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How long is two minutes?

Hello everyone, I would like to ask for your opinion in the topic of productivity.

I always feel that I could get a lot more done during my day if I were a little more organized. I have been looking for advice and tips online. I have already developed a couple of utilities for my personal use (one for tracking time spent in my activities, and one for taking notes (a kind of treeview-organized notepad (I also built this utilities to learn .NET))).

Anyway, I am not looking for tools.

I have been trying David Allen's tip on 'if it takes two minutes, do it immediately'. (I have not read the book; though, so you could answer just 'read the book, you cheap bastard', but please don't).

The problem is that I just can't find almost *anything* I can do in two minutes. Even the smallest thing (like this post) takes around five, six minutes, ten minutes.

Is the two minute limit realy trying to be restrictive in that sense? Is it that I am so unproductive that I should try harder to do in two minutes things that take five? Or is the two minutes just a way of saying 'do small things first' no matter if they took more?

Again, this might sound silly, but I am frustrated because I just can't find two minute activities. I might try to divide my task in two minutes trivial tasks like: 'write the intro to that document' or 'open the editor and create some projects to begin the development of the component' but it seems a lot like forcing things when the real activities are 'write that document' and 'develop the component'. It seems like over-managing my time and just feels stupid.

So, do you have any strategy or habit to put this 'two minute' thing in practice?

.NET Developer
Thursday, April 22, 2004

No, it's not really 2 minutes.

"Two minutes is in fact just a guideline. If you have a long open window of time in which to process your in-basket, you can extend the cutoff for each item to five to ten minutes. If you've got to get to the bottom of all your input rapidly, in order to figure out how to best use your afternoon, then you may want to shorten the time to one minute, or even thirty seconds, so you can get through everything a little faster.

It's not a bad idea to time yourself for a few of these while you're becoming famiiar with the process. Most clients I work with have difficulty estimating how long two minutes actually is, and they greatly _underestimate_ how long certain actions are likely to take. For instance, if your action is to leave someone a message, and you get the real person instead of voice mail, the call will usually take quite quit a bit longer than two minutes."


Personally, I boil it down to "Can I do this right now? Why would I put it off?"

PS. Don't be cheap *with your time* read the book. Get it on or used on Amazon, get the audio book, that's how I "read" it - while bike riding.
Thursday, April 22, 2004

PPS. I type very fast.
Thursday, April 22, 2004

And re-reading your post, I see you have it completely wrong. The rule is

(When processing your inbox) "If the next action can be done in two minutes or less, do it when you first pick the item up.... If the next action is going to take longer than two minutes, ask yourself, 'Am I the best prson to be doing it?' If not, hand it off to the appropriate party, in a systematic format.... It's likely that most of the next actions* you determine for things in 'in' will be yours to do and will take longer than two minutes to complete... These actions will have to be written down somewhere and then organized in the appropriate categories* so you can access them when you need to."

* If you haven't read the book these terms are likely to confuse you, or you're likely to further mis-interpret them. I'm a fan of this system because it's simple & it works, and I advocate it here, but I'm not proselytizing. Whatever system you choose, you should ACTUALLY learn the system instead of trying to pick up ad-hoc misrepresentations of it from forum posts.
Thursday, April 22, 2004

One task that takes a hell of a lot longer than two minutes is putting things in the goddam to do list and organiziing them by categories.

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 23, 2004

Yeah, I knew I was kind of missunderstanding the advice.. Thanks for your time to explain the point.

The book is already on its way from Amazon to my house :)

.NET Developer
Friday, April 23, 2004

Maybe it should be "if it doesn't depend on something else"

It doesn't take two minutes if you have to go find someone or something else to assist with the job, or if you have to run a google search or grep your email or something.

Katie Lucas
Friday, April 23, 2004

"One task that takes a hell of a lot longer than two minutes is putting things in the goddam to do list and organiziing them by categories. "

Lol. Just write the damned thing down if you know you'll have to do it later. How long does that take? The categories, as I mentioned, people will mis-interpret if they don't read the book. They're not project based, they're situation based. Phone calls can be one category, At the computer another. Why? Because if you have a cell phone & no laptop you can make phone calls from the airport, but not update the project plan.

I compare it to putting Motor Oil on your shopping list. You don't put Milk on your shopping list for the Automotive store, but you do put Motor Oil on the shopping list for the Supermarket. Why? Because the Supermarket carries it. You're not grouping things by "Food" "Car" "Household," you're grouping them by where you do them.
Friday, April 23, 2004

May I suggest the course '7 habits for highly effective people' from the covey institute.

Managing your time is also about managing other peoples as well.  Its about knowing how to prioritise a task, how to start and stop it and how to come back to it if you run out of your allotted time.

Learning how to use a filofax properly is also a good idea. I'm always amazed at people who just use them as notebooks.  They are in fact designed to help you manage your time.

Andy Watson
Monday, April 26, 2004

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