Thursday, June 28, 2007

GTD: Meta-Two Minute Rule (mTMR)

My GTD tip is a modification of the "Two Minute Rule" (TMR). I think of it as a meta-Two Minute Rule, or mTMR. mTMR means that I shouldn't spend more time inserting an action into a tracking system, than is required to complete the action. So, mTMR isn't about the specific number of two minutes, but as many minutes as it would take to record and track the action.

Thus, if it would take twenty minutes to set up a project, but fifteen to complete, then that project is subject to mTMR, even though it takes more than two minutes. If it isn't appropriate to do a fifteen minute action right now, it can be inserted as a next action, even if it has multiple steps.

The trick (for me) is to avoid the overhead of tracking it as a project, if the tracking overhead will cost more than the project itself.

To summarize:

Cannonical GTD has the TMR:

If action takes less than two minutes, then do it.

My "mTMR" replaces this with the idea:
If Tracking Overhead > Estimated Action Time
     then do action without inserting the action into a tracking system
     else insert action into the tracking system

10 comments, so far. Add yours now!

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Anonymous said...

You made my brain hurt!

Juggling Frogs said...

Sorry! It works for me!

Anonymous said...

It's okay! It just came packaged in some kind of tech speak that took me a while to untangle. If I understand you correctly, you don't take 20 minutes to set up a short cut for a task that would have only taken you 15 minutes to complete. Yes? No?

Thanks for stretching me!

Juggling Frogs said...

Exactly! I think the 2 minute rule is brilliant, because it takes about two minutes to create a next action.

If doing the thing takes less time than recording it, recording it can't be a productive way to approach the task.

So, I extend this to anything that takes longer to track or insert in the system than to do it.

Thank you, anonymous, for helping me detangle the tech-speak. I'm sorry if it was mangled and unclear. Sometimes, it seems that English is my second language, with TechnoBabble as my native tongue!

Thank YOU for untangling ME!

All the best,

Joshua B said...

You've actually cleared something up for me that has created a subconscious block to using GTD properly. Thanks.

Juggling Frogs said...

Joshua B,

Wonderful! I'm so glad. GTD is really worthwhile, once you can wrap your mind around it. May you have every success.

All the best,

Alex said...

Hi, I came here by way of your great Flickr posts.

Wrt your Meta-Two-Minute Rule, I think that your logic is slightly flawed:
If you record something, you'll still have to do it, which still adds to the total time count.
So if something takes 2.5 minutes to do and two minutes to record, it will eventually add up to 4.5 minutes when it's done. So it would still be more efficient to do it now. The efficiency cutoff would be four minutes, not two.

Generally speaking, the cutoff where doing something immediately is better equals twice the time it takes to record this action/set up the project etc.

David Allen seems to actually calculate one minute to record something. At least that's what I remember reading in one of his coaches' articles. That way, the two-minute rule does make sense.

Your example, however, doesn't factor in both components.

One caveat, however: It's probably not a good idea to immediately start a project without thinking it through properly. And for complex projects (probably all projects that take one hour or longer) that means laying out the plan on paper or on the computer. Even if the planning time exceeds the time for execution.

Juggling Frogs said...

Welcome Alex!

I appreciate your comment, though I think we're talking about two different things. PLANNING time is different than RECORDING time (for putting it in the "reliable system".)

PLANNING time is not what I'm referring to in the mTMR. For example, take the task of writing a thank-you-note. If you don't know the address, or don't have a stamp, or don't know what to say (would require PLANNING what to say), then it is worth putting into the system.

But, if you have all the materials at hand, and are writing a boiler-plate 3-sentence note, then the effort to record the note in a system takes just as long (maybe longer) than the time it takes to scrawl out the actual note.

How many times have we used more than a dozen notes' worth of ink writing "Thank Aunt Mary" over and over again in a day planner?

To me, it's the equivalent of a call I sometimes get from committee co-workers, (putting me in a loop where I didn't also need to know the information) asking me to call a person and tell them a short fact, because the committee person "didn't have time to make the call." (She would have had time, had she not spent it calling ME to ask me to call the other person...)

So, I agree that PLANNING time should be added to the task's total time, but maintain that RECORDING the task in a trusted system should be subtracted from it.

Anonymous said...

We miss you!!! When will you return to blogdom??

Juggling Frogs said...

Very, very soon, I hope, if you'll all have me back... Thank you for missing me. I miss you, too!

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