Our story starts when 100 years ago, Charles M. Schwab, the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation who was obsessed with productivity, asked Ivy Lee for a new way to increase productivity.
Ivy Ledbetter Lee was an American publicity expert and a founder of modern public relations. He was also one of the pioneers of the public relations field. Ivy Lee told Charles Schwab to try his suggestions for three months, then pay him whatever he felt the advice was worth. Charles Schwab wrote a check for $25,000 three months later.
Want to know what was this amazing productivity method?
The strategy is surprisingly simple and only has four steps.
Step 1 – At the end of each day, decide which six tasks you have to accomplish and write them down. Don’t have more than six tasks on your to-do list. The most important task should be #1, and the least important should be #6.
Step 2 – Start with #1 concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task. It’s going to stop you from multitasking and focus on one thing at a time and raise the quality of your work.
Step 3 – At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day. This step has two important rules:
- The priority of unfinished tasks will always be higher than the tasks in the new list.
- You must still limit yourself to six tasks overall even when you carry over tasks from the day before.
Step 4 – Repeat these steps every day. This is the most important step because the progress happens slowly, so you should be patient with this method.
Now you may ask why a method this simple works?
- Well, it’s simple enough to actually work. Most methods work much better in theory than in reality; the more complex the plan, the more imperfect the execution. Complexity is often a weakness because it makes it harder to get back on track. It may take you weeks to get used to these steps, but it’s simple enough to become a habit.
- It stops you from multitasking; I believe the only magical thing about this method is that it makes you put limits upon yourself. Imagine this scenario you have so many tasks to get done. You are overwhelmed by everything; there is a high chance you will end up doing nothing cause it’s hard to focus when your mind is everywhere. Still, when you use this method, you limit yourself to entirely focus on one task at a time and actually get something done. It is not reasonable to think you will be able to avoid multitasking altogether. But it will help you be more productive.
- You plan your day the night before, during the day you are tired by the stuff you’ve done so you can’t make good decisions, with this method you have a starting point and so you can’t say I don’t know where to start simply look at your list and it will decide for you.
- It stops you from procrastinating; when faced with a decision to make or a task to complete, we usually rely on our self-control to push ourselves to get things done. Furthermore, our motivation, which is based on the expectation of receiving some reward for our efforts, can support our self-control and make it more likely that we will get things done in a timely manner. But with the Ivy Lee method, we prioritize our list by some factors:
- It’s important and urgent (should be on the top of your list)
- It’s important but not urgent (should be on the list after important and urgent tasks)
- Not important but urgent (can be at the bottom of your list)
- Not important and not urgent (keep it off your list)
It doesn’t have to be six things. It’s okay to change rules so that they work for you. As I mentioned earlier, the most important thing about this method is that it makes you focus on one thing at a time and prioritizing your tasks so as long as you keep these rules in mind, it doesn’t matter how many tasks you have in your list or you write your assignments the night before or early in the morning.
The number of the tasks depends on what you ask yourself: How long each of my tasks will take? How much time do I have today?
With these questions, you can find the number of tasks that work for you, so don’t get stuck with number 6.
Also, don’t forget!
Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete each task. If you give yourself one hour to complete a task you could easily do in 45 minutes, that task is very likely to take you one hour. There is great value in assigning the right amount of time to each task on your list. Too much time leads to you wasting time. Not enough time leads to frustration. Try to assign yourself a time limit that is both possible and difficult.
This method is not just for students or when you have assignments or exams; it also works well for when you don’t have school work; in fact, we can be more productive when we don’t have any deadline cause our mind is at ease. We can actually focus on things we want to get done; it can be an extra online course you wish to attend, that painting you want to finish, or reading the book you wanted to read for a long time now.
This method is all about getting so much done quickly, so don’t limit yourself to using it.
Being more productive will make achieving your goals easier, no matter what your goals are. The Ivy Lee Method is great because it is simple and easy to implement. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper to start. Try out the Ivy Lee method for a few days, and let it work wonders for your daily routine.
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