Christopher Schmitt

designer, web developer, author, strategist, dreamer

Working with the web since 1993, Christopher Schmitt directs, Inc., a small new media publishing and design firm. The author of several books, including CSS Cookbook and Photoshop in 10 Simple Steps or Less, Schmitt is also a contributor to many web development magazines.


Two Minute Playlists for Getting Things Done

8 years ago

Ever had a pile of quick to-do’s that ate your entire morning? I have. And I’ve found a way to combat that.

If you’ve read Getting Things Done (book, wikipedia) and are into it like I am, you probably have a stack of 43 folders on your desk collecting dust.

When you use the system, it works—but for the most time, my collection of 43 folders on my desk checking the folders and processing the paperwork makes a giant inbox.

Chunking Short Tasks

However, one part of David Allen’s GTD strategy I’ve embraced is processing short tasks in under two minutes.

I chunk short tasks–essentially collecting a long list of things that contains activities that I can knock out in a small amount of time, usually less than two minutes. This short task lists grows over a work day or two until it’s sizable enough to warrant about twenty or thirty minutes from my daily work schedule.

Instead of stopping work on a book or article, which requires more concentration than quick email reply, process some piece of postal mail, or what have you, I make a note of the small to-do item. Then return to the more important task at hand.

Two Minute Playlist

To help keep me focused when going through the list of short tasks is through music. I have a playlist of two minute songs on standby.

When I’m ready to dive into list, I pull my list of tunes up and start going through my list. Whenever I hear a change of song, I know it’s time wrap up what I’m doing as soon as possible and go to the next task.

I love this method as it doesn’t have me keep and reset a timer on my Mac or by my computer every two minutes. Also, the method leverages material I already have floating around virtually on my desktop.

Creating Two Minute Playlist

First, if you haven’t already installed the program, get iTunes from Apple (it’s free). And, if you need to install iTunes (mostly for Windows users), make sure to have the software import your music library.

Download iTunes

Next, create what’s called a Smart Playlist (File > Smart Playlist).

Smart Playlists are dynamic indexes that are based on any number of criteria you set up. What this means is that playlists can change on-the-fly as new songs are added, deleted, played, and so on. iTunes keeps tracks of all this stuff for you without any manual input.

For this demonstration, we are going to create a Two Minute Smart Playlist, by setting up one simple rule: any song that is in the range of being two minutes long, gets added.

Smart Playlist editor

With that, all you need to do is start collecting tasks that are easy to knock out. When you reach a certain limit, like ten or so, make time into your schedule and start rocking out while gaining an increasing sense of accomplishment.

Personally, I like coming across simple tasks. It’s a happy thing. It’s honestly like collecting gold coins.

Reflecting on the Length of Music

Setting up a playlist with the limitation is two minutes gives one to reflect on the length of songs. Can someone make a really good song in under two minutes? How many songs are in your collection that are about two minutes?

When I first went and tried this method, I thought I would have about 10 songs that fit that category, most of them being from that cheap Halloween “scary sounds” CD I bought years ago in a pathetic attempt to scare trick-or-treaters. The experiment, I thought, was sure to be an exercise in sifting through the dregs of my music collection.

However, it turns out that a fair number of songs in my collection turned up. Some of them were, in fact, surprises. One being that I seem to have too much Ani Di Franco or she needs to start making longer songs.

What turns up under two minutes in your collection?

See What Others Have Said

4 Responses to “Two Minute Playlists for Getting Things Done”
  1. Rachel Andrew Says:

    November 20th, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I don’t think it’s possible to have too much Ani DiFranco :) Nice tip though – I’ll give it a go.

  2. Stephen Says:

    November 20th, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    My list of 1,025 items is heavy on The Ramones, Pixies, Lemonheads, Breeders, Beatles, and Chuck Berry. Now I need 1.4 days’ worth of two-minute tasks.

  3. Amy Bowman Says:

    November 21st, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    My boss and I love iGTD too! The two minute playlist is a great idea… now I must know how many two minute songs I have!

  4. NatalieMac Says:

    November 28th, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    What do you know? Nearly 200 songs in that range. My favorite is Dean Martin singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Might be annoying in July, though. Aside from that, the list is heavy on Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, and Dean Martin – I guess older songs tended to be shorter?

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