Still Works Like A Charm

The ‘Ivy Lee Method’

Quick back story — You should read the full post over here.

I’d like to introduce you to Ivy Lee. He was a pretty stand-up gentleman back in the day.

Ivy Lee — man of stern gazing.

One that both big businesses and tycoons of a past era might have sought for advice. Unsurprisingly, this exact scenario happened back in 1918.

When Charles M. Schwab, one of the richest tycoons in the land tapped Lee on the shoulder. Schwab, in his role as president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, who wanted an edge over the competition.

Lee as a pioneer in the field of public relations, had the following question posed by Schwab “Show me a way to get more things done.”

Lee replied, “Give me 15 minutes with each of your executives,”.

“How much will it cost me?” Schwab asked.

“Nothing,” Lee said. “Unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it’s worth to you.”

The strategy sounded simple, but Schwab and his executive team at Bethlehem Steel gave it a try.

The method they decided to implement was this:

During his 15 minutes with each executive, Lee explained his simple method for achieving peak productivity:

  1. At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  2. Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  4. 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.
  5. Rinse and repeat each day.


Schwab called Lee into his office and wrote him a check for $25,000, such was his delight with the process.

For those of you playing in the modern day. A $25,000 check written in 1918 is equal t0 a $400,000 check today.


Basically, it’s such a simple system that it doesn’t offer any fat. It’s something so simple, it has a hard time breaking.

Secondly, the numbers don’t matter — you could pick two, three or five tasks to do the number is arbitrary.

At the end of the day, it all falls back on the principle of, do that which is most important first. Anything advice outside of that is pretty much fluff.


P.S I’ve been trialling this system for the better part of a week and have so far enjoyed the process. Will update with a comprehensive review once a month has past.