Why Some People Always are so Efficient, Yet Relaxed at the Same time.

Itís because of Rules. We had them as School kids, there are Rules at office, then then there are traffic Rules. Rules Rules Rules everywhere. Who needs Ďem, Wouldnít it be better if we just got rid of them? No, you know that it wouldnít be. And thatís because, itís these Rules that are in place to provide us with the freedom to do what we can, within limits.

One of the great things about GTD is that it believes in making and following rules. GTD has a great set of Rules. These rules if one can adopt them as ďCommandmentsĒ in oneís life that are never to be broken, it would save you from a lot of one of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden activities i.e. Decision-making. Having these rules in place, spares you from thinking through many things each time they crop up. You donít need to make decisions any more, just follow the rules that have been set.

(Side note: There are many great GTD rules, (expressed as Best-Practices of the 5 Phases of Gaining Control), but in this post, Iíll be discussing the rules which are not strictly GTD Rules by the book. But have nonetheless helped me greatly in simply getting things done.)

2 minute rule
Okay, this is an official GTD Rule that all GTD practitioners know and love. If anything takes you two minutes or less to do the moment it has your attention, you do right then and there. Because itís much more bothersome to defer it, track it, review it and do the next time round you think of it. Don’t think about it, Just do it. So if an email takes less than two minute to respond, do it then and there. If that call you going to make, can be done in two minutes or less, finish it right away. So, whenever thereís something that you need to do, and you feel like postponing it, first ask yourself will it take two minutes or less to do it. If the answer is yes, then simply just do it.

10 minute exercise rule
This is a great Rule that has immensely helped me. If thereís something really painful to do, like cleaning a cupboard, or making the first draft of a very difficult report, or plain exercising, have a rule that you would start doing it and spend just 10 minutes at it. When you break it down to that small a size, just 10 teeny weeny measly minutes, it gets much easier to handle. And after those 10 minutes up, you have three options:

i You can give yourself the option to stop doing the difficult task. If you really want to stop there, great, no problem.

ii However, 9 times out of 10, you would get so involved in the first 10 minutes that it would give you a greater sense of relief to complete the task or make significant progress on it.

iii Finally, if youíre not in the mood to continue on, but still dontí want to give it up, treat yourself to a 2 minute break (it could be checking emails, web-surfing, or just a nice luxurious stretch) and can get back to the task for another 10 minutes and 10 minutes only.

6 month get-rid-of-it rule.
If youíre like me, you may have the habit of continously taking on more stuff to read than you can possibly complete. Web-pages that youíve bookmarked to get back to, email forwards from friends that you said youíd read later, books lying around your bedside which you told yourself that you said youíre gonna complete someday. The 6 month get-rid-of-it rule, applies just not to reading material, but if thereís anything lying around that you said that youíd get back to, but havenít been able to do so for 6 months or more, youíre better off just getting rid of it.

The logic is that each time youíve passed by that pile (for eg. Reading material) you have subconsciously made the decision that what you are currently doing is of more importance that what is piled there. And youíve been doing that for 6 whole months. Therefore, it could be that whatís in that pile is not really that important at all. And after all if thereís some information in there that you may need after some time, thereís always the internet. So for now you really can trash it. You donít have to follow this rule religiously, but for the most part it does help get rid a lot of clutter and helps you focus on what really needs your attention.

3 minute email rule
Ever confused should you be sending an email to someone or if youíre better-off speaking to that person personally or over the phone. Well hereís where we introduce the 3 minute email rule. If itís going to take you 3 minutes to draft and send the email then you might as well just send an email and do it then & there. However, if youíve really got to think this through and the matter is not as simple as it sounds, then it most likely that an email would not resolve the matter and itís something that needs to be discussed face to face.

Still Confused, have a rule to follow your intuition.
Not sure whether to buy this Printer or that one? Or if you should be taking part in some activity at all? Of there still something that youíre not able to decide over, donít analyse too much, youíve researched enough data on the internet already. Now, just close your eyes, breathe deeply, and follow your instinct. After that, put a reminder 3 or 6 months down the line to checkup on yourself. I put a note for myself in my Calendar or Tickler file reminding myself on the decision I had taken based on my gut-feel. So 6 months later it gives me a chance to relfect back and see whether the decision taken was a hit or a miss and if so then by how much.

Do you feel any of these would help you? Are there any rules that you have adopted that help you get more work done by the end of the day? Drop a note in the comments.


  1. Hi

    I love rules, especially timed rules. Breaking projects down into smaller chunks of time really help you get started and often once started you end up breaking your own rule and just carrying on until it’s finished.

    One rule I have is to take an egg-timer set to 3 minutes into the shower. Then when the alarm sounds I know to finish.

    Your intuition rule is something I haven’t heard of before but will definately be using in the future. Thanks for that.

  2. Hey Andrew!

    The egg-timer is a cool tip. I’ll remember to put it on, the next time my better-half has taken over the shower :-).

    Nonetheless do give the intuition rule a shot, it will save a lot of unnecessary agonizing grief over decision making.

  3. Nice rules! I follow another rule. Thats taking vitamin-D for 2 minutes once in every 2 hours. Whatever be the weather, if you go out in Sun for 2 minutes in every 2 hours, you get a very good feeling and come back in a changed mood.

  4. Gautam, that’s a brilliant one! Thanks for sharing it. I remember when I was in Dubai, we’d be so much cooped up indoors all day in the AC, inspite of the sweltering heat a 2 min trip outdoors would do wonders for one’s energy.

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