The Ivy Lee Method: The Simplest Productivity Technique?

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Munadil Shafat
Student (MBA), Bangladesh

The Ivy Lee Method: The Simplest Productivity Technique?

Recently I wrote an article summarizing David Allen's popular productivity framework Getting Things Done (GTD). The post has received a lot of reactions, thanks to this large management audience. But learning and getting habituated with a framework like GTD takes time and effort and there are many who want something simple and ready-to-use. In today's post I will cover the simplest form of productivity technique that anyone can start using right away. The technique is named after its inventor, productivity consultant Ivy Ledbetter Lee. In 1918, Charles M. Schwab, the then president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation consulted Mr. Lee to improve his company's efficiency. In that meeting with Lee,
Mr. Schwab asked: "Show me a way to get more things done."
In response, Mr. Lee replied: "Give me 15 minutes with each of your executives."

Mr. Schwab asked: "How much will it cost me?"
Lee replied: "Nothing, unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it's worth to you."

It turned out that the 15-minutes with al executives were so valuable that Mr. Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000 - the equivalent of more than $400,000 today!
Wondering what Lee did in those 15-minute? Then keep reading...

The Ivy Lee Method

Lee told each executive to do the following:
  1. At the end of each work day, write down the 5 or 6 most important things (not more than 6 though) that you have to accomplish tomorrow.
  2. Prioritize each of them in terms of their true importance.
  3. When you are at the office tomorrow, just concentrate on the first task. Work until the first task is done before moving on to the second task.
  4. Do the same for other items on the list. At the end of the day, if you still have any unfinished item, move them to a new list (again a list of not more than 6 tasks) for the following day.
  5. Repeat this process everyday.
No doubt his is the simplest productivity method that anyone can start using from day one. Just list these 5-6 to-do items and prioritize them to work on the next day. Start from the top of the list. Do one task at a time (don't multi-task) and you are on your way.

⇨ What do you think of the Ivy Lee method? Feel free to react.

James Clear, "The Ivy Lee Method: The Daily Routine Experts Recommend for Peak Productivity", Medium
Mark Abadi, "A CEO and Dad uses a 100-year-old Strategy to Get Control of his Schedule in just 15 Minutes Each Night", Business Insider

  Jose Luis Roces
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Ivy Lee Method is Simple and Effective

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  Melchiorre Calabrese
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  Maurice Hogarth
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  Maurice Hogarth
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The Hierarchy of to do Lists Like Ivy Lee

@Alejandro Centeno Jeronimo: I will refer to your ...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

The Golden Thread

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  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

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@Jaap de Jonge: Thank you. Yes the Ivy Lee approac...

  David Rutchik
Project Manager, United States

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@Jose Luis Roces: The position you have no matter ...

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  aloke mookherjea
Director, India

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