Atomic Habits: The Two-Minute Rule

Published on 27 July 2020.

I recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear. In this post I will write about the key takeaway that I got from reading it. There were many interesting topics, but I will focus on the one that had the biggest impact on me. If you want a full book review, you can for sure find it somewhere else online.

So, for me, the key takeaway was what James calls the Two-Minute Rule. It states that “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

Two minutes don’t sound like much. Say you want to build a habit of exercising daily. If you to it for just two minutes, will it really have any effect? But the point is not to do the habit for two minutes. The point is to make the habit as easy as possible to start. The first step of exercising might be to change into workout clothes. That might take two minutes. Then your time is up. So if you just do that, you won’t get much exercising done. But what you do is build the habit of showing up for exercise. You slowly start to become a person who is ready for exercise. Once you have changed into workout clothes it is so much easier to do some exercise.

I find this rule helpful in many situations where I have trouble starting. I might have a big project that I don’t really know how to make progress on or want to work on. Then it helps me to think about something small that I can do to make progress. Instead of having a goal of completing the project I just have the goal of showing up and making progress somehow for two minutes.

I have tried this in practice and it really works. Sometimes I have ended up working in very short bursts. Perhaps a little longer than two minutes, but still not long. I for sure didn’t complete the project. But I kept doing it. Working in small chunks. Making small progress. And eventually the project got completed. I like this focus on the process of making progress instead of the end goal itself. If you improve the process, the results will take care of themselves.

One example where I applied this technique is when writing this blog post. I put it off for a while because it felt like a too big project to tackle and I thought I would wait for enough energy to magically appear. Eventually I told myself that I could make some progress by just collecting a few notes. I told myself that was the only thing I had to do. It would take perhaps 10 minutes. And after I had done it, I felt like doing some writing on the post as well. So I did. And then all of a sudden I had made some progress on something that felt difficult. Just by focusing on the first two minutes.

Site proudly generated by Hakyll.