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Our most valuable resource on this planet.

Everyone, rich or poor, has the same amount of it every day.

Although, some seem to get more done in the time they have than anyone else can.

How do they get more done?

You can go to seminars about time management.

You can buy diaries, and you can use planner apps, but nothing seems to give you the results you desire.

At the end of each day, you did not get accomplished what you wanted to, and it feels like all you did was waste your time.

You want to get more done.

However, fortunately, there is a way through; a system that, although old, still works to this day.

Use it, and you will not only experience the benefits of better managed time, but you will finish the day feeling satisfied that you have completed what was most important.

The system is called the Ivy Lee Method, named after its creator, a management consultant from the 1900s.

The Ivy Lee Story

A legend is told of the method’s beginnings…

The year 1918.

Charles M. Schwab, the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, was one of the wealthiest men in the world.

His company was, at that time, the most prominent shipbuilder and second-largest steel producer in America.

Called, the ‘master hustler’ by, the famous inventor, Thomas Edison, he was known for his risk-taking habit and was continually on the lookout for ways to improve his company’s efficiency; specifically through time management.

One day in 1918, Schwab met with Ivy Lee, a then highly-respected productivity consultant.

Schwab was direct and to the point:

“Show my staff and me a way to get more done in less time, and I’ll pay you any fee within reason.”

Ivy Lee replied:

“Give me 15 minutes with you and your executives, and I will increase your people efficiency – and sales – with a simple technique. Implement it, and after three months, send me a check for whatever you feel it is worth.”

So then he shared his method.

Three months later, Ivy Lee received a check for US$25,000.

At a time when the average daily wage was $2, this was a phenomenal amount: approx US$430,000 or AU$590,000.

The Ivy Lee Method

In those 15 minutes with Charles Schwab, Ivy Lee shared his method:

  1. At the end of the day, write down no more than six most important things that need to be completed the following day.
  2. Prioritise these by order of their actual importance.
  3. Upon arriving the next day, focus solely on the first task.
  4. Work on that task, and only that task, until you finish, and then move on.
  5. Repeat for each remaining task on the list. At the end of this day, any unfinished tasks can be transferred to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  6. Repeat the process every working day.

Some say that Lee also shared two other steps with Schwab, that preceded the original list:

  1. Clearly define your vision for your company, e.g. what you want it to look like, what service you will provide, what the industry will be like in five years.
  2. Outline your objectives. E.g., new assets, new clients, new services provided, new revenue streams, etc.

By implementing Lee’s method, Schwab improved his company’s efficiency so much that it led him to pay Lee a small fortune.

What effect do you think it could have on you?

How does it work?

Lee’s method of increasing productivity enables you to get more done in a day, but how does it succeed where other time management systems have failed.

What makes it so effective?


It’s simple.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo da Vinci 

The one way this system far outweighs others is its lack of complexity.

For some, this is seen as an issue, as, they argue, it does not account for all the complexities and nuances of life.

However, in my experience, the problem with complex systems is this: when something disrupts the system, it makes it harder to get back on track.

The simple rules allow you to deal with situations according to their importance:

Ignore them whenever possible…

Or, If you must, deal with them and then get back to your list.


It forces decisions.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J. R. R. Tolkien

And for some, I think that presents the most significant difficulty.

Deciding what to do is easier when you use the Ivy Lee method.

By restricting yourself to only six tasks per day, you are forced to choose which tasks are the most important.

The number of jobs, as such, is not as critical as the discipline you gain from weeding out the trivial and focusing on what is of the most value.


It helps you get started.

You remove the morning’s indecision and forgetfulness by planning the day before when things are still fresh in your mind.

You do not waste time debating on what to start on or what to do; the list is there, and you can get in immediately and do it.

As Mark Twain put it:

“The secret to getting ahead, is getting started.”
Mark Twain


It requires single-tasking.

“Your conscious brain cannot multitask. If I’m speaking to you and checking my I-Phone at the same time, I’m doing neither. This is why our society is frazzled; this misconception that we can consciously do more than one thing at a time effectively.”
Deepak Chopra

We have heard it time and again.

Humans cannot multitask, and when they try to, the constant switching between tasks results in a dramatic decrease in quality.

Despite this, today’s society still loves multi-tasking.

The Ivy Lee method opposes the general trend and gives you the power to work at your best.

By focusing solely on one task at a time, the mind can concentrate and consequently produce better results.

Put it into practice

Schedule 20 minutes at the end of every day to plan for tomorrow.

Implement the Ivy Lee Method and see how it goes?

After that, how big of a cheque would you have written Ivy Lee?

Let me know in the comments below.


References and further reading:

Quotes from BrainyQuote:

Colter Reed | Manage your time, Manage your life:

Real Simple | Life Made Easier:

James Clear | Self Improvement:

Opacity | Photos of abandoned places: