You’re in a meeting.  And you think of something else you need to do.  And the something else is non-urgent.  And the something else has nothing to do with the meeting.  What do you do?

    Do it?  No.  You’re in a meeting.  And if it’s the sort of meeting where you could do work unrelated to the meeting then you’ve bigger issues.  Maybe the meetings are being run badly.  Or maybe you’re attending meetings you don’t need to be at.  Etc.

    Do nothing?  That’s risky – as you might then forget the “something else” you’ve thought of.

    Maybe jot down a note to remind yourself and then return your focus to the meeting?

    Now imagine a different scenario.  You’re at your desk working on a task.  You’re on your own.  And now you think of something else you need to do.

    It wouldn’t be rude to stop doing whatever you’re doing and switch to do what you’ve thought of.

    How do you decide?

    If it’s a fire then there’s no need for debate.  You switch and take care of it.

    But fires are rare.

    Maybe jot down a note to remind yourself and then return your focus to the task at hand?

    That’s not a bad default.

    But what if the item you’ve thought of would only take 2 minutes or less?

    That’s the basis for the 2 minute “rule” promoted by David Allen as part of his  Getting Things Done or GTD methodology.   If it takes 2 minutes or less just do it.

    What do you think?

    Worth trying?

    Maybe your “2” might actually be “1”.  Or “4”.

    The idea remains the same though – to have some methodology to guide you.

    Recently my son asked for his passport.  He needed to submit info from it for a school trip.  I gave him the passport.  Earlier this morning, out of nowhere, I asked myself whether I’d gotten his passport back from him.

    Do I add “check with [son] to see if I got his passport back” to the todo list?  Or do I swivel my chair 180 degrees, open the filing cabinet, and check?

    What’s important is that we neither ignore stuff that springs to mind nor spend our days jumping from one microtask to another.

    The happy medium?  Decide on an x minute rule for yourself.  You’ll know best what your x should be.  Or you can pick something at random, e.g., the GTD 2, and see how that goes for you.

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