Ivy Lee was a productivity consultant that Charles Schwab used.
The story goes that, in Schwab’s quest to improve his productivity, he found and set a meeting with Lee. During the meeting, Schwab asked Lee to make him more productive.
Lee responded that all he needed was 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s executives, and that it wouldn’t cost anything… unless it worked, in which case Schwab could send a check for whatever he felt it was worth.
So this is the Ivy Lee method. It’s what Lee explained during the 15 minutes with each executive.
- At the end of each work day, write down the 6 most important things you need to do tomorrow. No more.
- Prioritize them in terms of their true importance.
- When you arrive the next day, concentrate only on the first task. Work until it’s complete before moving on to the next one. Do the same for the rest of the list.
- At the end of the day, move any unfinished stuff to the next day’s list. Repeat every day.
Generalization for all areas
This method can be done either the day before or in the morning, before you start your work.
To generalize the method for all areas of life, one can define a set amount of tasks for each area that one is focusing on. The greater the focus, the more tasks are allocated in that area.
- Health—both physical, mental, and spiritual
- Work—involves any aspect of work or professional tasks
- Relationships—anything involving other people, except working together for a focused session (goes under work) and family
- Personal—recreation, love, household, and similar
Why does the method work?
You Do the most important thing first every day.
Sidenote: this is pretty similar to the “Daily Highlight” from Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day.