The 2 Minute Rule

Even when you know you should start small, it’s easy to start too big. When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon. The most effective way I know to counteract this tendency is to use the 2 Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than 2 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. This is a powerful strategy because once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it. A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first 2 minutes should be easy.

The other point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved. If you can’t learn the basic skill of showing up, then you have little hope of mastering the finer details. Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You have to standardize before you can optimize.

The 2 Minute rule can seem like a trick to some people. You know that the real goal is to do more than just 2 minutes, so it may feel like you’re trying to fool yourself. Nobody is actually aspiring to read one page or do one push up. And if you know it’s a mental trick, why would you fall for it?

We rarely think about change this way because everyone is consumed by the end goal. But one push up is better than not exercising. One minute of guitar practice is better than none at all. One minute of reading is better than never picking a book. It’s better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all.

Nearly every life goal can be transformed into a 2 Minute behavior. Whenever you are struggling to stick with a habit, you can employ the Two Minute Rule. It’s a simple way to make your habits easy.

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