increasingly concerned about this. You may be familiar with the triple bottom…

Read More
low angle view of human representation of grass

Common Marketing Problem: Your Brand Doesn’t Properly Reflect The Business

Let’s explore a critical aspect of your business that might be flying under the radar: your brand.  While it’s easy to overlook amidst the hustle…

Read More
sad young ethnic lady arguing during video call