When you have a mile long todo list and a schedule that is busting at the seams, it can be overwhelming to even think about your big picture goals. Perhaps even impossible. There are some days when I look at everything I have written down in my Happy Balance Planner and my first reaction is to do just that…sit. I’m almost frozen and find myself asking where do I even begin. Have you been in this spot where you aimlessly stare at your todos, hoping that if you stare long enough they might just start to check themselves off? I think the even harder challenge kicks in when you feel like this is just a constant cycle on repeat, day after day, and one item you wish you could check off on the list is finding the magic solution to actually working your way effortlessly through the list.
It’s exhausting, and while I wish I could provide the magic sauce for finding the magic solution, I do have a tip that has proved to be a total game changer for me. It’s David Allen’s 2 minute Rule from his GTD Methodology. What I love most about the 2 minute rule is that it is simple, easy to implement, and can help eliminate the “clutter” tasks in your day. Allen says it best when he says your brain is made for creating ideas not holding them all up!
Here’s how Allen defines his 2 minute rule: “If you determine an action can be done in two minutes, you actually should do it right then because it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it.”
The rule is completely approachable and not asking you to devote anything more than two minutes to a task. You can do that! As an example, I was driving home from my barre class this morning thinking about what was on my todo list for the day and remembered that I needed to call in heart worm medicine for Wally. I was stopped at a red light and rather than reminding myself to do it later, I called the vet, put my order in and was off the phone before the light turned green or the two minutes were actually up. Done and Done.
I don’t employ this tactic all the time because I still believe that we all need time to just be present in the moment, off our phones, and off the clock. Sometimes I have a few minutes between meetings or tasks and rather than getting a 2-minute task checked off, what serves me better is to actually just sit and breathe for two minutes, hitting my reset button. But when I’m in the groove, the 2 minute rule helps keep me engaged and helps me stay focused, especially for longer chunks of time.
Now how can you make the 2 minute rule work for you? And even beyond those small tasks, like calling the vet at a stop light, how can you apply the 2 minute rule to your monthly and weekly goals? Here are a few tips and ideas to help you make this rule work for you in chasing those big dreams of yours:
- Write it ALL down: Before you start tackling even the smallest of tasks, you have to brain dump ALL the things swimming around in your head onto paper. No matter how big or how small the task is, write it down in your Happy Balance Planer, on your ToDo list notepad, on a random napkin…you get the idea. Before you unscramble everything you have to know what you’re working with and what needs organizing.
- Organize a 2-Minute Bucket: Once you have all your tasks and todos in front of you, categorize your list of items. Go through each individual item and ask yourself “can I do this in TWO minutes or less?”. If the answer is yes, put it in the 2 minute bucket. Rather than having a general two minute bucket for the entire week, I like to have a two minute bucket for each individual day, and maybe some items roll over to the next day. But for each day, I’ve got those tasks that I know I can fill a few minutes with, whether it be emptying the dishwasher while my bread toasts in the morning, responding to easy customer emails, stamping shipment bags, or even calling to make an appointment to get my haircut (a real life 2 minute bucket item for today!). These are all things that I can absolutely get done in two minutes but when I let them hang out on my todo list, they hang out for more than a week and just take up space!
- Create Forward Motion: Let’s talk science for a minute. Don’t worry! We won’t get too deep here. But if you think back to your middle school science class you might remember Sir Isaac Newton and his laws of motion (if not, it’s ok!). He said that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless an external force acts upon it. While we may or may not be budding physicists here, we can apply this same idea to finding forward progress with your dreams. If you never take that first step and you just stare at your goals on paper, science tells us that you will most likely stay right where you are. BUT, if you dare greatly and you create the external force necessary to even take one small step toward chasing your dream, science also tells us that you are more likely to turn that momentum into progression! Who knew you could draw on your middle school physic days to make your goals become reality?
- Start Small: When it comes to applying the 2 minute rule to your big picture goals, this is when the Goal Funnel approach we’ve included in our Happy Balance Planners comes in handy. Reaching one of your yearly or even monthly goals is obviously not going to happen overnight, let alone in two minutes. But, what can happen in two minutes is taking the first step and creating the catalyst you need to keep moving forward in the pursuit of your goal. Here are a few examples:
- Monthly Goal: Work out 4 times/week in the morning. 2 Minute Rule: Pick out and set aside workout clothes the night before.
- Monthly Goal: Go to bed before 11pm 3 times/week (story of my life!) 2 Minute Rule: Set an alarm on your phone to go off at 10:30pm reminding you to start turning things off and getting ready for bed.
- Yearly Goal: Cultivate meaningful relationships with your favorites. 2 Minute Rule: Call, text, email, or snail mail your favorite inviting them to a dinner/lunch/coffee date.
- Yearly Goal: Read 12 books in the year. 2 Minute Rule: Pack your book of choice in your work bag or put your book on your night stand so that you can easily exchange your phone with your book during those quiet moments you might have during a lunch break or at night.
The point of the small, 2 minute steps is not necessarily to move mountains or take giant leaps in two minutes flat. Instead, the purpose is to simply start! The power that is in just one step forward can be the catalyst that creates the momentum and strength you need to then take the leaps and move the mountains toward your goals. But you always have to start somewhere and when the leap seems too large and the mountain seems too tall, go back to the idea that less is more. Go back to thinking about that one small step you could take that would only take 2 minutes. Maybe you have to take five or ten 2 minute steps before you gain the confidence to take a larger step and that’s ok. Use the 2 minute rule and the 2 minute tasks to find your focus and find your strength to keep moving forward so that you truly can turn your dreams into realities!