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The Ivy Lee Method: The Ultimate Productivity Tool

Published by Nicolas Straut on
The Ivy Lee Method: The Ultimate Productivity Tool

For those trying to be more productive, to-do lists are often considered a no-brainer solution. They’re quick to write, simple, and help you keep track of what you’ve done and have to do. But few know of a specific to-do list strategy that has stood the test of time for its efficacy in making users more productive: The Ivy Lee method.

What is the Ivy Lee Method?

The Ivy Lee method is a 100-year-old productivity strategy that recommends you write down and complete a list of six tasks a day. By limiting yourself to six items with this method, you can ensure that you don’t overwhelm yourself and that those tasks are completed. Because of its simplicity and effectiveness, the Ivy Lee method has been used by industry titans, entrepreneurs, athletes and other productive people to get more done.

The History of the Ivy Lee Method

Ivy Lee, the namesake and originator of the Ivy Lee method, was a productivity and public relations expert who was well known by magnates like John D. Rockefeller Sr. for his ability to increase the productivity of clients.

In 1918, Charles M. Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel, turned to Ivy Lee, with a referral from Rockefeller, to find ways to increase the productivity of his steel-manufacturing corporation. Lee met with Schwab’s executives for 15 minutes.

Supposedly, Lee didn’t charge Schwab anything for his time. He told Schwab “Unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it's worth to you.”

So what did he recommend exactly?

When Lee met with each executive, he explained his simple routine for productivity:

  • At the end of the day, write down the six most important things you need to get done the following day. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  • Prioritize those six things.
  • The next day, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is complete before moving on to the second one.
  • Repeat this process every day.

Simple enough, right?

Schwab and his team gave it a try. After three months, Schwab called Lee into his office and wrote him a check for $25,000.

Why the Ivy Lee Method works so well

  • It’s six things. So you’re never really biting off more than you can chew. No more endless to-do lists to work through every day.
  • It encourages optimism. With only six things every day, you can look forward to getting all (or most) of the things on your list done.
  • It encourages you to get things done sooner. Because you’ll be thinking about how great it will feel to get all six tasks complete by the end of the day.
  • It’s simple! The simpler the method is, the more likely you’ll be to stick with it.

How to use the Ivy Lee Method

To jump start your productivity with the Ivy Lee method, you could either follow the original steps recommended above by Ivy Lee with a notes app or pen and paper, or you could follow the steps far more easily with the Ivy app.

With Ivy, named after Ivy Lee and his method, you can write down up to six items a day, mark them off as you go along, and track your success rate over time. Plus, if you don’t complete an item, it will carry over the task to the next day automatically.

Become more productive today and download the Ivy app

Ivy is committed to bringing the best productivity software to the world with products that empower everyone to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.


Nicolas is a Brooklyn-based content strategist at Intrepid SEO, a marketing agency. In his free time, he enjoys running, reading, and learning new productivity hacks that will help him accomplish more.

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