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The Ivy Lee Method: Double Your Productivity Overnight With This 100 Year Old Tip

Making a to-do list is an essential component of maximizing your productivity.

Almost everyone struggles with getting things done, but there’s just as many people who have trouble with the part that comes before – actually coming up with a plan for what they need to get done. 

A well-formed to-do list is the antidote to the disorganization that seems to plague much of our lives. When you write out what you need to accomplish on any given day, countless studies have shown that the level of anxiety you feel surrounding those tasks decreases.

It’s imperative that your to-do list forces you to make maximum progress on the important stuff, while also making time for your less pressing tasks.

The best way to accomplish this is to use what’s known as The Ivy Lee Method. This method is the absolute backbone of my daily routine, and over the last six months it’s drastically improved my ability to complete meaningful work and manage my time. 

In this article, I’m going to explain the Ivy Lee Method and show you how to implement it into your life so you can achieve maximum productivity.

What Was Ivy Lee Known For?

In 1918, Charles Schwab was the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which at the time was the second-largest producer of steel in America. Not surprisingly, this made him one of the wealthiest men in the world. One day, he arranged a meeting with a well-respected productivity expert named Ivy Lee for the purpose of increasing the efficiency of his team.

After the meeting, Schwab agreed to give Lee 15 minutes with each one of his executives. When Schwab asked Lee what his fee was, he simply said, “Nothing. Unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it’s worth to you.”

After those three months were up, Schwab was so pleased with the results that he wrote Lee a check for $25,000. A $25,000 check in 1918 is worth close to $420,000 today.

picture of ivy lee


What is the Ivy Lee Method?

One of the golden rules of productivity is to keep things simple, and that’s exactly why the Ivy Lee Method works so well. It doesn’t require you to create an elaborate color coding system for specific tasks, or that you plan out every 30 minutes of your day. It’s about cutting through the bullshit and producing. Nothing more.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step #1 – At the end of each day, write down six things that you need to accomplish tomorrow.
  • Step #2 – Once you’ve written down six things, rank them in order of importance.
  • Step #3 – After you’ve woken up and started your work day, only focus on your most important task until it’s completed.
  • Step #4 – Follow the same structure for the rest of your list.
  • Step #5 – At the end of the day, move any unfinished tasks to a new list of six for the following day.
  • Step #6 – Repeat this process every day


graphic of the ivy lee method


Why The Ivy Lee Method Works So Well

I’m not exaggerating when I say that performing performing this ritual at the end of every day has doubled my productivity. Personally, I think the reason it works so well is because I used to be one of those people with plenty of ambition to get things done, but no structured plan of action to follow once it came time to work.

Like many people, I’d go into the day without a clear plan of attack, and end up jumping from task to task. Inevitably, I’d fail to make significant progress on anything, which made me feel a sense of emptiness at the end of the day.

Implementing the Ivy Lee Method allowed me to solve my biggest problem — being efficient instead of being busy. 

Here are a few reasons why this method is so effective:

It forces you to prioritize. Making a to-do list is great, but if it starts looking like a grocery list, you’re going to overwhelm yourself almost immediately.

Ranking six tasks in order of importance allows you to concentrate all of your energy on the tasks that are really going to move the needle forward in your life.

It’s stupid simple. One of the things I like the most about this method is how easy it is to complete.

At the end of each work day, writing down these tasks and ranking them takes me a maximum of 3-4 minutes. Willpower is a finite resource, so the easier you can make your productivity habits, the more likely it is you’ll stick to them.

It requires to master the art of single-tasking. One of the biggest reasons why people aren’t productive is that they tend to jump from task to task without making significant progress on any of them. The Ivy Lee Method forces you out of multi-tasking mode.

It’s impossible to produce your best work when you are constantly switching your focus between five different tasks. However, when all of your mental energy is directed towards one task, you not only produce higher quality work, but you give yourself more free time by getting work done faster. There’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you master the art of working with speed and quality.


Final Note

The Ivy Lee Method is one of the simplest, most effective productivity hacks out there.

Maximizing your productivity isn’t about setting up some complex routine that requires incredible self-discipline. It’s about prioritizing your tasks and concentrating your energy on the ones that are the most important. If you can learn how to do these two things, you’ll have a giant leg up on 95% of people who are striving for the things you want.

I genuinely hope that you guys read this article and immediately incorporate this method into your life. It’s had a massive impact on my productivity and I know that it can have a similar impact on your life if you’re willing to take swift action.

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