Take it from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: The biggest hurdle to positive change isn’t lack of time. It’s procrastination.
Of course, it’s easy to justify procrastination by telling yourself that you don’t have the time for a new habit or behavior. You’re just too busy! But according to Clear, the cause of procrastination is anxiety around failing at your efforts.
The solution? Subvert the “I don’t have time” story and remove the anxiety from daunting new habits with the “Two-Minute Rule.”
What Is the Two-Minute Rule?
In Atomic Habits, Clear explains the Two-Minute Rule like this: “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do… The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start. Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away.”
The Two-Minute Rule involves boiling down a new habit to its most basic form, then spending minimal time (two minutes!) completing it. “Start a yoga practice” becomes “Unroll my mat.” “Learn how to cook” becomes “Flip through a cookbook until a recipe you want to make catches your attention.” “Clean the house” becomes “Wipe down the countertops.”
Two minutes is such a manageable time commitment that it shouldn’t trigger anxiety or doubts about whether you’ll succeed in your efforts. Plus, it’s surprising how much you can actually get done in a mere two minutes!
Why The Two-Minute Rule Is So Effective
The Two-Minute Rule is so effective because it creates a “gateway habit.” Basically, a strategy to ease you into doing a particular activity. Getting started is the hardest part. Once the ball is rolling (and you’re folding clothes, doing yoga, or sorting emails), you’re likely to continue.
Clear says, “Once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it … What you want is a ‘gateway habit’ that naturally leads you down a more productive path.”
Remember, most of the time, procrastination isn’t about a true lack of time. It’s about anxiety. An easy two-minute “gateway habit” cuts through the fear of failure and helps you show up to take action in a small way.
How to Implement the Two-Minute Rule
The key to the Two-Minute Rule is ease, with a goal of harnessing that initial momentum. Here’s how you can apply it to any given habit:
Determine the Desired Behavior
Identify your big-picture goal: for example, developing a regular yoga practice. Ultimately, you might like to foster a habit of doing yoga three times a week for thirty minutes. But with the two-minute rule, you’ll boil that goal down to one simple, doable action.
This might look like setting up your yoga mat, practicing one new pose, or simply putting on your workout gear. The important thing is to choose one specific, easy behavior that you can accomplish quickly.
Find Your Two Minutes
Even the busiest person likely has two minutes to spare. Not convinced? Consider any one of the mindless activities you engage in daily – scrolling through social media, channel surfing, or staring at the microwave while your frozen dinner heats up. What if you could use that time to kick-start a new habit?
And if finding two minutes doesn’t seem like a challenge, that’s great! Choose a window in your day when you know you’ll be able to complete your desired behavior successfully. Ideally, give yourself some buffer time after that two-minute window (if you feel motivated to continue). But don’t get hung up on this. If you only have two minutes, you’re good to go.
Gradually Increase Time
Not convinced that two minutes will accomplish much? Clear says, “The point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved.”
Practice showing up consistently to put in your two minutes—then harness that momentum by gradually increasing the time you invest. Remember Newton’s first law: “An object in motion stays in motion.” Commit to two minutes, but stay open to the idea of continuing the action.
Look at your schedule. Can you find two minutes to spare? Banish procrastination on a task you’ve been avoiding with the Two-Minute Rule today, and tell us how it went on Twitter using #AtomicHabits