Hodu Solutions

Become a productivity monster with the method used by Charles M. Schwab

Use Ivy Lee Method to focus on tasks and max your productivity

Who was Charles M. Schwab?

Charles M. Schwab was a steel magnate who ran Bethlehem Steel Company in Pennsylvania from 1903 until his death in 1939. He started as an engineer under Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills. Through his work, he was promoted often and when he was 35, he became the president of the Carnegie Steel Company. It was the largest producer of steel in the world at that time.

Figure 1 — Andrew Carnegie (Left) and Charles M. Schwab (Right)

Schwab brokered a deal between Andrew Carnegie and J.P Morgan to sell Carnegie Steel. He was famously called “master hustler” by Thomas Edison. He was referred in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. He and his employees used a method suggested by Ivy Lee to increase their productivity by planning to work on one activity at a time.

Ivy Lee Method

Ivy Lee was publicity expert who worked with Rockefeller family. He is a controversial figure when it comes to his associations — he often worked with politicians and rich businessmen. Through his associations he was able to meet many influential people.

Ivy Lee Method is a simple method that you can use to prioritize different areas of your life — work, health and business to achieve results. Before using this method, you need to know your most important goals and objectives. To learn more about prioritizing goals, take a look at Eisenhower Matrix here. Take 15-minutes at the end of each day to write down these tasks.

For example, if you wish to use this method for your work make a list of your tasks. Once you have listed those tasks, use this 6-step process to schedule your routine.

  1. At the end of each workday, list 6 important tasks that you have do the next day.
  2. Rank each task according to its priority.
  3. Next day, start with the work which has the highest rank.
  4. Do not move to the next task before finishing the current task.
  5. Work through them throughout the day.
  6. If you have not completed a task, move it to the 6 tasks for the next day. Repeat.

All it takes is 15-minutes every day. This method trivializes your to-do list. You can use this method to write down your vision, goals and objectives in terms of your health, life and business. Once you have written that you can follow the 6-step process such as the one listed above to achieve a high level of productivity. So, why does it work?

Effectiveness of Ivy Lee Method

It is a simple strategy that works. Once you commit to doing one task at a time, it keeps you away from internal and external distractions

  • Helps you to be consistent in order to achieve your results. You will keep working through the list of priorities day after day. This will get you closer to your work goals.
  • Keeps your focus on a single task. Multi-tasking and life-hacking has been so often used by many people. It does not work. According to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers he explained that experts spent 10,000 hours to master their craft. All of them focused on one task at a time. Remember the Bruce Lee quote — “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”.
  • This method is not complicated. When you learn a new process or a technique, if it is easier to understand you will likely use it. Complex ideas are difficult to grasp, hence difficult to implement.
  • You can start off right away. You will have decided the activity that you will start tomorrow morning a day before. Borrowing the concept from Atomic Habits, this method of starting the activity kicks procrastination out of the door.

Closing thoughts — Flow state and focus

By starting one activity at a time you will be able to retain focus. One-tasking avoids distractions and will help you to be in the flow state.

Using Ivy Lee method, you will work on the most important task the first thing each day. Fewer priorities help to work better and achieve greater results.

Try it out. See if it works. Can you spare 15 minutes of your time every day to plan the next day?

Thank you for reading.


You can follow me on Medium, Twitter and LinkedIn for more updates.

Consulting beyond compare. Advocating for financial literacy. Affinity to invest in areas where it is most needed.