Productivity consultant, Ivy Lee explained his simple daily routine for achieving peak productivity:
- At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks. Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
- When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task.
- Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
The Ivy Lee Method of prioritizing your to-do list seems stupidly simple.
What makes it so effective? It’s simple enough to actually work.
The primary critique of methods like this one is that they are too basic. They don’t account for all of the complexities and nuances of life. What happens if an emergency pops up? What about using the latest technology to our fullest advantage? In my experience, complexity is often a weakness because it makes it harder to get back on track.
It forces you to make tough decisions.
I don’t believe there is anything magical about Lee’s number of six important tasks per day. It could just as easily be five tasks per day. However, I do think there is something magical about imposing limits upon yourself.
It removes the friction of starting.
The biggest hurdle to finishing most tasks is starting them. (Getting off the couch can be tough, but once you actually start running it is much easier to finish your workout.) Lee’s method forces you to decide on your first task the night before you go to work.
It requires you to single-task.
Modern society loves multi-tasking. The myth of multi-tasking is that being busy is synonymous with being better. The exact opposite is true.
Having fewer priorities leads to better work. Mastery requires focus and consistency.