This Century-Old To-Do List Still Works

‘Ivy Lee Method' from 1918 still works
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2016 11:32 AM CDT
This Century-Old To-Do List Still Works
Ivy Lee's five-step productivity hack still works today.   (Photographer unknown;

When Bethlehem Steel Corp. baron Charles M. Schwab wanted to “get more things done” at his company in 1918, he turned to a man who promised a simple solution in a five-step productivity hack, FastCompany reports. “Give me 15 minutes with each of your executives,” Ivy Lee, a public relations pioneer, told Schwab. If it didn’t work, he added, Schwab didn’t have to pay him. If it did, Schwab could give him whatever he liked. After three months, a satisfied Schwab wrote Lee a $25,000 check (worth $430,000 today), writes James Clear. Lee's trick still works today, writes Clear, thanks to its simplicity, which forces tough decisions and prioritizing.

Here's the Ivy Lee method:

  1. At the end of each day, write down the six—and only six—most important things to do tomorrow.
  2. Prioritize those six items.
  3. When you arrive at work, concentrate only on the first task until it's finished, then move on to the second task.
  4. Work through the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the day's end, put anything undone on tomorrow's list.
  5. Repeat every working day.

(Or you could lose sleep like these execs.)

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