The Two Minute Rule: The Key to Sticking to Habits Every Day and Not Relying on Motivation

Tomasz Dobrowolski
2 min readMar 6, 2022
Atomic habits book lying on desk with coffee, keyboard and laptop
Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

Do you find it difficult to stick to habits?

I used to struggle as well until I started using the two-minute rule and it’s helped me stick to habits even on the difficult days.

Here’s how I do it:

Condense every habit into two minutes

I recently finished reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits. In the book, he talks about the habit of showing up using the two-minute rule.

When you start a habit, it should not take longer than two minutes.

Now I know you must think “Two minutes?! You cannot do anything meaningful in two minutes?”

While you are correct, you are practicing a completely different habit than your desired one. This is the habit of showing up.

The goal is to practice your habit every day regardless of whether it’s two minutes or two hours. When you are tired or busy, you will be unmotivated to practice your habit for two hours, but two minutes is doable.

And after the two-minute mark, something great happens:

  • You feel good for showing up on a day when you are unmotivated
  • After a few attempts, those two minutes turn into a one-hour session.

How I have been using the two-minute rule to floss my teeth

I have always been guilty of neglecting to floss.

I would always floss for a couple of weeks after a dentist visit, and as soon as life gets in the way, I stop the habit. It’s a simple habit that I often find can be time-consuming when in reality it’s just a few minutes.

I have now put in a rule to floss just four teeth every day. After I have flossed four teeth, I always conclude that I might as well finish the job off.

On the days where I am super busy or tired, I now floss completely, and if I don’t? Well, I am still proud of myself for flossing four teeth, compared to not flossing at all a month ago.

Practice the habit of showing up and the other habits will come in place

By practicing your habit for two minutes, you take care of the hard part when motivation disappears.

It’s easy to go to the gym in the first week of January after setting a new year’s resolution. What’s difficult is going to the gym three weeks later, after a long day of work when you are tired and it’s raining outside.

On the hard days, it’s important we reward ourselves for just showing up because habits form skill, not motivation.

Tomasz Dobrowolski

I break down Software Engineering and Tech concepts | Backend Engineer 🐘