A $500k Productivity Hack for Free

The bad news is time flies.
The good news is you’re the pilot.

Michael Altshuler
[3-min read]

In 1918, steel magnate Charles M. Schwab was on a quest for a productivity solution to give his company a leg up on competitors.

He wanted his already high-performing executive team to get even more done.

Enter Ivy Lee, a PR expert and productivity consultant, who promised to revolutionize how Schwab’s team worked.

Confident in his approach, Lee made Schwab an offer he couldn't refuse. “Use my method for 3 months,” Lee said. “After that, pay me what you think it’s worth.”

Intrigued and a bit skeptical, Schwab agreed. He and his team started applying Lee’s simple yet potent method to their daily routines.

The results were nothing short of transformative.

Tasks that used to linger on to-do lists were getting checked off. Projects moved forward at an unprecedented pace.

The leadership team was not just doing more; they were achieving more.

True to his word, Schwab was so impressed that he wrote Ivy Lee a check for $25,000.

In today’s money, that’s the equivalent of a half-million dollars.

The Ivy Lee Method

A century later, the Ivy Lee Method is still one of the most straightforward productivity hacks you can apply immediately.

Here’s how it works:

  1. List Your Tasks: At the end of each workday, jot down 6 crucial tasks you need to get done the next day. The key is to limit the list to 6 items.

  2. Prioritize: Rank your tasks from most important (1) to least (6).

  3. Start at the Top: Begin your day with the first task. Don’t move on to the next task until it’s complete.

  4. Work Down the List: Continue this process for the rest of the tasks.

  5. Roll the Rest Over: Didn’t finish all 6? No worries. Move any leftovers to the next day’s list.

  6. Repeat: Create a new list at the end of the day, and the cycle continues.

Check out this cheat sheet I created for quick reference.

Why it works:

Simplicity: It’s easy to understand and implement, making it more likely you’ll stick with it.

Focus: By limiting your tasks to 6 items and prioritizing them, you focus on what truly matters.

Momentum: Completing tasks in order of importance creates a sense of achievement. It motivates you to continue down the list.

Clarity: Pre-planning your tasks for the day provides a clear roadmap, reducing decision fatigue and procrastination.

Making It Work for You

Here’s an example:

A day in the life of Angela, a business consultant.

Angela juggles client meetings, LinkedIn posts, team management, and strategy planning. She’s swamped and often works late, feeling unproductive.

  1. List Your Tasks: Angela lists 6 tasks for tomorrow:

  • Send proposal to Client A

  • Make team meeting slides

  • Draft a LinkedIn post on leadership

  • Check financial reports

  • Call Client B for updates

  • Plan new marketing strategy

  1. Prioritize: The proposal for Client A is key, so it’s first on the list.

  2. Start at the Top: Angela tackles the proposal first thing in the morning and sends it off.

  3. Work Down the List: Energized by her first win, she makes the slides for the team meeting.

  4. Roll the Rest Over: She completes 4 tasks and moves the last 2 to tomorrow’s list.

  5. Repeat: Her day ends by listing and prioritizing her 6 tasks for the next day.

Results: Angela feels in control and accomplished. She knows what’s next, dodging decision fatigue. Knocking out the first task fuels her to take on more. With the Ivy Lee Method, her long to-do list becomes a focused game plan.

Diving Deeper

If you’re fascinated by productivity hacks, here are 3 high-value resources:

  1. Cal Newport’s book Deep Work is a must-read.

  2. Ali Abdaal’s YouTube channel has 100s of videos with practical tips.

  3. James Clear’s blog shows you how to make productivity a habit.

Connecting the Dots

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a busy parent, or climbing the corporate ladder, the Ivy Lee Method is your ticket to a more focused and productive life.

It’s not just about doing more; it’s about doing what matters.

Until next week, stay productive, my friend.


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