David Allen says following it will make you more productive than 90 percent of the planet.
What is it?
The Two-Minute Rule. And I have an emphasis I think will make you not only more productive, but also more popular with your support staff, direct reports or colleagues. And it will make your team more efficient, too.
David’s Two Minute Rule says that as you are going through your Inbox, whether physical or email, and you decide there is a next action for a given item that will take two minutes or less, you should do it right then instead of putting it on a list for later action.
Why? Because for actions that take less than two minutes, the “overhead” of deciding where to park it, disengaging and then re-engaging at a later time may be more than what it takes to “just do it.” In essence, by doing it right away instead of putting it on a Next Action list, you’re increasing your efficiency by up to 50 percent.
Why the two-minute cut-off? For actions that take more than two minutes, doing them right away can get you off on a bunny trail so you’ll never get to empty. You’ll spend your whole day working out of your inboxes and never reach the bottom. So something urgent, or at least time-sensitive, may have arrived in “in” but you won’t see it until it’s too late.
So what’s my popularity-producing emphasis? As you go through your inbox and ask “Is it actionable? If so, by whom?” in making your Do, Delegate, or Defer decision, think about whether you can do it in under two minutes…even if it’s really someone else’s job.
For example, I sometimes get email messages that could properly be delegated to someone on our team to answer. At first, that’s just what I would do, sending it along to the responsible person. Then I got to thinking, “If I want our team to be most efficient, and if I know what to do with this in two minutes or less, why should I send it along to someone else and make him or her go through this whole process of deciding what needs to be done, and when?”
So I started just answering these emails, with a cc: as an FYI to the person to whom I formerly would have delegated it. The erstwhile recipients of my delegation appreciate that the issues were resolved (but that they got the heads up to keep them looped), and the people who had sent the original message looking for answers appreciate the quick response.
I wouldn’t do this for really important things, for which the other person may have a strong sense of ownership. This isn’t about playing in someone else’s sandbox. This is for the mundane “stuff.” And by clearing it out quickly instead of letting it gum up not only your system, but also the workflows of others on your team, you can all have more time to focus on the bigger priorities.
This may be exactly in line with David’s interpretation of the two-minute rule, that if you can do it in two minutes or less that should generally take precedence over whether a task could or should be delegated to someone else. Maybe I was the only one who missed it. But then again, maybe not.
And by the way, you can get a lot done in two minutes. Like reading this post.