Use the 2-Minute Rule to Get Things Done.

Holiday Blog Series — #8

We all know the feeling of exhaustion or when we just don’t wanna get something done. You just sit there staring at the task at hand while the only thing you wanna do is chill. But, it’s real, there’s this big thing you need to get done for work, for school, or for whatever other reason.

And, when you think about it, this big thing becomes bigger and bigger, so does your exhaustion. Every minute you spend contemplating how you’ll tackle it makes things worse. And, there, another hour has passed. And, you start thinking, “Ah, it doesn’t even make sense to start it now. It’s lunch in 30 min. I can’t get it done in such a short time.”

Well, if you look closely, you’ll see that everything I described was going on in your head and in your head only.

  • You were imagining the task to get bigger and bigger.
  • You were making plans on how to tackle it.
  • You convinced yourself that 30 min isn’t enough to get going.

None of these thoughts was ever translated into an active action towards getting the thing done. And, you were making it harder for yourself. You were convincing yourself that you shouldn’t get it done.

Let’s take a look at a simple concept that helps get you unstuck, get things done, and that actually makes you feel better.

Photo by Rhys Kentish on Unsplash

It’s fairly simple. And, everyone can do it. Actually, you even keep doing what you were doing before. You just change it very slightly. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well, if you look at the example from above, the only thing you were doing was talking the problem up while also talking yourself down. You were giving yourself reasons, why you can’t do it and you were making the task appear bigger and bigger and turn into a problem.

Applying the 2-Minute Rule you’ll still just talk to yourself in the first part of applying it. But, you will talk the task down and yourself up.

For this to work, it’s so important to know that, in most cases, the one person who’s standing in your way is yourself. Other people or circumstances outside of your control might have influenced the way you think but you can get out of it. You can have agency over your life.

So, applying the 2-Minute Rule actually just means:

  1. Only focus on the first two minutes of your task,
  2. Get into the mindset of executing those two minutes, and — in most cases -
  3. You’ll magically start working, and
  4. Continue working.

So, why does this work?

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Glad you asked. Otherwise, I’d have nothing to write about and this blog post would have ended awkwardly. : D

When going through the reasons below, I want you to keep a thing in mind that I once read (I’m paraphrasing):

“Don’t believe that you have full control over yourself and your behavior. Be aware that you need to negotiate with yourself. And, sometimes, you need to trick yourself if you wanna get what you want.”

All the reasons below are playing into tricking yourself. Your brain is hard-wired to preserve energy and, therefore, to be lazy. Getting things done, especially hard things is the opposite of being energy-preserving and lazy. It consumes a lot of brainpower and potentially physical power, and it requires a lot of effort. So, you’ll need to trick yourself to do these things.

So, by applying the 2-Minute Rule,

  1. You’ll Focus on the Easy Things: The first two minutes of going for a run are putting your running shoes on and leaving the house. The first two minutes of writing your thesis are structuring the chapters. The first two minutes of having a tough conversation are sitting down to talk. The things are all easy and everybody can do them. And, no matter what the task is, you’ll be able to find the first easy thing. And, if it seems easy in your mind, it’s gonna be easy to actually do it.
  2. You’ll Break the Biggest Barrier: The biggest barrier is usually getting started. You don’t run a marathon without having bought proper running shoes. Of course, a marathon is impossible at first. But, going out and getting some running shoes is easy. Putting them on is easy. Leaving the house is easy. Walking for 10 minutes is easy. Running for 20 seconds is easy. Running for 20 more seconds might be hard today but in a week it’s gonna be easy. The hard barrier is the big thing. But you won’t be able to tackle the big thing now, so don’t try. Tackle the small things that’ll lead to the big thing eventually.
  3. You Won’t Get Lost in Complexity: Writing a scientific paper is hard. It’s hard because it’s complex. There are so many things to consider, so many things that need to be executed, so many things that can go wrong. And, our brains are not made for dealing with complexity we’re not used to. Our brains are amazing at executing complex tasks if we’re used to them and we already formed a habit. It’s not hard for a pro baseball player to hit the ball with the bat. However, it’s hard for somebody who just started. But, the pro baseball player also started somewhere. They didn’t know what to do in the beginning either. They got better bit by bit by focusing on the small things. If you get 1 % better every day, you’ll be 37 times better at the end of the year. So, don’t get lost in thinking about multiple complex tasks. Focus on the first thing to do in the first two minutes.
  4. It’s Hard to Stop Momentum: The biggest benefit is that once you’re at it, you’ll usually just keep going. If you wrote the first paragraph, why not write another one? If you’re outside walking, why not run for a minute? If you sat down with your partner to talk, why not say the thing that really matters?

Again, all of this is to trick yourself into doing one small thing after the other. Because if you don’t do it this way, your brain will find ways to convince you that it’s too hard and too much effort.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

So, the next time, there’s something big on your to-do list or when you wanna create a new habit:

  1. Only focus on the first two minutes of your task,
  2. Get into the mindset of executing those two minutes, and — in most cases -
  3. You’ll magically start, and
  4. Continue working.

Teddy Lange is a co-founder at Resonaid and is responsible for business development and customer experience. Before joining Resonaid, he’s been a Sales Rep and Junior Sales Manager, and co-founded various companies. He has just finished his graduate degree in Public Policy with a focus on communication at Harvard University. Feel free to reach out to him at teddy@resonaid.co.

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Teddy's a communications expert, founder, & digital nomad. He's currently starting the sales-enablement startup resonaid.co & finishing his degree at Harvard.

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Teddy Lange

Teddy Lange

Teddy's a communications expert, founder, & digital nomad. He's currently starting the sales-enablement startup resonaid.co & finishing his degree at Harvard.

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