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When you have a laundry list of things to do, prioritization is a must to use time properly. There are various tools for prioritization, but the Ivy Lee method is the simplest among them. Although it requires only a pen and a piece of paper to get started, the result is impressive for productivity and time management.
In this article, you’ll get the answers to six frequently asked questions (FAQs) about this method and a brief history of the Ivy Lee method. Let’s get started.
1. What is the Ivy Lee method?
A 100-year-old productivity strategy initiated by Ivy Ledbetter Lee. In this method, you are allowed to select and prioritize six tasks for a day to accomplish from your to-do list.
Quite a simple method, right? It is so. You only need a pen and a piece of paper to get started.
A person can use time effectively to get things done by using this method. Since he needs to prioritize tasks from a list of to-dos, he will focus on the essential tasks first over other things.
Although Ivy Lee suggested this method to executives, it works for everyone, regardless of profession.
2. Who created the Ivy Lee method?
Ivy Ledbetter Lee is the originator of the Ivy Lee method. He advised the managers of Bethlehem Still Corporation to start a day with the six most important tasks and do them in order of importance.
This advice resulted in increased efficiency of the workplace of the company. Consequently, the company head paid him $25000. Since then, his suggestion has been popularly known as the Ivy Lee method. And he is credited as the creator of this method.
3. What was Ivy Lee known for?
Although we know Ivy Lee for his advice on productivity and time management, he is best known for his work in public relations. He worked as a public relations adviser with prominent industrial corporations and public utilities.
Rockefeller family and Nazis are two worth considering clients of Ivy Lee. He is recognized as the first press release issuer who informed journalists about the Atlantic City train wreck before people knew about it in another way.
A background story of the Ivy Lee method
In the early 1900s, Charles M. Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, was concerned about organizational productivity. He arranged a meeting with Ivy Lee in order to find ways to improve employee efficiency. Lee wanted to talk for 15 minutes with each of the top managers. In 15 minutes, he told the executives to create and prioritize only six tasks for a day. And do this the night before.
When Schwab wanted to pay a fee for this consultation, Lee refused to receive any payment at that moment. Instead, Lee asked him to wait for three months for the result. If the method works, Schwab can pay Lee whatever amount he feels is better.
Three months later, the team was thrilled with the result. Because of increased productivity and overall progress in business, Schwab was so delighted that he wrote Lee a check for $25,000 (equivalent to $400,000 in today’s economy).
4. How many tasks does the Ivy Lee method have?
In the Ivy Lee method, you have to select the six most important tasks for a day. Write down the tasks on the previous night. Thus, you can begin the day with clarity and accomplish the tasks one-after-another sequentially.
Order the tasks from most important to least important, and do one thing at a time. If you fail to accomplish six jobs on a particular day, place the unfinished tasks on the top of the next day’s list.
For a day, six tasks are considered an ideal number because it is achievable. More than six tasks may result in uncompleted tasks and frustration. On the other hand, fewer than six tasks mean improper use of time.
5. What are the six steps to the Ivy Lee method?
The Ivy Lee method requires only pen and paper. No fancy planner or app is needed. To implement this method, you just want to follow the following six steps.
- Allot 15 minutes. At night, plan for the next day’s activities within 15 minutes.
- Write down 6 tasks. Make a list of six things to do for tomorrow, which are most important, ideally high-impact, and with due dates.
- Give numbers. Rank tasks according to importance and urgency. Put the most essential one on the top of the list and name it ‘Task 1’. Sequentially, position the least significant task in number 6.
- Execute the plan. Start your next day with Task 1. Work on it with proper attention until it is completed. Avoid moving to the next one until the first task is done.
- Move on. Begin the subsequent task and do it with the same level of attention. Accomplish other tasks one by one throughout the day.
- Reflect and repeat. If any task remains incomplete, add it to the next day’s list. At night, make a new list for the next day in 15 minutes by including uncompleted tasks.
- If you have several small and similar tasks, batch them all as one task. Allot a specific length of time to do them at once.
- You can amplify this technique by incorporating Eisenhower Matrix and Pomodoro techniques.
6. Why the Ivy Lee Method still works 100 years on
Even after 100 years, the Ivy Lee method is still relevant in today’s working world. Here are a few reasons why this old method works in the computer age.
- Simplicity: Only six tasks a day makes the method easier for us. Even some people are good at keeping the to-dos in mind. We can plan and prioritize tasks without bothering complex planners or apps. Thus, the method is easy to follow for anyone.
- Clearness: Because of planning tasks the night before, you can jump-start your day with a clear action plan. You can start your day without thinking about what to do now and what to do next. While prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency, you get a sense of clarity on what matters.
- Prioritization: Since you have to decide only six things to do, you’ll prioritize only essential tasks and eliminate or delegate non-essential ones. For the defined tasks, you will allot adequate time and do them with proper attention. In addition, you can avoid decision fatigue and prevent yourself from spending hours on random tasks.
- Single-tasking: The method encourages doing one task at a time. Thus, you can do deep work and produce better quality work in less time.
Like other productivity and time management methods, Ivy Lee’s practice is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone is different, so their working system is.
However, initially, you can try this method for a week or two. If you fail to get the desired result, try other time management techniques. If it works for you, incorporate this method with the Eisenhower Matrix and the Pomodoro technique.