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Tip Sheet

How Following the Two-Minute Rule Helps You Build Good Business Habits

Plus more helpful advice from our Jul-Aug issue’s Tip Sheet.





MOTIVATIONMake It Easy to ‘Show Up’

There’s something in the phrase “showing up” that seems to demand grit and buckling down. But it doesn’t have to be that way, James Clear, author of the bestseller Atomic Habits, says. “One of the things I recommend in the book is called the two-minute rule,” he told podcaster Tim Ferriss recently. “And it says, just take whatever habit you’re trying to build and scale it down to something that takes two minutes or less to do. So ‘Read 30 books a year’ becomes ‘Read one page’ or ‘Meditate five days a week for 30 minutes’ becomes ‘Meditate for 60 seconds.’ You’re just trying to master the art of showing up,” he says. “A habit must be established before it can be improved. It’s got to become the standard before you worry about optimizing it into some perfect thing. So, make it easy to do.”

CUSTOMER SERVICEThree Powerful Words: Tell Me More

When a customer shows up with a problem or grievance, the typical human instinct is to respond immediately with a solution, explanation or a justification. But a better approach, Amanda Ripley, author of High Conflict, says is to utter three words: “Tell me more.” Not only does that give you more information about the situation, but it shows you’re listening to their problem. And often that’s all they want: to be heard. And when people feel heard, the anger and resentment often can dissipate. Or even better, in talking through the problem, people come to a solution on their own.


TRADE SHOWSKeep It in Sight

Traveling to SUPERZOO? Keep all your things visible in a hotel room, not in drawers, and all gathered into one spot. “That way you’ll never leave anything behind,” Kevin Kelly writes in his excellent little book, Excellent Advice For Living. “If you need to have something like a charger off to the side, place a couple of other large items next to it because you are less likely to leave three items behind than just one.”

TECHNOLOGYLet ChatGPT Get to Know You Better

ChatGPT is amazing — and flaky. This is partly because it’s like Drew Barrymore’s character in 50 First Dates: It has to learn who you are over and over again. To improve its output, let it know you and your preferences better by using the tool’s “Custom Instructions” setting. Dan Shipper at has a useful explainer on how to enhance these settings in just a few minutes. Once set up, you won’t ever have to explain “anything twice because it will already know enough context about you to help — and it will do so in ways that surprise and delight you,” he says.

CHOICESFundamental Beats Instrumental

Make decisions for fundamental reasons (take a course or join a club because it sounds interesting) rather than for instrumental reasons (because of how that course or club will look on your resume). Why? It’s much more fun. And it’s also smarter. Instrumental reasons rarely work! “Lots of evidence suggests that people powered by intrinsic motives achieve the most,” business author Dan Pink writes in a recent Pinkcast newsletter.

SALESUnlock Your Sales Associate’s Superstar Potential

When you have someone on staff who is a natural salesperson, put away the rule book and stash the scripts, marketers Rich Baker and Gary Levitt say in a column at MarketingProfs. “Encourage creativity, boldness and authenticity. Tell them you have made a choice to embrace the soft science of human interaction over the hard science of metrics — come hell or high water,” they write. “With this lofty mindset in place, every customer interaction will be a slam-dunk and crackle with the intangibles you need to transform customers into loyal friends.”


EMAILIt’s All About the Subject Line

The more you think about it, the more it makes sense: Spend as much time crafting the subject line of an email as the message itself because the subject line is usually the only thing most people read. That means being descriptive of the contents rather than clever, keeping it short, provoking people’s curiosity and — seeing as you’re going to be investing the time — doing some A/B testing, ChimpMail recommends.

MANAGEMENTDial It Back a Bit

It takes both a special mind-set and certain skills to build a successful company. But left unchecked, the very things that helped make your business a winner can depress your employees and actually harm your business. That is the message from a Fortune Small Business interview with Marshall Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful. At the top of the list is being too competitive. “Your desire to prove yourself right can come at your employees’ expense, and as a result, good people feel humiliated and eventually leave,” Goldsmith explains.



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