How to keep the two-minute tasks from distracting life

I have yet to read Getting Things Done by David Allen, but I’ve heard that one of tenants of his method is that if there’s something to do that would take less than two minutes, do it now.

Having never read the book, that’s the most important lesson I’ve taken from it. And while I’ve known about this rule for a while and thought about it here and there when I’m deciding how to sequence what tasks I tackle, I’ve recently started applying it more strictly.

The benefit to attacking tasks this way is that it reduces mental clutter. If there’s a task in front of me, instead of putting it on a To-Do List (or worse, leaving it in my email inbox, if that’s how I received it), having to circle back to it, wrap my mind around the situation in which it was requested, and then finally accomplish it, doing it now leaves me with just the last step: finally accomplishing it.

Now, if it’ll take longer than two minutes to accomplish, it might make more sense to put it off, batch it, or attack it in some other way. So another lesson I’ve been learning is to limit the amount of tasks I can receive while trying to accomplish another task.

Let me give an example. Let’s say I’m writing a blog post for work. If I get an email that requests some information that then needs to be printed out, that would probably take more than two minutes. It’ll just go on my To-Do List.

A better way to sequence this, though, would be to not check email at all. Just leave email off. Finish the writing. Then once the writing is fully complete, read through email and knock out each request as I read each email.

Or more simply: don’t read email if there’s no chance of doing anything to respond to it.

That’s just one example with email. I’m trying to apply this kind of thinking to other areas of my life, both at work and outside work.