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Lessons From a 103 Year Old Productivity Technique
Have you ever found yourself participating productivity envy? Some people accomplish so much, but it seems that no matter how hard you work, your to-do list keeps expanding and you don’t feel like you’ve made any significant progress.
While there are many “productivity tools” and hacks that promise instant efficiency at lightning speed; you only need one sheet of paper.
Charles M. Schwab was the chairman of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the largest shipbuilder, the second largest steel producer in America and one of the richest men in the world.
Schwab was constantly looking for new ways to improve its company’s efficiency and maintain an edge over its competitors.
Ivy Lee, a well-known productivity and management consultant, successful businessman and public relations pioneer, arranged a meeting with Schwab. (As recounted by Charles “Tremendous” Jones in Leadership Is For You, pp. 42-44. (1968)
Schwab said, “Show us a way to get more things done, I’ll be happy to listen to you. And if it works, I’ll pay you whatever you reasonably ask.”
Lee replied, “If you want, I will show you a method that will increase the effectiveness of personal leadership and the effectiveness of anyone else who applies it by at least 50 percent.”
This bold promise fascinated the business mogul.
Lee “handed Schwab a blank piece of paper and said:Write down the most important things you need to do tomorrow.”
It took Schwab about five minutes to do this.
Lee then asked for Schwab number them in order of their actual importance. (This took Schwab a bit more time.)
Lee then shared the final step of this simple system: “First thing in the morning, start working on item number 1 and stay there until it’s done. Then take item number 2 in the same way. Then number 3, and so on.”
“You’ve finished the most important projects before you get to the less important ones. If you can’t finish everything you’ve planned for tomorrow with this system, there’s no other way you would have finished it. And without this system, it probably would have taken you a lot longer to accomplish what you you have planned without worrying about things in their order real value for you and your business.”
Lee then encouraged Schwab to do this every workday. When he was convinced of the value of this system, have his men try it.
He ended the meeting by saying, “Try as long as you want, and then send me your check for whatever you think the idea is worth.”
Charles Schwab and his management team at Bethlehem Steel used Ivy Lee’s method to improve productivity with great success. Three months later, Schwab sent a $25,000 check to Ivy Lee. ($25,000 in 1918 is equivalent to $475,318 in 2021.)
Schwab noted that this lesson was the most profitable one he learned in his career. It was later said that this plan was largely responsible for transforming a small steel company into one of the world’s largest producers.”
Ivy Lee’s 4-Step Method for Peak Productivity:
1.) At the end of each working day write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
2.) Prioritize these six items accordingly real meaning.
3.) When you arrive tomorrow, focus only on the first task. Work until the first task is complete before moving on to the second task.
4.) Approach the rest of your list the same way. At the end of the day, move the unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the next day.
Repeat this process every working day.
Over the past 103 years, many companies have used Ivy Lee’s system to achieve peak productivity with great success. It’s about focusing on “good management of priorities.”
I promise you this will improve your productivity envy!
Let me know how it works for you!
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