The to-do list. Whether yours is ingrained in your memory, constantly added to on your phone, or written on a sticky note beside your keyboard, we all use it in some shape or form. But does it work for you? Your list might be too long and completely intimidating. Or it might be too messy and not easily accessible. Or maybe it’s a muddled mess of work life and personal life. So is it time to throw away the to-do list? Not yet.
FastCompany recently brought to light a 100-year-old to-do list hack that still works today. The Ivy Lee Method can be traced back to 1915, and it was originally taught to corporate America’s execs in an effort to improve productivity. It can be summed up very simply in five steps.
- At the end of the work day, write down the six most important tasks for the next day. Only six.
- Rank the items in order of importance.
- The next morning, focus on the first task exclusively until it is completed.
- Move onto the next most important item. Tackle it. Continue through the list.
- At the end of the day, create a new six-item list and include anything that wasn’t completed today.
That’s it. I know, I know. It’s not rocket science. But it’s a great reminder of a few common productivity pitfalls: procrastination, prioritization, and multitasking. One of the hardest parts about staying productive is simply getting started. And if you’re getting started, you may as well start with the most important task. And when you’re working on the most important task, your mind should be focused on that task exclusively. Incredibly simple advice that — 100 years later — is still worth taking.
Image via Flickr/Vic.