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A 100 year old productivity method that is still bulletproof.

In the interest of efficiency, I’m going to make this a short post. I’m always interested in finding effective ways of increasing productivity with systems, frameworks, apps, etc. I’ve read about this 100 year old method many times and somehow just ignored it, maybe it wasn’t new or novel enough. That was a mistake. If you’re looking for a simple productivity system without bells and whistles, that just works, you won’t be disappointed.

The method is called the Ivy Lee Method, named after the famed productivity consultant hired by Charles M. Schwab as the president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation. More history here thanks to James Clear.

It’s as simple as this: Before you leave your office or shut down your work for the day, plan your most important tasks for tomorrow. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

The Basic Ivy lee Method

  1. At the end of your workday, write down the six most important things you need to do tomorrow. No more than six.
  2. Order your six tasks by priority.
  3. When you get into your work tomorrow, start on task #1 and don’t move onto another task until the first is complete.
  4. Do the same with the rest of the list and at the end of your day, transfer any unfinished tasks to your new list for tomorrow.
  5. Do this every day.

It’s simple, ruthlessly effective and easy enough to not get bogged down in systems, apps, or anything that you need to manage beyond a sheet of paper every day.

Adapting for Today

100 years ago I have to think that people’s days were less fragmented. Business moved slower, communication moved slower, emails, texts and calls didn’t slam into them the same way they do today. It’s a constant battle to stay focused in a world fighting for bits of your attention.

To make this simple system work for me I’ve added a simple tweak.

  • Estimate the time needed to complete each task and note that on your list.
  • Add an entry into your calendar for each task, for the estimated duration.

This small addition makes all the difference and puts up guard rails on your day. Now just commit to your calendar and hit those goals.

Michael Trezza

Michael Trezza is the CEO and founder of Lithyem. Since 1999, Michael has been solving complex technology challenges for some of the world's greatest brands. Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.