Having a system to keep track of your action items is so important for productivity, especially as an entrepreneur, in charge of your own tasks. Whether you opt for a combination of digital tools for task and calendar management, or stick to an old-school paper and pen planner or "to do" list, your system will help your organize priorities, keep track of progress, and delegate tasks when needed.
But over-reliance on a system could actually be getting in the way of making progress. If you're not careful, your system could actually become a means of procrastinating, preventing you from being able to do work, and instead filling time with checking, updating, organizing or reviewing what needs to be done.
This is something I was definitely guilty of. I'd check, double-check and triple-check my list of action items, prioritizing, re-organizing and color-coding to ensure I was properly tracking everything on my plate. And while this kind of organization did give me a great view of what I needed to get done in the coming days, it transformed what could have been valuable work time in unproductive time.
The game-changer for me came after reading David Allen's productivity book, Getting Things Done. The book contains many helpful tips and tricks for establishing and abiding by a productivity system, but one rule in particular transformed the way I organize and accomplish my tasks:
The Two-Minute Rule
In Getting Things Done, Allen introduces what he calls "the two-minute rule." This rule dictates, essentially, that if the task can be completed in less than two minutes, you should do it at that moment it arises, without delay. No excuses. No putting it on your list to be done later. Get it done, right now.
Adopting this rule generally means you very quickly take certain types of quick tasks off your plate: email responses, social posts, uploads and downloads, completing and sending documents, appointment scheduling, website updates, sending invoices, making payments, putting documents and other things where they belong, and initiating chores like laundry, dishes, and more. Anything that would take less than two minutes to complete never sticks around long enough to be added to your system.
The logic is sound: The process of writing down or otherwise logging this short task in your system would take somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds, and then you'd have to read it and decide whether to do it each time you check your system again. By that point, you'd have spent as much time (or more) thinking about doing the task as it would have taken just to do it in the first place, and it hasn't even been done yet! Factor in the time it then takes to then switch gears and actually get it done at a later point, and the two-minute rule saves even more.
When you start incorporating this rule into your life, there's another added benefit: you no longer get bogged down in the "lots of little things" holding pattern that can sometimes be paralyzing for entrepreneurs and others who dictate their own tasks and schedules. You no longer have that moment where you wake up to an overwhelming list of 45 things to be done in a day, or the frustration of having to delay more meaningful work to complete little things like "start laundry" or "write rent check" or "send Bob my headshot for the website."
With these smaller tasks no longer clogging up your "To Dos," your mind and your schedule are clear to focus on the bigger, more meaningful, and more impactful tasks that will take you longer than 2 minutes to complete and have a bigger payoff in terms of productivity and progress.