The Ivy Lee Method

Ivy Lee's priority task list: an efficient way to boost your productivity

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The Ivy Lee Method is based on prioritizing your daily tasks and the peculiarity of the method lies in limiting their number to no more than 6 tasks.
The founder of this method is the publicity expert Ivy Lee (July 16, 1877 – November 9, 1934), which is also recognized as the founder of modern public relations.
The method appears to have emerged as a result of the collaboration between his public relations firm Ivy Lee & Associates and Bethlehem Steel Company.

How was created the Ivy Lee Method

The american company was at the time one of the world's largest steel producers and shipbuilders and had invested a lot to increase the production of armor plates used in the building of war vessels. Some problems aroused when the Congress passed a bill authorizing the government to build similar facilities. What Ivy Lee did was to orchestrate a large public relations campaign to stop the government plant as a waste of taxpayer money.

Their collaboration was not limited to this situation. It seems that Charles M. Schwab, the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, was constantly seeking to increase the efficiency of his team. In this regard Ivy Lee was asked for help and the solution offered was prioritizing tasks, exactly what now is known as the Ivy Lee method Apparently, this simple solution is so efficient that Charles M. Schwab referred to it as the most profitable advice he had received.

The basic principles of the Ivy Lee Method

The basic principles and rules of applying the Ivy Lee method are extremely simple. Most probably this is also why the method is very efficient and continues to be applied to this day.
  • Choose 6 tasks that you want to work on
  • Approach them in the established order
  • Finish the already started task and only then start next one
  • Move any unfinished items to the list for the next day
Although at first glance it may seem superficial, let's consider the fact that it had extraordinary results, from the very beginning. Moreover, the fact that those results appeared in one of the largest steel and shipbuilding companies of the 20th century.

Applying the Ivy Lee method step by step

The Ivy Lee method can be applied by anyone and for an increased efficiency the following steps are recommended:
  1. Make a general list in which to write down everything you have to do in order of importance

    Write down in order of their importance all the activities you need or want to carry out in the next period. You consider both short-term and long-term activities. In time, as you come up with ideas, add them all to this list. The balance will be kept because as you work on them they will become completed activities and you will delete them from this list.
  2. Each evening, analyze the list and choose 6 important tasks to perform the next day

    Reserve at the end of each day a few minutes to analyze the general list and make your planning for the next day. Choose from the general list the 6 activities you want to do the next day and plan them in order of importance. If the activities can be divided into several smaller tasks then do so. Includes the amount of time you assign to each task.
  3. Start your day by working on the first planned task in the order of importance

    Respect the planning done the night before and start working on the first planned task. If you do things in the order established one night before, you avoid wasting time in the morning trying to decide what to do first. You know exactly what to do so you can start working right away.
  4. Finish what you are working on and only then start the next one

    First of all you have to finish the activity and only later can you move on to the next one. Do not leave things unfinished because you will have to return to them and resume the work. Thus, you risk wasting precious time juggling between tasks.
  5. If unfinished tasks remain, move them to the list for the next day

    There is also the possibility that the planned activities will take longer than you anticipated, or something unforeseen may occur that will mess up your planning. Even in this case, you continue to follow the planned order and what has not been completed you may reschedule for the next day.
  6. Resume and apply this process daily

    Consistency is one of the factors that positively influence the results you get by applying this method. By working like this daily, you make sure that in time you'll complete all the activities you have proposed.

Related: To-Do List compendium


Benefits of using Ivy Lee method

  • You start your day relaxed, without having to make decisions first thing in the morning, because you have already done this the previous evening
  • You do your activity without stressing because you know both what you have to do at the present moment, and what to do next
  • You work more focused precisely because the method is based on single-tasking and all your attention can be directed to the activity performed
  • It motivates you to keep going because you notice your achievements daily

PlanArty time tracking solution gives you the opportunity to apply the principles of the Ivy Lee method and at the same time offers you more functionalities that can help you improve your efficiency and increase your productivity.


With a well-planned and organized way of working you can have high productivity and you don’t risk feeling overworked. The steps above are within anyone's reach, are easy to apply and have proven efficiency.

Related: Time management and how a time tracking program can help us on this matter



How to recover if you already feeling overworked

If you realize that somehow you are already feeling overworked, you should take immediate action to lower the negative effects and to get back on track.
  • First of all try to take a break, relax and rest. Then start practicing some sport, something that you like and enjoy doing. From the start, this will help you feel better.
  • To make sure you get enough rest, use this Sleep calculator to see how many hours of sleep are recommended for you and in what time interval. It even helps you include an afternoon nap in your program.
  • Then, you may analyze how you work and how you spend your time. To do this, use a time-tracking program. It will help you see what your time management flaws are so that you can take the necessary measures.
  • Rethink how you allocate time on different tasks, plan your activities and keep track of your time so you always have control of your time.
You will work more relaxed knowing exactly what to do both in the present moment and next. This way you will be able to reach your goals and make your business thrive.

PlanArty is a time-tracking solution specially designed for people with a growth mindset, self-employed professionals and small business owners. This means that it provides you with functionalities and tools that help you to use your time efficiently and work with increased productivity.
It even gives you an objective comparison between what you have planned and what you have achieved in terms of time planning.

Other features available in PlanArty: