The Century-Old Productivity Hack That’ll Still Save You Time, Headaches

Lists, man. Your future depends on lists.

August 22, 2016 9:00 am

Ivy Lee would’ve killed it as a modern-day businessman.

Who’s Ivy Lee? Some call him the father of modern public relations. A man who, in 1918, single-handedly helped Charles Schwab — one of the richest men in the world at the time — increase his workforce’s efficiency and productivity immeasurably.

But Lee didn’t know at the time was that what he taught Schawb’s cronies would later become the bedrock of “productivity hacking” as we know it. He called it the “Ivy Lee Method,” and it’s simple: make a to-do list, and every day, set out to accomplish your most important task first.

James Clear, writing for Fast Company, outlines Lee’s plan:

  1. At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  2. Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  4. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  5. Repeat this process every working day.

The concept isn’t new to our modern working conscience. The idea’s been toted around as a nifty acronym (Most Important Task, MIT). It’s been used to combat unneeded morning distractions. Clear himself has called tackling your most important task first the “most important productivity tip you’ll ever need.”

Other habits the Ivy Lee Method promotes: planning ahead, building a routine and managing your priorities well.

Sounds like the first thing on your list should be trying out this list.

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