Back in the days of super-monopolies in the United States, there was a man named Charles Schwab. Born and raised with a hard Roman Catholic work ethic, Schwab eventually rose to prominence and then became the owner of a company named Bethlehem Steel.
The company itself became the second largest steel manufacturer in the United States, and would eventually become the country’s largest ship builder. However, Schwab felt that his company could be even more productive than it already was.
Schwab then turned to a man named Ivy Lee. His method ended up saving Bethesda Steel the equivalent of millions of dollars in today’s money, and netted Ivy himself the equivalent of a half million dollars as well ($25,000 certainly went a lot farther back then). But Lee’s productivity technique is still studied and used all over the world today.
Ivy Lee told Schwab that he wanted to speak to each and every one of the CEOs at Bethlehem Steel for about 15 minutes each. He said that he wanted the company to use his technique for three months before determining whether or not to pay him.
Lee took each of the executives and told them to write down the six most important tasks they wanted to get done the next day, ordered from most important to least important. He then told them not to focus on anything else until the task was completed, only then moving on. Should they finish their tasks, they would come up with six more. Should the tasks not be completed, then they would move on to the next day. And repeat ad infinitum.
How it works: concentration
This technique works for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is because it forces the user to concentrate on the six things that they need to get done. If you have an ordered list, you will have checkpoints to feel as if you are making progress.
Just writing down an infinite amount of random things you need to do will make you feel lost, and you will not really do anything. With this, you will be able to make measurable progress in your tasks
How it works: you start them
A big reason people do not typically do the tasks they set out for themselves is because they are trying to do too much. Because there are only 6 tasks that are pre-ordered according to importance, you already know what it is that you have to do.
This takes out a lot of the guesswork which comes with trying to be productive. You will never be wondering whether or not you are spending your time on the right task. Therefore, you will not try to multitask in order to get multiple things done at one time. When people try to multitask, they more than likely try to do too much, and never really get anywhere in their tasks.
With this system you have a clear picture of what it is you really need to do, and a quick, itemized way of doing it. Additionally, the system allows for emergencies, and is fluid enough to account for changes to your day or schedule.