When we want to make progress in life, we tend to make it more difficult than it needs to be. With hundreds of distractions and demands throughout our day, it almost seems impossible to focus on one task at a time, let alone make progress in our professional and personal lives.
When I wanted to up my productivity game, I read just about every book and article I could get my hands on. I even thought I needed a complex system or digital platform to improve this area in my life.
This was not the case. In fact, what I found was a lot simpler than I expected, and it's called the Ivy Lee Method.
It's as simple as this:
At the end of each day, write down the six most important tasks that you need to complete tomorrow.
Number your six tasks from least to most priority
When the day starts, focus on your first task, and work this task to completion before moving on to the next
At the end of the working day, move your uncompleted tasks to the following day. But only keep six tasks max per day.
Repeat this process after every working day
Now I have to admit when I first heard about this, I was skeptical. You might be reading this and thinking the same thing.
How could a process so simple create so much productivity and success?
I didn't take this seriously until I heard the story of how Charles M. Schwab, who was one of the richest men in the world in the early 1900's, began to use this very same technique to create peak performance amongst his executives at Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
The story goes that Mr. Schwab wanted to create more efficiency in his team but didn't know what to do.
It wasn't until a man by the name of Ivy Lee, a highly-respected productivity consultant, came in and said, "Give me 15 minutes with each of your executives."
Schwab replied, "How much will it cost me?"
Lee said, "Nothing. Unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it's worth to you."
After Lee spent 15 minutes with Mr. Schwab's executives, in a matter of just a couple of months, productivity and revenue skyrocketed across the company!
Mr. Schwab was so impressed with the progress and gave Mr. Lee a check for $25,000 which is equivalent to a ~$400,000 check in present day.
So, what makes this simple trick so effective?
It simply comes down to this:
Unfocused thought leads to unfocused decisions, which yield unfocused results in life.
New research from Queen’s University suggests that the average person will typically have more than 6,000 thoughts in a single day.
And I am sure this number is rising dramatically with the increased number of notifications and pings we receive from our smartphones and devices.
Now, that's a lot of thoughts in one day. We can only hope that some of those thoughts align with your tasks, goals, and desires.
Most of the time, our thoughts are unfocused. Because of the brain's uncanny ability to consistently think about the future, past, and spotlight the next distraction -- it's rarely focused on our present moment or tasks.
This is where the Ivy Lee Method comes into play. This method seems so simple, but it acts as goalposts to guide your thoughts toward the completion of your tasks.
In a sense, this strategy helps guide your 6,000 thoughts per day toward the tasks and goals you would like to accomplish.
Not only that, but it also focuses your thought persistently so you can drive your tasks toward completion. (Hints: Not moving on to the next task before the first one is complete)
When I started doing this throughout my day, I was amazed at how a simple strategy increased my performance dramatically.
If you start to pick up this habit, you will undoubtedly enjoy the immense satisfaction of progress throughout your day.
So, don't just start working without clarity on what needs to be accomplished.
Get centered. Plan your tasks the day before. Prioritize them. Focus on one at a time. Don't stop until it's completed. Then move on to the next. Repeat.
Simple, but highly effective.
- Chazz Scott, Founder of Supra Mentem, LLC.
Supra Mentem, LLC. provides executive coaching, entrepreneur coaching, corporate training, and workshops designed to provide effective strategies to propel individuals toward their potential.