Gone in 120 Seconds!

By the time you finish reading this post, you could have completed most items on your daily to-do list. It’s surprising how many tasks can be completed in under 2 minutes once the next action is clarified.

Before my introduction to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” my email inbox was a mess, and I kept a poorly managed and crudely defined to-do list on the iPhone Reminder app. I had more than 10,000 unsorted emails, and most projects just repeatedly cycled over and over in my head. As Allen eloquently states: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

After implementing GTD, I had some epiphanies: 1) Most Email is junk! Eliminating the waste can unleash a massive reserve of creativity, time, and energy; 2) Most actions, when well defined, can be accomplished in under 2 minutes. The 2-minute rule was the first productivity tool I adopted, and you should adopt it too.

I am a true believer in the GTD system. It has awarded clarity and eliminated stress in my life. However, implementing an entirely new personal management system can seem a lot like learning a foreign language. It can take days, weeks, and even months to scratch the surface of comfort and fluency. You may not be ready to commit fully. However, do not completely abandon the pursuit of clarity and productivity. You can implement the 2-minute rule immediately and drastically improve your life.

What Is It?

When processing your inbox (digital, physical, et cetera), once you have clarified an item, if the next action takes less than 2 minutes to complete, do it immediately. Do not “cherry-pick” the more interesting items. Keeping less exciting obligations on the back burner creates mental resistance leading to procrastination. Instead, decide on each in sequence until all items have been processed.

Why Should You Do It?

Taking control and eliminating stress is the essence of productivity. Completing tasks both big and small is one mechanism by which to get there. Our lives are filled with both meaningful and trivial tasks. When completing a meaningful task, we get a little dopamine burst and feel accomplished. We may not get that same feeling completing trivial tasks, but we free up some cognitive space. In turn, we can focus more intently on our essential projects. Offloading the item to a project list or calendar can take nearly as much time as just completing the task immediately.

Next Action:

When processing all your inboxes, both digital and physical, decide on each item. 

  • Do not move past the item until a decision has been made.
  • Resist the temptation to “cherry-pick” more desirable items.
  • Discard trash.
  • File reference material.
  • Add items with multiple steps to a projects lists.
  • If it takes less than 2 minutes to complete, DO IT NOW!


1) Adapted from David Allen’s GTD WorkFlow. 2) The 2 Minute Rule is highlighted in red.

REBEL EM 120 Second Challenge:

1️⃣  I challenge you to have the most productive week ever. 

2️⃣  I challenge you to complete all 2-minute tasks immediately.

3️⃣  Share your experience and this post on social media.

4️⃣  Use the hashtags: #rebelemproductivityproject, #rebelemgonein120seconds, #rebelem120secondchallenge.


  1. Allen, David. Getting Things Done. Penguin, 2001.  [Link is HERE]
  2. Scott Weingart. EMCrit Podcast 136 – Getting Shit Done. EMCrit Blog. Published on November 3, 2014. Accessed on March 4th, 2021. Available at [Link is HERE]
  3. Scott Weingart. EMCrit Wee – Getting Things Done 2019 Update. EMCrit Blog. Published on January 16, 2019. Accessed on March 4th, 2021. Available at [Link is HERE]
  4. “EM Over Easy Episode 20 #GettingThingsDone from EM Over Easy | Podcast Episode on Podbay.” Accessed on March 4th. 2021. [Link is HERE].
  5. Salim Rezaie, “Getting Things Done in a Hyperdistracted World”, REBEL EM blog, May 3, 2018. Accessed on March 4th. 2021. Available at: [Link is HERE]
  6. Propersi M. Seize the Day. REBEL EM Blog. January 4, 2021. Accessed on March 4th. 2021. Available at: [Link is HERE]

Post Peer Reviewed By: Salim R. Rezaie, MD (Twitter: @srreziae) and Anand Swaminathan, MD (Twitter: @EMSwami)

Cite this article as: Marco Propersi, "Gone in 120 Seconds!", REBEL EM blog, April 12, 2021. Available at: https://rebelem.com/gone-in-120-seconds/.

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