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Ivy Lee Method: How Only 6 Tasks on Your To-Do List Improves Productivity

6 Min Read
Ivy Lee Method: How Only 6 Tasks on Your To-Do List Improves Productivity

The quest to improve productivity is a never-ending one. Businesses and individuals are always searching for ways to get more stuff done in the most efficient way possible. The Ivy Lee Method is a strategy that has been in use for over a century. It is a simple system that productivity consultant, Ivy Lee, developed in the early 1900s.

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What is the Ivy Lee Strategy?

In 1918, Charles M. Shwab was looking to improve productivity in his steel company, one of the largest in the US. He called in Ivy Lee, who was a renowned PR professional. Shwab instructed Lee to help his company ‘get more things done.’ The productivity consultant explained to the executives how he approached each day, which is what became the Ivy Lee Method. Here’s how the system works:

• 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.
• Plan your checklist in order of importance. Carefully evaluate the impact of each activity. You can use different goals like financial value to determine relevance.
• The following day, handle the to-do list starting with the first task. Don’t deviate until it is complete.
• Move to the next task and do the same.
• Repeat the process every workday.

From this step-by-step, you can see that the Ivy Lee system is easy to adapt. You can use it for any instance that involves multiple tasks. But, how is this stupidly simple to-do list method of prioritising tasks boost productivity? How could something this simple work?

Reduces Decision Fatigue

From the minute you are up until you lie down in bed again, you have to make many decisions. Picking the outfit for the day, deciding what to eat for lunch and how to reply to an email are examples of the choices a person has to make daily. After some time of making these judgements, decision fatigue sets in. Even the most rational people get mentally exhausted at some point, and their decision-making abilities begin to deteriorate. A well-structured to-do list helps avoid that. With the Ivy Lee strategy, you already know what to do the following day.

Focuses on a Task at a Time

A lot of people see multi-tasking as smart. Doing several things at once only increases the risk of something going wrong. Handling a single activity at a time allows you to perform at peak performance. The productivity system by Ivy Lee promotes single-tasking. It requires you to focus on a task until completion. You won’t have to divide your time and attention between different jobs. Concentrating on a single activity makes it to detect mistakes and find a solution.

Provides a Starting Point

‘I don’t even know where to start is a common excuse to procrastinate. Starting a task can be hard, especially when you have a hundred others to do. However, once you begin, the rest of it is easy. With your checklist ready at the start of the day, you know where to concentrate your energy. It prevents you from falling for distractions and putting off work. If the day ends and some of the work is incomplete, it moves to the next to-do list.

Sets Limits

A worker who takes on too much can have trouble being productive. You will try to finish everything and end up doing very little. The Ivy Lee system allows you to limit yourself. A to-do list should not exceed six items. When the day begins, your commitment is to that checklist because it covers the most critical tasks. Setting limits also prevent you from getting overwhelmed.

The Ivy Lee Method encourages doing the most critical daily tasks first. You can implement the strategy in any capacity in a company.

Ivy Lee Method 6 Step Checklist

Define Goals

Define vision, goals, and objectives.

6 Most Important Tasks

At the end of each day write down the 6 most important tasks to achieve the next day.

These 6 tasks should help towards achieving your goals and objectives.

Do not write down more than six tasks.

Prioritise Tasks

Prioritise the six items in order of their true importance.

Focus on First Task

The next day, you concentrate on the most important task and begin working on the tasks one at a time.

The complete first task before moving on to the second task.

Work in to-do List Order

Work step by step order.

At the end of the day, if tasks are unfinished move to the new list of six tasks for the following day.

Repeat Every Evening

Repeat this process every day.

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