According to James Clear – Fastcompany's writer *
In 1918, Charles M. Schwab was one of the richest people in the world. He was the president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation – the largest shipbuilder and the second largest steel producer in the United States at that time. The famous inventor Thomas Edison once called Schwab a "master planner". This person is constantly looking for advantages in the competition.
Although the reports change over time, according to historian Scott M. Cutlip, one day in 1918, wishing to increase the group's performance and find a better way to accomplish everything, Schwab was about to arrange a meeting with respectable productivity advisor Ivy Lee.
Portrait of Ivy Ledbetter Lee in the early 1990s
Lee is a successful businessman of his own, and is widely known as a pioneer in public relations. In the next part of the story, Schwab takes Lee into his office and says, "Show me how to get more done."
"Give me 15 minutes of contact with each of your executives," Lee replied.
Hearing that, Schwab asked, "How much do I have to pay?"
"Nothing," Lee said. "Unless it works. After 3 months, you can send me a check for anything that makes you feel worth it. ”
Here is Ivy Lee's method
During 15 minutes of contact with each executive, Lee explained a simple "trick" to achieve his maximum productivity:
1. At the end of each working day, write down the 6 most important things you need to complete the next day. Don't write more than 6 items.
2. Arrange the priority of these 6 things according to their actual importance.
3. When you get to work the next day, just focus on the first item. Please work until the item is completed before moving on to the second section.
4. Reach the rest of the work in the same way. At the end of the day, put unfinished things into the list of 6 new items for the next day.
5. Repeat this process in every working day.
The strategy sounds simple but Schwab and his team of executives at the steel company Bethlehem have decided to try it out. After three months, Schwab was extremely pleased with the progress the company had made. He called Lee to his office and wrote him a check worth $ 25,000.
Complexity is often a weakness, because it makes it more difficult to continue the plans
A check worth $ 25,000 written in 1918 is equivalent to a check worth $ 400,000 in 2015.
Ivy Lee's method of giving your to-do-list priority seems silly to the point. How is such a simple thing so valuable? What made it so effective?
Good control of priority order
Ivy Lee's productivity method uses a lot of secrets that I wrote earlier. Specifically, this is why this method has become so effective:
Basically, if you don't commit to something, you'll be distracted by everything.
This method is simple enough to bring real effect. The main criticisms for these methods are that they are "too basic". They do not take into account the problems and nuances in life. What will happen if an emergency occurs? Using the latest technology to get the maximum benefits we can get? In my experience, complexity is often a weakness, because it makes it more difficult to continue the plans. It is true that unexpected emergencies and distractions will arise, but ignore them as much as possible, deal with them when necessary, then return to the prioritized to-do-list as soon as possible. The better. Use simple rules to guide complex behaviors.
This method forces you to make tough decisions.
I do not believe Lee's number of 6 important tasks / day will bring some magic. It can be 5 tasks / day. However, I think there will be miracles when imposing limits on yourself. In my opinion, the best thing to do when you have too many ideas (or suffocated by the amount of work to be done) is to trim them and remove things that aren't really necessary. Constraints will make you better. Lee's method is similar to Warren Buffett's 25-5 rule – requiring you to focus on only 5 critical tasks and ignore everything else. Basically, if you don't commit to something, you'll be distracted by everything.
This method will eliminate contradictions at the beginning.
The biggest barrier to completing most tasks is the starting phase. This strategy is extremely useful to me: As a writer, I can waste three or four hours to consider what I should write in a day. But if I decide from the previous night, I can wake up and start writing right away. This is very simple but effective. At the beginning stage, start-up is equally important as success.
This method requires you to perform a single task. Modern society enjoys multitasking. This concept is often understood as "busy means better work". But the opposite is true. The less priority is, the more effective the job will be. Study world-class experts in most areas such as athletes, artists, scientists, teachers, CEOs – you'll realize they all share a common feature: concentration. The reason is very simple. You cannot perform an optimal task if you always divide the time in 10 different ways. To master, you must focus and be steadfast.