The 2-minute rule is the best trick I’ve learned to create new habits easily. The theory comes from the book Atomic Habits (affiliate link) by James Clear. It states that any new habit should be made as easy as possible to create and maintain, and thus every big goal can be broken down into a tiny 2-minute to-do.
Recommended: Atomic Habits – Success From Daily Habits
Why it Works
The reason the 2-minute rule works is that it reduces the perceived effort. If our goal is to write a book, it may seem very daunting to have on your to-do list “Write a book”. And so, that would probably lead you to procrastination. But instead, if the daily goal is to “Write one sentence”, then we’re much more likely to give it a shot.
And most often, the hardest part of any action is to get started. Once we’ve already gotten ourselves into the action, it’s likely that we’ll continue to do it. This breaking-down of bigger goals can be applied to any goal such as:
- Write a book -> Write one sentence
- Walk 10.000 steps -> Put on your workout clothes
- Save $100.000 -> Save $10
- Study the entire course material -> Read one sentence
- Journal 2 pages -> Write one word
After some time with your new habit, you can up the challenge one step at a time.
Another benefit of doing something, even if it’s the most minimal effort, is that it reinforces our identity. If you write only one sentence a day but do it every day for months, then you’ll be much more comfortable seeing yourself as someone who writes. This will in turn subconsciously make you more likely to casually sit down to write: because that’s just what you do!
I’ve always believed in the power of habits. I think any sort of long-term success in health, finances, competence, overcoming shyness, education, etc, comes from the daily or weekly habits we keep. From day to day, nothing drastic happens. But when accumulated over months, years, decades, and an entire lifetime, both good and bad habits create a much bigger reality. All the things I’m most proud of myself for have been things that I’ve worked on for years before the results have been shown. And now those habits and achievements have become a part of who I am.
For me, I’m usually very good at forming and keeping habits such as daily 30 min walks, intermittent fasting, yoga, journaling, and reading. But when it comes to “work” goals, such as when I was building my Etsy shop or this website, I can find myself procrastinating. For those types of habits, it’s been very helpful to apply the 2-minute rule. For example, I used to have the goal of “Write one article a day and publish it”. But, that just made me take long bouts of pauses from writing since I didn’t believe I’d achieve that every day. Then, I changed my goal to “Just write something every day”. Which worked better, but it still felt like a heavy aim. Now, my goal is to “Write one sentence every day”. And the result is that I’m able to sit down and write more consistently than ever before.
In the book, he also mentions how you can try breaking any big goal you have into five different difficulty levels. And from that, you can choose the right amount of challenge for your current motivational level. So, if you’re having trouble with procrastination, try out this 2-minute rule before giving up on your goal!