March 2, 2024
I Tried the Viral "Two-Minute Rule" Productivity Trick

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I used to be the sort of person who bought every single holiday gift for my friends and family on Black Friday. This year, however, I’m uncharacteristically procrastinating. I keep telling myself to buy the gifts, send the cards, plan the holiday dinner party, and just fill the advent calendar already, but I keep doing something else instead. Maybe I’ve finally burned out, but *maybe* I just need to try this productivity trick I saw on TikTok when I wasn’t shopping for holiday gifts. 

What Is the Two-Minute Rule?

Kristen West of The Centered Life Co. (@thecenteredlife on TikTok) shares a hack called “the two-minute rule.” Originally introduced by author David Allen in Getting Things Done, the trick helps you start boring or complicated tasks you’ve been avoiding because they’re, well, boring or complicated. 

In the TikTok explaining the method, West says you only need two minutes to trick your brain into “doing the thing.” The process has two parts: 1. Write down the first step of the task you’re avoiding, and 2. Set a timer for two minutes of focused work on that step. The key component is to tell yourself you are allowed to take a break or stop entirely when the timer goes off. Usually, you’ll keep going “because momentum,” says West.

To get an expert opinion on this strategy, I spoke to psychologist and ADHD coach Janina E. Maschke, Ph.D. “In my experience, two minutes might be a bit short,” she says, “but the idea of setting a brief timeframe to kickstart tasks can work.” 

To increase the strategy’s effectiveness, Dr. Maschke says it’s also important to make the task one of the following: “challenging, urgent, interesting, or new.”

I Tried It: The Two-Minute Rule PLUS

With Dr. Maschke’s and West’s voices in my head, I made a plan to finally tackle my holiday to-dos, starting with filling the advent calendar

Because I’m nothing if not ridiculous, I decided to make this task urgent, new, interesting, and challenging. Unfortunately, this also made it expensive, so don’t feel any pressure to overachieve. 

First, per West’s video, I wrote down part one of the task: Order chocolate. So far, so good. Next, I set a timer for two minutes and pulled up my browser. Since my holiday tasks already felt overdue (urgency, check!), I tried to think of a way to make them new, interesting, and challenging.

For new, I decided the adults would get a chocolate upgrade. My timer went off while I was browsing gourmet chocolates and I kept going, no problem, just as West said I would. I even added extra Chanterelle Walnut Mini Chocolate Bars to my shipment, because it’s impossible to have too many.

Fancy chocolate purchased, I moved on to the kids’ calendar. Ordering budget chocolate is significantly less exciting, so to make it interesting, I decided to add a surprise addition: Dungeons and Dragons miniatures for my son, and a Trader Joe’s 12 Days of Beauty Advent Calendar for my daughter. 

Dr. Maschke also recommends creating “fake consequences for not meeting deadlines,” and “incentivizing task completion.” I told myself that if I loaded the calendar the moment the chocolates arrived at my door, I could keep the extra mini chocolate bars I added to my order. If not, I had to give them away to a neighbor. Challenging, indeed. 

Spoiler alert, that chocolate is mine. I’ve never dealt with a package so quickly. 

Using the Two-Minute Rule Beyond the Holidays

I committed to a mere two minutes and very efficiently completed one of the holiday tasks that had been weighing on me. Thanks to the success of this method, I’ll definitely use the “two-minute rule” year-round. Is the kitchen a mess? I’ll commit to two minutes of dish duty and see what happens. Is my fridge disorganized? I’ll make it (at least) two minutes better. 

Will it work every time? Maybe not. But even if I only sweep for two minutes, it’s definitely not a waste of my time.  

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