Throughout the first third or so of David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, he refers to a concept that he calls the “Two-Minute Rule.” However, in Chapter 6, which focuses on emptying out all of the “stuff” that has been captured into the inbox, he delves into the concept a little more.
The Two-Minute Rule is pretty straightforward; once the next action step has been determined for an item in the inbox, then the time required to complete that next action step must be estimated and evaluated. If the next action step will take less than two minutes to complete, it should be done right then and there. Do not put it off, or it will just end up piled right back in the inbox again!
If the next action step requires longer than two minutes to complete, then it should either be delegated or deferred — but what does that mean?
Should I delegate it to someone else to do? If it will take longer than two minutes to complete, consider whether you are the best person for the job. Delegating is one of the most difficult actions for someone who wants to make sure every inch of every project they ever do is absolutely perfect, but exercising trust in trustworthy co-workers or friends is imperative to making sure you do not go insane.
Should I defer it? If it will take longer than two minutes to complete, and you are the right person for the job, then it is time to plan for it. If it is relatively urgent, then put it in your “next actions” list, and get it done as soon as possible. If it can be postponed (even for a day), then mark a specific day and specific time on your calendar during which it will be completed.
Allen explains that, depending upon time constraints and schedules, the “two-minutes” could be lengthened to five or ten minutes, or even shortened to one minute if need be. That is what makes this concept so attractive: it can be customized and adjusted again an again to fit anyone’s specific needs.
The concept itself does not sound difficult, but the actual implementation of the concept can be. However, when put into practice, this concept can help get that inbox to empty in no time!