If you can get something done in two minutes or less, don’t write it down on some list, don’t let it rattle around in your brain…just do it. Right now.
Having used the system for a long time, I’m convinced that, while the whole system is valuable, there are two things that are the most essential.
Happily, both of these things are easily applied, and will provide great results (higher productivity/less stress) with minimal effort.
The first is the two-minute rule.
Simply put, it states that if you have an “open loop” (i.e. something that you’ve thought about more than once, but have taken no action towards completing) that you can close in two minutes or less, you should just do those things, as opposed to writing them down on some sort of list.
It sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly powerful.
We all have these little “open loops” that occupy the same amount of space in our minds as the big things. In this manner, these small things keep you from accomplishing big things.
Some examples of things that fall under the 2-minute rule category for me:
1. Short email replies (I’m trying to adhere to the “Twitter approach” for emails; i.e. whenever possible, keep them under 140 characters)
2. Clearing the desk: filing/scanning the crap that collects on my desk
3. Paying a bill online
4. Scheduling/accepting meetings on Google Calendar
5. Synching/backing up iPhone/iPad (the actual backup may take longer, but I can do what I need to do in way less time)
Again, the point is to get these things that will often nag you at the worst possible time (i.e. middle of the night) out of your head, and done (and, again, don’t put it on some kind of list; it’ll often take longer to put these things on a to-do list than to just do them (by the way, to do lists don’t work).
As for the second easily-implemented-but-powerful GTD tip, watch this space.