I’m sure many of you have read “Getting Things Done”, David Allen’s excellent book for managing time in a chaotic and heavily demanding work context. This is where you have so much coming at you all the time. The book and philosophy helps you organize and survive it all. One of David Allen’s rules is called the “two minute rule”. The two minute rule means that if something takes two minutes or less then just do it– don’t even put it on your list — don’t prioritize it — you just need to knock it out and get it done.
I have applied this principle with varying degrees of consistency over the last four years and it has actually helped me accomplish a lot of things and keep my ‘To Do List’ manageable. But there is another principle which I call the ‘one hour push’ that is a little different but still consistent with GTD or other time management systems.
We often procrastinate or don’t start a difficult task or avoid things that are just not in our sweet spot because we fear our ability to ever complete the task. This fear may be grounded in “Do I have enough time to get this task done?” or it could be grounded in the belief that “We don’t have the necessary resources, abilities or talents to accomplish the task”. More importantly, we fear that the task will consume more of our day than we would have wanted to allocate to it.
We really just see these things as a black hole of unpleasantness that will ultimately knock us off the track of things that are more important. This will inevitably run into important things in your life like reading to your children or attending their school play or even in doing the budget or making some networking calls to advance your business. We view these things as important but we tend to put off doing them. We need to stop glossing them over with the good old saying “I don’t have enough time”.
Here is a suggestion: pause for a few seconds, catch your breath and quickly answer these three questions:
- Do I (we) even have the ability to do this task?
- Do I have the resources (budget, people, skills) to complete this task (paperwork or whatever else you might need)?
- If I have to describe this task in three steps what would those steps be (gather bills, post the bills, calculate the total, put into the annual total)?
Lastly, now that you have done this, take a look at what YOU have said and ask yourself how long this whole thing will actually take. Add fifty percent for good measure. So look at each step and total it. Maybe something like “tax prep” could take 25 minutes or 2 hours and 25 minutes. The point is this: it is a finite and specific amount of time and it is probably an amount of time you can “find”.
You should also ask yourself about the budget at hand. Can I do it in one sitting? I would suggest that if you could make it an hour or less – knock it out with ease. You can put it into your calendar with a one hour block of time and formulate your thoughts step by step so you can put that into your calendar or just make a mental note of it. You have just demystified that thing that has been sitting there not getting any attention because you felt it was too big.
What if it is big? What if it is in fact a large task? Then break it down. Usually you will find a way to take a three to five hour task and you can do it in three chunks spread out over two weeks. You may ask- is two weeks a form of procrastination? I would suggest that by human nature, and my own observations, that if you get it done in two weeks in this fashion then you will actually get it done much sooner then you would have if you just put it off until the perfect time.
Face down your fears! And get things done!