Looking for a way to improve efficiency and get things done? Then check this out.
This was a very unusual selection.
You see, Ivy Lee’s call to fame was not in worker productivity but public relations. He developed some of the most successful public relations campaigns of the day and became an icon in the world of PR. However, that’s who Charles Schwab asked for help.
When Lee entered Schwab’s office, Schwab did not waste any time. He asked Lee directly: “Show me a way to get more things done.”
Lee’s response was to ask Schwab to give him 15 minutes with each of the company’s top executives. But before granting him this permission, Schwab asked Lee, “how much is this going to cost me?”
Lee’s response: “Nothing unless it works. If it does work after three months, you can send me a check for whatever you think it is worth.”
Quick sidebar: This was true Ivy Lee. Often, he did not ask for payment from his PR clients. Instead, if he helped them grow their businesses, he wanted a share of the profits. Risky, yes, but he was confident in himself. He often helped his clients make a fortune, and as they did, so did he.
Now back to our story. During his 15-minute meetings with all the company executives, Lee explained to them how to develop a daily routine that would help them get more things done and determine what they could ignore or turn over to someone else.
Here’s how they could improve efficiency and get more things done:
At the end of the day.
Write down the six most important things that need to be accomplished tomorrow. Do not, he advised them, write down more than six.
Now, prioritize those six items in order of importance.
First task first.
When tomorrow comes, concentrate on the first task. Do not move on to the second task until the first one is completed.
Do the same with the remaining tasks. As one is completed, move on to the next.
If not completed.
If a task is not completed, move it to the next six tasks to be finished on the next day.
Repeat this process every day starting on Sunday of each week.
It seems simple, but none of the executives had any strategy to improve their productivity. So, they stuck with it.
After three months, all the executives reported it had helped them. They were able to get more things done — and completed them with greater efficiency
— than ever before.
Schwab was so impressed that when Lee came back in three months, he wrote him a check for $25,000. That is the equivalent of more than $450,000 today.
In time, what he taught the Bethlehem executives became known as the Ivy Lee Method. When other organizations found out about it, they tried to figure out why it worked so well.
They concluded the greater efficiency was because of the following three key components:
- It promotes planning. Remember, you must list what you need to accomplish the day before.
- The Method requires prioritization. Every task must be prioritized.
- It forces discipline. It requires the employee to complete one task before going on to the next one.
We should add, there are some “hidden” components to the Ivy Lee Method. For instance, it requires that the worker stop multitasking.
Long considered an attribute in today’s workplace, Lee viewed it as a distraction. It prevented the worker from completing the task at hand and often prevented them from completing it as thoroughly as necessary.
In today’s world that would mean eliminating constant email checking and cell phones while performing a task.
Additionally, the method is designed for executives to make tough decisions. There is no putting off decisions. If it is a prioritized task to be completed that day, the decision must be made that day.
The Ivy Lee Method efficiency method is still taught today.
Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions, which PR/Communications and other marketing strategies for B2B industries