A 100 Year Old Lesson that will lead to Massive Action!
This is the third and final installment of a three part series that is my gift to you as we kick off a great new year. This series includes short, actionable things you can do to really move the needle in 2021. In the first part of the series, we learned what it means to be a “go-giver.” Last week, we focused on bringing your future into clarity, and today we’ll learn how to take massive action to accomplish your goals.
Let's start by asking yourself these questions:
When was the last time you got half way through your day and wondered what you had been doing?
How about procrastinating on that big project while the deadline keeps creeping closer and closer… but you just can’t make yourself get started on it?
Do you ever get to the end of the day and think that you’ve just wasted the whole thing? Or a week that felt the same?
If you’re shaking your head YES to any (or most) of those questions - you’re not alone. You're actually in some pretty good company. To tell you the truth, that was me for a long time.
On the other hand, ask yourself these questions:
Do you know people who just seem to get things done?
If you do, have you ever wondered how in the world they have the time to crank so much out?
Have you ever asked a friend how they find the time to get so much done?
Let me tell you - I get that last question a lot - because apparently I have a reputation for getting things done. Over the years, I’ve developed a knack for getting things done… not just cranking out the work - I’m talking about getting the right things done. It’s one thing to stay busy with a mix of your A, B and C projects - but it’s a different thing altogether to laser focus on the “A” list and just whip it out. (I mean spank it like a newborn baby!)
And because I can do that, lots of people ask me how... and so here, I’m going to share my secret with you.
The Back Story
It all starts with a 100 year old story.
Ivy Ledbetter Lee was born in 1877 near Cedartown, Georgia, a small town northwest of Atlanta, near the Alabama border. He was the son of a Methodist minister, studied at Emory College (now Emory University), and then graduated from Princeton. After college, he worked as a newspaper journalist at the several newspapers in New York City.
In 1905, together with George Parker, he established the nation's third public relations firm, Parker and Lee. The Parker and Lee firm lasted less than four years, but the junior partner, Lee, was to become one of the most influential pioneers in public relations. In fact, Ivy Ledbetter Lee from the early 1900s.
today, he is known as the father of modern (Photographer: Unknown)
public relations. Source
Here’s how forward thinking Lee was. In 1906, after a train wreck in Atlantic City, Lee issued what is often considered to be the very first press release ever written, after persuading the company to disclose information to journalists before they could hear it elsewhere.
In 1912, Lee was hired full-time by the Pennsylvania Railroad and was considered to be the first public relations person placed in an executive-level position. He was a true pioneer in public relations and was known for getting things done. So much, in fact, that he became a highly-respected productivity consultant.
By 1918, Charles M. Schwab was one of the richest men in the world. He was the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which, at that time, was the largest shipbuilder and the second-largest steel producer in America. Famously called a “master hustler” by Thomas Edison, Schwab was constantly seeking an edge over his competition. In his quest to discover better ways to get things done and increase the efficiency of his team, he arranged a meeting with Lee.
When the two men met, Schwab explained his challenge to Lee, who simply said, “Give me 15 minutes with each of your executives and I will teach them how to improve their efficiency.”
“15 minutes?” Schwab questioned. “How much will that cost me?”
The answer was nothing. Nada. Zippo.
Lee said that after 3 months of trying his techniques, Schwab could pay him whatever he thought it was worth. So Lee met with the executives and three months later, Schwab summoned him back to his office. When we arrived, a delighted Schwab handed him a check for $25,000 (the equivalent of about $400,000 today). That was the value that Schwab thought Lee’s advice was worth to his business.
So what is this technique that is worth $400,000 in today’s dollars to one of the richest men in the world? Today, it’s called the Ivy Lee Method - and here’s how it works.
The Ivy Lee Method
STEP 1: At the end of each day, make a list of the 6 most important things you have to accomplish tomorrow. No more than 6, and it must be at the end of the day, while your work is fresh in your mind. Don’t worry about prioritizing them while you’re writing the list, because that comes next.
STEP 2: Next, once you have 6 items, prioritize the list from most important to least. I do this by writing numbers beside each item.
STEP 3: Then, leave the list on the top of your desk so that it will be the first thing you will see the following morning.
STEP 4: As soon as you get to your office the next morning, start immediately on the #1 item on your list, and don’t stop until you cross it off as complete.
STEP 5: Once the first item is completed, move on to the next item and so on until the list is exhausted.
Now, I will admit that it’s rare that I complete the entire list everyday, but it does happen on occasion. If, like me, you get to the end of your day, and there are open items on the list, just move them to the next day and start a new list. No more than 6.
Many people ask me, what happens when I have meetings or other interruptions while I’m working on an item. If the interruption can wait, I finish the item on the list before I handle the interruption. However, if it’s a meeting or an urgent interruption, I'll make an exception. But as soon as I can, I return to the project and finish it so you can cross it off the list.
You might also wonder why it’s important that the list be written at the end of the day rather than the beginning of the day. At the end of your day, your work is still fresh in your mind, and you’ll be more clear about the things that belong on the list.
To be honest, whenever I don’t create the list while it’s fresh in my mind at the end of the day, the following morning I tend to take what I call “a random walk in the woods” and never actually create the list until I’ve done other less important things. By lunchtime, I’m frustrated because I feel like I didn’t get anything done in the morning. So, always make the list at the end of the day, and leave it where it’s the first thing you’ll see in the morning.
Why only 6 items? Six is a manageable number that’s easy to prioritize. And, you won’t be overwhelmed with just 6 things. If you have a list of 20 things, where would you start, and how would you prioritize them? Prioritization is the key. This method forces you to prioritize your work so you will always be working on the most important thing at any given time, and you’ll be less inclined to do things of little or no importance - which I consider to be time wasters.
And that, my friends, is exactly what Ivy Lee taught the executives at Bethlehem Steel, and that’s what Charles Schwab valued at $400,000.
The Bonus Step
Now, I have added a little twist to the Ivy Lee Method to help me stay focused. Just below the last item on the list, I draw a line on the page, leaving room to write a few more things.
Just like you, when I’m working on one project, something else will pop into my head, and if it’s important - something I need to do later - I simply jot it down below the line so I won’t forget it AND I won’t be tempted to do it before the priority items on my list. Many times, these are things that will get added to a list later in the week, or small items I can take care of at the end of the day. This keeps me from being distracted because I’ve written it down and now I won’t be at risk of forgetting to do it later.
I frequently have projects that take me longer than a day to complete. So, for those projects, the real trick is to break them into bite-sized chunks that can be completed in an hour or two. Some large, complex projects are broken into smaller tasks that are completed over several days, and others may be completed in one day as 3 or 4 items on that day’s list.
The Ivy Lee Method may seem a little antiquated in this age of technology - but it just works. It’s simple to do, it forces you to prioritize, and it keeps you on task to getting things done.
So that’s it! That’s how I get things done. I really hope you enjoyed my little gift to you during this holiday season - this 3 part series including lessons on giving, clarifying your future and getting things done!