The 2-2-2 Rule Forces You To Respond To Phone Calls, Texts And Email In A Timely Fashion

Developer and consultant Shenglong Gao has, like the rest of us, spent a lot of time dealing with email, text messages and phone calls — so much so that he's gotten a little obsessive about it. The result is the 2-2-2 rule, which imposes a strict time-to-reply on each type of communication: Gao picks up calls in within two seconds, answers texts within two minutes, and responds to email within two hours.

Photo by Nate Steiner.

It's unfortunately a little too easy to get in the habit of reading but not responding to communication — telling yourself instead that you'll get to it later. Later comes, you already know what the message is about, so you continue to put off re-opening it and replying. Gao's method focuses on quickly responding to any communication in a relatively reasonable timeframe and in ways is quite similar to GTD author David Allen's two-minute rule, which states that "If the Next Action can be done in two minutes or less, do it when you first pick the item up. Even if that item is not a "high priority" one, do it now if you're ever going to do it at all." The 2-2-2 rule isn't practical for every situation, but if you're not happy with your communication turnaround time, imposing it (or a rule like it) might be just what you need.

The catch: If you receive a lot of email, for example, you don't want to spend all your time checking and replying as new items come into your inbox. The solution: Batch process that email, only at set times.

36 Hours is NOT a Proper Response Time


    In a word: No.

    In two words: Burn Out

    While it may be admirable in the eyes of your clients or your peers, the above "2-2-2 rule" is a guaranteed path towards mental health issues and stress induced illness.

    While I have no problem with the second, "two minute rule", it can only work if you receive little email, or batch process your mail.

    Just because you can doesn't mean you should. The introduction of the mobile phone and evolution into the smart phone lures people into believing that they must respond NOW, rather than take into account their personal circumstances, location and environment.

    Try this as an experiment next time you get into your car. Turn off your phone and enjoy the journey, you might find it a challenge, but you may also discover some serenity.

    2-2-2! What a great idea! I'm going to let my PA know about this. Please accept her thanks.

    I respond to emails twice a day unless it's important. Morning and afternoon. If it needs to be answered more than twice a day I give them a phone call. I leave all unresolved emails in the inbox and move them to the desired folder once taken care of.

    This way I work without interruption through day and

    ^ And what?

    They probably got distracted by a new email.

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