The New Year’s celebration is one of my favorite holidays. New beginnings can be so hopeful, exciting, and scary all at once. Who doesn’t love a chance to start over?
I like to think that any day is a day to begin again so I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but it can be very motivating to use this time as a marking point for a new goal or for tightening up existing ones.
A goal I shoot for every year is being as productive as possible. I’ve found the number one tool to accomplish this goal is list making. But not just random list making. I use a method based on what’s called the Ivy Lee Method. Ivy Lee was a businessman and productivity expert in the early twentieth century. His method is simple but effective.
THE METHOD: MAKE A LIST
- At the end of each day, write down only six of the most important tasks you wish to complete the following day.
- Prioritize these tasks in order of importance.
- Do one task at a time until all are complete.
- Add unfinished tasks to the next day’s list.
- Do it all again the next day.
MODIFY YOUR LIST
It’s your list so modify it when you need to. I adapt my list by accepting that some days there may be only one big task on my list—like writing a blog post, writing a paper for a class, or getting together tax information at work. Some days I might have 10 or 12 little tasks on the list. For the most part, sticking to writing down 6 items works well.
I also modify the method by accepting that given the type of business I own- a service business where I help answer the phones if needed as well as deal with many issues or problems that must be handled immediately-I may not be able to (and usually don’t) flawlessly transition from one task to the next. An unfinished task may not get added to the next day’s list. I do, however, decide which day (or week) it will work best.
I keep a running list of things I need to do as they come up in my planner so I can add them in on the appropriate day.
WHY IT WORKS
This method works so well for me, like it can for everyone, because it causes me to make a commitment. Basically, if it’s on the list, I’m going to do it. On days that I’ve had several fires to put out or had a lot of interruptions and distractions, my list helps me refocus on accomplishing what needs to get done.
Making the next day’s list at the end of the current day allows me to jump into the next day right away and hit the ground running. After all, the hardest part about anything, even the new day, is often just getting started. This part of the method removes that issue.
Prioritizing the list in order of importance insures that the most pressing items get done first. What a sense of relief when critical tasks are taken care of. It’s not only gratifying, it’s motivating.
It’s a great feeling to be productive and it’s especially rewarding to be consistently productive. Making lists, especially using the Ivy Lee Method (or your own modification of it) is a simple and effective way to achieve a high level of productivity.
Do you use the Ivy Lee Method or a similar approach? How does it work for you?
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