The 2-minute Trick that Will Keep Your Dirty Dishes from Piling Up

This smart technique will make keeping the sink clear an actionable (and enjoyable?) task.

sink full of dirty dishes
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The next time you throw your cereal bowl and spoon in the sink — pause, then ask yourself if you can wash those two measly dishes in two minutes or less. If the answer is yes, just do it. Wash them, then and there. And if the answer is no... wow, why is your cereal bowl so big??

Look, we are all guilty of letting the dishes pile up in the sink over the course of a day or two. It's human nature to procrastinate. A sink piling up with dishes is easy to pass by with the good intention of washing them soon. Soon turns to later, and later into meh.

Sometimes, it's not until your roommate or a partner (or worst case scenario, even a very straightforward houseguest) mentions that dishes in the sink need to be addressed. At which point, you roll up your sleeves, turn on the hot water, and get to scrubbing. So. Much. Scrubbing.

But this whole scenario can be avoided if you wash as you go. As unreasonable as that may sound, given a busy schedule, once you get into the habit — I swear, it's seriously not. As with any small chore in life, allowing the task to continually go undone only leads to an insurmountable pile of work; however, just tackling a little at a time… that's not so bad.

This brings me to the very simple, anti-procrastination strategy that's going to help: the 2-minute rule.

The 2-minute rule is a time management technique that leads to action rather than excuses by requiring one to tackle the task in front of them immediately if it can be completed within two minutes or less. By handling any potential "to-do" with the 2-minute rule as it occurs, you'll keep a lot of tasks — such as washing dishes — from evolving into something more time-consuming and dread-inducing. For all my procrastinators out there, consider this smart trick the next time you feel like letting the state of your functional kitchen sink go by the wayside.

I first came across the 2-minute rule years ago in a newsletter published by James Clear, an author that studies the habits of successful people and writes about them. Immediately, the headline made me click to find out more: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the '2-Minute Rule'. Clear credits New York Times best selling author David Allen of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity for this nifty tip. The basis of the rule is not solve all your life's problems, but it's an easily adaptable trick that gives you the opportunity to start on small tasks with the result of small victories.

Small victories boost morale and confidence, leading into medium victories, and down the line, to accomplishing big goals. When it comes to doing the dishes, you wash one dish here, you wash another couple there, and you end up with a clean sink everyday. That's a fine sight to behold. And soon, you might even get carried away by wiping the stove down, sweeping and mopping the floor, and throwing away old food in your refrigerator.

Clear points out, "Once you start doing something, it's easier to continue doing it." It's all one big ripple effect to kitchen greatness starting with washing one dish in under two minutes. I'm sure there are some skeptics out there, but hey, what's the harm in adopting the technique for a couple days and seeing if it works for you?

This 2-minute rule also comes into play when it's time to cook dinner for the night ahead. I block out two minutes during each day just to think about what I may want to eat when I get home. Let's say I land on chicken; I then do a quick Allrecipes search or Pinterest scan for inspiration. I consider ingredients I already have and think about the supplemental items I need to pick up with a stop by the grocery store. I want to be in-and-out in about 15 minutes flat.

Not that I think about food all day (OK, yes I do), but thinking about practical food for feeding myself later in the night makes it a less daunting task when I'm home and hungry. Right when I walk in the door, before I take a minute off my feet, I can set a pot of water to boil or mince garlic in two minutes. And voila, before I know it, dinner is done. It's all about the visualization.

By breaking down the cooking process into actionable steps, you are more likely to cook often, get better at doing so, and actually enjoy it. So the next time you want to pass up a task for a later date and time, consider the 2-minute rule and get it done.

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