James Clear: ‘Two Minute Rule’ Is the Key to Habit Building


Entrepreneur attended BetterUp’s Uplift summit San Francisco on April 11, where renowned author and public speaker, James Clear, who is best known for his New York Times bestselling book, “Atomic Habits,” spoke about the key to building habits that stick.

His book, which teaches people the importance of building better habits on a scaleable level and finding success with these newly adopted behaviors, has sold more than 15 million copies. Still, he knows that when people want to make massive changes, it can feel completely overwhelming.

“We’re so focused on optimizing that we don’t give ourselves permission to show up even if it’s just a small way.”

But Clear said there’s one technique that only takes two minutes of your time.

Related: How to Develop Atomic Habits

By using the “two-minute rule,” you can begin implementing habits into your daily lives, no matter how farfetched (or big) the new habits might be. The strategy can be applied to any habit you’re trying to build, he says, in both a professional and personal capacity.

What Is the Two-Minute Rule?

The two-minute rule is when you take the new habit or task you want to accomplish and no matter how big it seems, break it down into a short task that can be done in two minutes or less.

“Take whatever habit you’re trying to create and scale it down to something that takes two minutes or less to do,” Clear explained. “So ‘read 30 books a year’ becomes ‘read one page’ or ‘do yoga four days a week’ means ‘take out my yoga mat.'”

Clear says critics have raised issues with this strategy because they are consciously aware that they are trying to trick their brains, which makes it harder to implement. But Clear says to take a step back and just begin — the hardest step is usually the first one.

“This is a deeper truth about habits that people often overlook, which is a habit must be established before it can be improved,” he said. “It has some standard in your life before you can scale it up and optimize and turn it into something more.”

Clear compared this to going to the gym and knowing that your initial habit-building step might just be putting on your workout clothes and walking out the front door, not starting with a 5-mile run or an intense exercise class.

“At some point, planning becomes some form of procrastination.”

“And I don’t know why we do this. But we get very all-or-nothing about our habits a lot of the time,” he said. “We’re so focused on finding the best workout program, the perfect sales strategy, the ideal diet plan — we’re so focused on optimizing that we don’t give ourselves permission to show up even if it’s just a small way.”

Sometimes deciding to start instead of planning to start is the shift you need, he said.

“The two-minute rule kind of pushes back perfectionism, fear, and this tendency to over plan or over research,” he said. “Planning and preparation can be useful. But if you’re planning and research and preparation are substituting for actions that you should be taking, now it’s kind of outlived its usefulness and become a crutch — at some point planning becomes some form of procrastination.”



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