To-do list

The Secret to Mastering Your To-Do List

To-do lists are something we are all familiar with at Strong. Many of us have them digitized, even automated. And while these methods do keep us on track, they may not be the most efficient.

The Ivy Lee Method

In the early 20th century, Charles M. Schwab was president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and one of the most successful men in his industry. Always seeking ways to improve, he called upon productivity expert Ivy Lee. Today, Lee is remembered as one of the founding fathers of public relations, but he was a master of business and efficiency even outside of that.

When the two men met, Lee needed only one thing: 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s executives. He promised Schwab that he would owe him nothing that day. Instead, Lee asked that he wait three months, then pay him whatever he saw reasonable. Schwab ended up writing Lee a check for around $400,000 in today’s money.

So, what did Lee do in those 15-minute sessions that generated such impressive results?

Mastering the To-Do List

This simple method helped Schwab’s company to achieve peak productivity.

  1. Before you leave at the end of the day, write down the six most important tasks you need to accomplish the next day. Stick to only six.
  2. Arrange these items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive the next day, focus on the first task on the list. Keep working until task 1 is complete, then move on to task 2.
  4. Continue moving through the list, moving any unfinished tasks to the next day.
  5. Repeat this process for each working day.

Applying the Method at Work

Now, you may be wondering how such a simple method could be applicable to an environment like Strong’s. It appears that the simplicity of the list is actually one of its most valuable features. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with a myriad of tasks, not knowing where exactly to begin.

The Ivy Lee method gives you a starting point at the beginning of your day. You don’t have to waste time deciding what is most important or where you should begin. Instead, it has already been done for you.

Inevitably, things will come up, and hot items will find their way onto your plate. Deal with them as they come, and once everything has cooled down, return to your list.

Not every methodology works for everyone, but this is one simple strategy to keep yourself focused and not succumb to the myth that is multitasking.

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