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The Ivy Lee Productivity Method

I am fascinated by ways to increase my productivity at work and at home. I like to search the Web for methods or techniques, and I love to try them out. I was intrigued by the Ivy Lee Productivity Method. In my research, it said that this method is very simple and can be adapted to most workplace environments.

Here’s how it works. My work week starts on Monday, but you can start on any workday.

  1. On Sunday, write down the six most important tasks to do on Monday.
  2. Assign numbers from 1 to 6 to each task (1 is the most important task).
  3. On Monday, start with task 1. When you are done task 1, proceed to task 2. Do not start task 2 before you are done task 1. Continue doing your tasks, one at a time, throughout your day.
  4. At the end of the day, write another set of six tasks for the following day.
  5. Do the same every day for the rest of the work week.

Here’s what I thought I would write in this blog.

“The Ivy lee productivity method was excellent for me because I focused on the right tasks and remained consistent. What I noticed is that I focused on my six tasks and completed other tasks that required immediate attention. I liked this method because it helped me prioritize my tasks. It allowed me to make decisions the day before, reducing decision fatigue. Finally, I enjoyed this method’s simplicity. I noticed that I reduced my stress level and overall was much happier. I felt more productive and, thus, was proud of myself. Will I use this method again? Absolutely!”

Pfff! Not at all what I expected! Here’s what actually happened this week.

  • Day 0 – Sunday: I wrote down all the tasks that I wanted to do during the week. I counted 52 tasks. Then I chose the six most important tasks and numbered them in order of priority.
  • Day 1 - Monday: I arrived at work at 7 a.m. I started my first task. “This is easy. I can do this.” So I thought. By 9 o’clock, staff and students are at school. I barely have time to do task 2. Instead, I added another 12 tasks and managed to do four of them. By 3 p.m., things quiet down a bit and I try to finish task 3. I have not even started tasks 4, 5 and 6. So, at 5 p.m., I rewrite tasks 4, 5 and 6 (they become tasks 1, 2 and 3). Then, I add three more for Tuesday.
  • Day 2 - Tuesday: I started the day well by doing a few tasks that were numbered. I finished tasks 1, 2, 3 and 4 today. Plus, I added another eight tasks on my overall list. I was able to write down six tasks for Wednesday.
  • Day 3 – Wednesday: I did task 1 when I got to work. Then, I spent the rest of the day promoting our school’s programs and services in the community. I did not have a chance to choose my six tasks for Thursday, but I added many more to my overall list.
  • Day 4 – Thursday: We had an open house at work. It was a great event, but I had interruptions and distractions all day. I did not complete any of my tasks on my list, and I did not have a chance to choose my six tasks for Friday.
  • Day 5 – Friday: Finally! I was able to scratch some tasks off my list. However, I didn’t care about numbered tasks or priorities, I was just trying to do as many tasks as possible before the weekend.

Throughout the week, I kept adding tasks to my list. By 5 o’clock Friday, I counted 103 tasks. In total, I completed 25 tasks that were written on my list. I completed many, many more that didn’t get the privilege to be on my list. These were tasks that required immediate attention after a phone call, an email, or a meeting with a teacher or a student.

Overall, I don’t think my work environment allows me to use the Ivy Lee Productivity Method. There are simply too many interruptions in a school during the day. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the challenge. I think that if I worked from home or had a different role to play at work, I might be able to complete my six chosen tasks every day.

Do I recommend this technique? Absolutely! The Ivy Lee Productivity Method forced me to prioritize all my tasks and to finish one task before starting the next. And I still managed to complete 25 tasks. That’s an A+ in my books.