Master Productivity with The Ivy Lee Method

One of the most popular methods of organizing your priorities was created over 100 years ago by productivity consultant, Ive Lee. Lee was hired by Charles M. Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and tasked with improving the overall efficiency of the company. He offered Schwab his method for free, but the team was so thrilled with the results that they wrote Lee a check for $25,000 (so, yeah. It works.)

The Ivy Lee Method is one of the most tried-and-true productivity hacks out there, and it’s steps have remained the same for decades. If you’re struggling to make decisions in your day or your feel like you’ll never get everything done, this is the perfect way to quickly and efficiently organize and tackle your to-do list.

What is the Ivy Lee Method?

To start the Ivy Lee prioritization method, you’ll need space to write (maybe your bullet journal or a note in your phone). Then, move through these 4 simple steps:

1. Write down your top 6 priorities

At the end of the day, create a list of your top 6 priorities for tomorrow. Are there errands you need to run? Projects to complete? Chores to do? If you feel a little overwhelmed, don’t worry. Just choose 6, and write them down.

2. Rank those 6 items according to their importance

Take a look at your 6 items. What absolutely has to get done? Rank your tasks in order according to their urgency and importance.

3. Start your day with the first task

The next day, go through your morning routine as usual and when it’s time for the work to begin, start with the first task on your list. This will be the most important thing, according to what you chose last night. In doing this, you eat the frog and take on that challenge first thing.

4. Move through your list, and adjust as needed

Rinse and repeat! Create your list of 6 priorities each night and plan how you’ll complete those tasks tomorrow. If you don’t complete a task from your list, move it to the next day and assess where it needs to be.


So…why does it work?

The Ivy Lee method has been praised by productivity buffs around the world for decades. Sure, it helps you get your mind right and know what needs to be done. But these are some of the other benefits of the Ivy Lee Method:

You stop multitasking

The Ivy Lee Method ensures that your tasks have been noted and acknowledged, and this will prevent you from multitasking. We often multitask in an attempt to be more efficient and complete more tasks, but it only divides our attention, taking necessary brainpower away from both of the tasks.

When your list of things to get done is already made, you know what needs to be done and you know when you’re going to do it. With no need to double up your work, you can really focus on getting your best work done.

You get clarity on what matters

Making a point to prioritize your tasks for the day based on their urgency gives you a real sense of clarity on what matters. When you take a step back and look at the work that needs to be done, and you create a plan for where you’ll begin, the nervous urgency starts to fade. The worry of ‘will this actually get accomplished?’ goes away, and you know exactly what needs to be done.

You start planning ahead

Creating your list the night prior allows you to wake up and start your work without hesitation. The planning has been done — now all you need to do is work. This gets you into the habit of thinking ahead on what you need to accomplish tomorrow, so you stay mindful of your routine and how much work you’re actually doing.


Ivy Lee Method FAQ

Can I list more than 6 items?

At the end of the day, you do you, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Limiting yourself to 6 tasks makes you really consider what matters and prevents you from overwhelming yourself with work. If something has gotta get done but it doesn’t fit in the list, be flexible. Work with your habits, and do what it takes to find the time. But start with 6 and see how the workload feels. Once you dive in, you’ll likely find that you feel more focused and more productive.

Can I make my list in the morning?

If you want to add your list to your morning routine, go for it! Creating a list the night prior, however, removes the planning period from the next day, allowing you to jump right into the work that needs to be done. Try creating your list the night before and adjust as needed.

What if there are tasks I never complete?

Some things may be stuck at the bottom of your list, rolling over to the next day over and over…and over. Assess whether those tasks actually need to be done. If they haven’t been completed by now, how important are they? Do they need to be taking up that space in your brain? Find another way for those tasks to get done, or kick them off the list. Only the things that are truly important belong there.


QOTD: What other productivity methods have you tried? Leave your recos in the comments!

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  1. Will Bralick says:

    Hi Amy!

    In February, I vlogged on this very topic. Here is the playlist for those: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRbnGZICJgUNisIzUF5pIgZVmpEywdegi

    Now, as part of that, I created a 3×5 card format (described in the video) so that folks can record each day on a card and then look over an entire collection of cards for a month or so. The pdf should be printed on Avery 5388 card stock. If you would like that pdf to share with your fans, I’d be happy to send it to you – just let me know!

    Warm regards,

    Dr Will

  2. […] can read more about the Ivy Lee method from Amy Landino, my productivity guru. She explains the method in clear, concise detail. Give it a read and, while […]

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