There’s a lot of information out there about how to be more productive. Hacks, guides, shortcuts, methods, tips, and tricks. We keep looking for the secret that will multiply our equally allotted 24 hours into 48.

Do you want to know the real secret? Your 24 hours will never be more than 24 hours.

So instead of filling up your advice tool belt with more unnecessary information, I’m going to share with you a simple process that cuts out the frills and gets straight to the core of it.

The Ivy Lee Method
The Ivy Lee Method

Because the truth is people are often looking for a method that will do the work for them. And that is just a fairytale. You must put in the effort, fine-tune your focus, and commit to doing the work. But if you’re ready to do those things and take ownership of your own success, then the sky is the limit. And this method is for you.

The Back Story

First off, a little history lesson. Have you heard of Charles Schwab? In the early 1900s, he headed up Bethlehem Steel, first making steel girders for skyscrapers and then supplying war materials during World War I. In 1918, he served as director general of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, helping the nation build ships at a faster pace. Needless to say, he was incredibly smart and exceptionally wealthy.

As the story goes, Schwab was looking for ways to be more productive in his business. (You can relate, right?) He wanted his people to increase efficiency and get more done. Shipbuilding was a big job, as you can imagine.

So he brought in a consultant by the name of Ivy Lee. Lee famously promised to share his method with Schwab’s executives in just a few minutes’ time — absolutely free of charge. Schwab was to let them follow the method for three months, and after that time period was up, Schwab could send Lee a check for whatever he felt it was worth. I mean, how could you say no to that?

Three months later, Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000. (Today that would equate to over $460,000.) He clearly found the method to be exceptionally valuable. And it cost him nothing to implement. That’s pretty impressive.

The Method

So are you ready to learn this $460,000+ method? You don’t need anything fancy to do it. It’s remarkably simple and only takes a few minutes of your time. But the level of productivity you will achieve will be tremendous.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Set aside a few minutes at the end of your workday to focus on the following day. Schedule in 10 minutes to your calendar so you don’t forget to do it daily.

  2. In that 10-minute time chunk, identify the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. If it’s less than six, that’s okay. But don’t choose more than six.

  3. Now, order those six tasks by their importance.

  4. On your next workday, show up and begin working on that first task from your list. Focus only on that task and don’t move on to the next one on the list until you’ve finished it.

  5. Keep moving through your day focusing on only one task at a time in this fashion.

  6. At the end of the day, if you didn’t get through your list, you start your next day’s list including any of those unfinished tasks.

This is how you function every day of the work-week. It’s deceptively simple, yet streamlined for a smooth workflow.

After you do this for about a week, evaluate your progress. Are you getting all six tasks done every day? Or do you constantly come up short? If you never finish all six, then cut back to five tasks. Depending on the job you have and the types of tasks on your list, six may not be the right number. (There are some people out there famous for never doing more than three.)

The idea isn’t to make it harder for you. It’s to make it easier to succeed.

A feeling of accomplishment is a huge motivator. And when we start to see the little wins rack up, the momentum continues to build and the habit of outstanding productivity is formed. By this point, this simple Ivy Lee method is second nature. You don’t even have to think about it anymore.

If you’re still not sure if this will work for you, I’d encourage you to try it out for Lee’s three-month suggested time frame. Or at least one month. (And I’d be happy to take your $25,000 check when it works. *wink*)

Why Does it Work?

In our quest for ultimate productivity and our determination to stay busier than ever, we have complicated everything. Including how we get things done. (Or how we don’t.) But 100 years ago, Ivy Lee already had it figured out. (Warren Buffet has a similar method in which you list 25 goals, choose the top 5, and ignore the other 20 until the top 5 are completed.)

We often look for quick fixes instead of tried-and-true processes. But this method works because it’s so simple. It forces you to narrow your focus and doesn’t allow you to deviate. Sure, your workday may be interrupted by a phone call or a scheduled meeting. I know you don’t operate in a bubble. But you won’t let those things derail you because you’ve got a clear direction to come back to.

It also works because of when you do it. Choosing the tasks before the day starts is also a way to give yourself more freedom. Because those first few hours of the day are gold. They are prime-time for your best work. If you spend them on trying to decide what you should be doing them, you are wasting them. When the decision is made the night before, you have full permission to use your super-powers for the good of task number one on your list.

This method is the Mary Poppins of all methods — no-nonsense yet magical. It gets you to jump in and get started right away. It forces your focus by allowing one task at a time. And the rules are crystal clear so it’s easy to stick with. The consistency of a daily process will guarantee your success.

In short, imposing limits on yourself actually gives you the freedom to soar.

3 Power Boosters for the Ivy Lee Method:

I know you, though. You want a little more. You are holding on to some skepticism, and you’re thinking, “I could really get going on this if I just had a quick three-step boost. Just a tad bit more to get me inspired.”

So here’s your 21st-century update. I’m sharing three (still very simple) elements that will help you implement Lee’s groundbreaking method for productivity. Think of them as “add-ons.” They are reminders you can give yourself to stick with the process.

1. Simplify

If you struggle with choosing six priorities for the day, I hear you. Sometimes our ambitions are screaming and it’s hard to part with our 20-item to-do list. But the 20-item to-do list, more often than not, equals failure.

You never ever get to complete it. No matter how much you truly did during the day, you feel like you came up short. Part of this is because we have too many goals to start with. Evaluate your goals and your lists for what’s genuinely important in your life. And cut out everything that’s not that. Simplifying will give you focus and clarity that will help you succeed.

2. Believe

It takes confidence in yourself to make changes in your life. It’s hard. Those people you see on TV — the ones that are ultra-successful — it didn’t just happen to them. They made tough choices. They sacrificed. They overcame obstacles. You can do it, too. It’s a choice to believe in yourself and what you’re capable of. When you start owning it, everything else tends to fall in line.

3. Commit

Discipline is the third boost I have to share. Just suck it up and do it. If you really care about your goals and you want to feel that sense of pride and accomplishment in your work, you have to make a commitment to it. It’s scary. And sometimes, the possibility of success is just as terrifying as the possibility of failure. So when you feel yourself wavering, just say to yourself, “I’m going to do it anyway.”

Now watch your productivity soar

A tool is only as useful as its operator. You have to do the work, but it’s absolutely worth it, and I’m sure you’ll agree when you start seeing results. Not only will you get more done, but you’ll feel less stressed. You’ll be happier. You’ll be fulfilled, knowing how much you can accomplish.

Your unlimited potential shouldn’t have to wait any longer. Get started today.