The Ivy Lee Method

In the world of productivity, whispered voices tell of a meeting a hundred years ago between PR consultant Ivy Lee and Charles Schwab, CEO of Bethlehem Steel at the time. Lee offered to increase the productivity of Bethlehem Steel’s executives by 20%. His fee? Whatever Schwab felt his services were worth after 30 days.
Here is what Lee told each executive:
  • At day’s end, write down the six (no more) most important things that need to be done the following day.
  • Prioritize them by importance.
  • Next day, start on the first and most important task and work on it until it’s finished. Do not start the next task until the first one is done.
  • Do the same for every remaining task on your list. Any tasks not finished by the end of the day, move them to the next day’s task list.
  • Do this every day.After three months, Schwab wrote Lee a check for what would be, in today’s dollars, $400,000.

So what is so significant about it?

It’s simple. There is a tendency to build complexity into solutions, chasing the latest fad, technology or excuse. Legitimate reasons (like emergencies) can pop up to interrupt the task, but those distractions need to be dealt with them quickly so that your can get back to the list. Constant interruptions break concentration, and focused concentration is your ally.

It imposes limits. Whether your list is made up of four, five or six tasks a day, the number is not as important as the discipline of weeding out the trivial and focusing on the important.

It makes getting started easier. Inertia is often the greatest impediment to completing anything. By planning your list the day before, you remove the morning’s indecision.

You’re single-tasking. Our minds work best when they can focus solely on one thing, despite all the ballyhoo about how multi-tasking keeps you busy and allows more to get done. You’re busy, all right, but the results aren’t going to be your best. You won’t find a major league pitcher, ballerina, head chef, medical research scientist or child learning to tie a shoelace not focused on exactly what they need to be doing to achieve excellence.

So tonight at day’s end, give it a shot so that tomorrow morning, you can start with the most important thing you have to do.

Best regards,
Your Ardas Team

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