The Two Minute Rule: An Easy Principle with Powerful Benefits

With the sheer volume of stimulation we’re faced with in the digital age, it is easy to become overstimulated and overwhelmed—to feel like you don’t have control of your life; like you aren’t in the driver’s seat.

All sorts of modern-day stressors are sending our adrenals into overdrive, causing a perpetually-active sympathetic mode (fight-or-flight) and resulting in feelings of habitual exhaustion or burnout. To make matters worse, this stimulation saturation amplifies the number of ‘impressions’ you are exposed to, making it difficult to remember distinct occurrences or thoughts in the future.

Overstimulation from clutter can compound the number of “tasks” you feel you must do, oftentimes insignificant things like canceling an impertinent email newsletter subscription or responding to someone’s post on your Facebook wall, which adds to your cognitive load.

Additionally, bombardment by a multitude of triggers like smartphones, email, and social media can result in overwhelm and worry/anxiety, which in turn elevates levels of cortisol, and in some instances, causes the dopamine effect—constant preoccupation with what stimulation is coming next, preventing full immersion in the current thought or activity.

Thus, dopamine addiction itself diminishes the ability to recall many occurrences in the future.

What’s more, this cognitive burden’s tendency to cause chronically-elevated cortisol levels has its own impact on working memory.

I know for me, it’s easy to become frustrated after forgetting a thought I just had seconds previously, often being something I needed to do. After much deliberation, the thought will generally come back to me, but in some rare instances, it’s gone forever, which usually compounds my frustration.

How To Reduce Cognitive Load and Improve Mental Function

One mechanism I’ve found helpful for decluttering the mind is the “two-minute rule” concept, suggested by David Allen in his book, Getting Things Done.

The basic idea is if a task will take less than two minutes to complete, do it right then when it first comes to your attention, or when it pops back into your head and is occupying your mental space.

You’d be surprised at how many seemingly-daunting things on your to-do can in actuality be achieved in two minutes or less. I think we have the tendency, at least in my case, you psych myself out about minor tasks I must accomplish.

While this technique is often touted for its productivity benefits, it offers several other significant advantages as well.

Being proactive and taking initiative on your to-do list declutters this mind space, freeing up mental capacity and allowing your memory a clean slate for the truly important things.

What’s more, the two minute rule reduces the tendency to work yourself up and stress out over the little things that could be easily stamped out.

A better sense of accomplishment gained by completing even simple tasks allows you to feel in control of your life and that your situation is improving—two of the primary methods for mitigating stress and cortisol.

Thus, employing the two minute rule can also indirectly improve memory and awareness/immersion. It’s a self-feeding cycle.

So what are you waiting for? I’m sure there’s something you can think of you need to tackle which will take two minutes or less. Go ahead and knock it out and realize the immediate benefits of this technique!


2 thoughts on “The Two Minute Rule: An Easy Principle with Powerful Benefits

  1. Oh yeah. Even extending this to the five-minute rule gives us so much more things to do, things that we never knew actually took so little time, and ones we allow to run a train on our conscience. Thanks for this useful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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