The Ivy Lee Method for Time Management and Why It’s So Effective

Throughout the years, time management has accumulated many rules and tricks. There are many methods and approaches to the art of time management, but one method has stood the test of time and efficiency: The Ivy Lee Method. 


What is the Ivy Lee Method?

The method goes back to 1918, when Charles Schwab, president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, sought help with making his team more efficient. He scheduled a chat with Ivy Lee, who was a respected businessman and productivity consultant. 

Lee agreed to help, free of charge if he could spend 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s executives. He said if the method worked within 3 months, Schwab could send him a check for whatever he thought the method was worth. Fast forward three months, and the method, although simple, was worth $25,000 in Schwab’s eyes. In today’s world, that’s the equivalent of $400,000. 

The Steps

  1. At the end of the day, every workday, write down 6 tasks that you think are important to accomplish tomorrow. 
  2. Decide priorities for each of those tasks, ranking them in order accordingly. 
  3. First thing tomorrow, get started on the first task. Work on it until you finish. Then, begin the second task, and so on and so forth. 
  4. When you finish your day at work, look at your list. Any unfinished items should be moved to tomorrow’s list of 6 tasks for the day. 
  5. Repeat this method every day of the workweek. 

Why it Works

This method is simple, which is exactly why it works so well. With cell phones, social media, and all other forms of advanced technology, we’ve become activity addicts. As a society, we’re often restless and antsy to do a million things at once. This practice is known as multi-tasking. Sound familiar? 

We used to believe that multi-tasking was the most effective way to work. But neuroscience has now proven that it is the exact opposite. We get less done in more time and end up frazzled at the end of the day. It can take our brains up to 25 minutes to get back into a work rhythm when we’ve been interrupted. When we multi-task, we never allow ourselves to get into a rhythm, which kills our productivity and stresses us out needlessly. 

The Ivy Lee Method is straightforward and goal-oriented. It keeps you on track so that multi-tasking and distractions don’t interfere with the important stuff. It provides you will the kind of laser-focus that will help you get through your work tasks without breaking a sweat.


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