Beat Procrastination With The 2 Minute Rule

2 Minute Rule productivity - danshaw consultingIf you’ve ever watched the 2011 smash-hit drama/comedy We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon, you may remember the following quote:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

The 2 minute rule is essentially the same thing; a clever way of tricking the lizard part of your brain that puts off big tasks because they seem insurmountable and drives you to procrastinate, into getting the job done.

Similar “chunking”, in which you break down tasks into seemingly more manageable “chunks” and focus only on completing the “chunk” at hand, the 2 minute rule requires of you to focus only on the first 2 minutes of a larger task.


You Just Need 120 Seconds To Start That Big Task

For example, if you are struggling to start writing a status report for work because you just know it is going to take hours, commit yourself to working on just the introductory paragraph for 2 minutes; just 120 seconds and then you’re done, and once you’ve tricked the lizard part of your brain into starting, odds are you’ll find yourself ready to keep working!

On the off chance your lizard brain is a little more reluctant to get the job done, you could combine the chunking and 2 minute rule methods and just convince your lizard brain to work for another 2 minutes more, and just repeat that step until you lose track of the 2 minutes slots altogether.

And before you know it, the task that seemed insurmountable has been tamed, the dragon slayed, and the deadline met, huzzah!

2 Minute Rule productivity - danshaw consulting


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Why The 2 Minute Rule Works

So why does the 2 minute rule work?

What is it about the lizard portion of our brains that is trying so desperately to protect us from big tasks by causing us to procrastinate and avoid the subject. Essentially it’s all science.

In Chemistry they refer to “activation energy” as the minimum quantity of energy required by a subject to undergo a specified reaction. The 2 minute rule is nothing more than the activation energy for your daily productivity.

We typically only need 2 minutes of intense focus and dedication to the task at hand to get the ball rolling and finish the whole thing. Because large tasks require large amounts of energy, the resistance to undertaking such tasks is instinctually high.

By following the 2 minute rule, you are essentially hacking your own brain to lower its resistance to the larger task. Once you’ve completed the first 2 minutes of the task, you’re relying on momentum to carry you forward now that your activation energy has set the gears in motion.


Also Read – Why An Action List Is Way Better For Productivity!


Tasks Under 2 Minutes, Just Do It Now!

The 2 minute rule is also as simple as this: If a task will take you less than two minutes to do, do it right now.

Whether that means washing your plate immediately after you’ve eaten, or sending that email to a client, there is no use putting off till later what you could do in less than 2 minutes right now.

While this does not always help us prioritize the more important activities if we use the 2 minute rule as an excuse to fuel our procrastination instead of to beat it, applying the “do it now” mentality does help smaller tasks not to pile up and become bigger, intimidating tasks in the first place.

2 Minute Rule productivity - danshaw consulting

Also Read – Our Productivity Guide


Will It Work For You

At the end of the day the 2 minute rule may not be the right fit for you to beat your procrastination blues.

Some people have limited success with the method even when used in combination with other procrastination-busting strategies because the 2 minute rule isn’t really about the task at hand but about fostering the kind of positive habits that crush procrastination in the long-term.

This method is as much about the journey as it is about the destination, and it helps us to take the first step, but that may not be enough for everybody. No guilt, just try something else!


Chunking Your Bigger Tasks

Chunking, for example, is a far less rigid and time-specific method that is based on a similar premise.

Instead of encouraging the lizard brain to work on a task for a specific amount of time, which is like building a wall with equally 2-minute sized bricks, chunking is like building a wall out of oddly sized bricks – completely different, but also entirely possible.

Chunking requires you to break down the task into manageable chunks, but not all those chunks will be the same size. If, for example, you are trying to write a thesis, the two minute rule says you need to write for this set period of time, but chunking may call for you to write until you’ve completed the introduction, or the first paragraph, no matter how long that may take.

Chunking shifts the goal from being time-specific to project-specific. Instead of neat 2-minute bricks, your finished product is made up of unequally sized but still manageable chunks.

For example, your introduction may have taken you an hour to write, but your next chunk, the first chapter, could have taken you only thirty minutes, and yet neither small task was as intimidating as the larger task of writing the entire thesis.

You trick yourself into starting by making the task seem smaller, it’s just not in a time-specific format like with the 2 minute rule. So if you need a little more flexibility in your life, chunking may be for you!

action list productivity - danshaw consulting


Already feel like you’re beating your procrastination blues? You may have found the productivity booster for you! But, if chunking and 2 minute rules aren’t your thing, don’t sweat. Just keep experimenting until you find the perfect way to beat procrastination and improve your productivity!


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Resources used for this article:

How to stop procrastinating and stick to good habits by using the 2 minute rule,

Overcome Procrastination in 2 Minutes Without Fighting with Your Lizard Brain, by

This 2 minute rule can help you beat procrastination, by

How to beat procrastination: Magic numbers, The 2 minute rule that will change your life, by Collective Evolution