Getting Things Done: The Ivy Lee Method

If, like me, you are easily distracted and often get to the end of a day and feel like you’ve achieved NOTHING (or am I alone?), then you might find this useful.

I spotted it in the Tesco magazine and I’ve been trying to put it into practice for the last week or so*. (It has nothing to do with snowdrops, by the way. Those are just a little touch of Spring, to cheer us all up).

It’s the 100-year-old Ivy Lee Method and apparently it works because it’s simple, saves you time and forces you to make decisions, prioritise and focus. Lee was an American productivity consultant (yes, they had those things a hundred years ago!). The most important thing to remember, is to do your most important task for that day first. This is also known as ‘eating the frog’ (who knew?).

OK, so here’s what you have to do:

In the evening, list 6 achievable tasks you want to do the next day (note, achievable! If you’re too ambitious, you’ll just set yourself up to fail – ahem, I have learned this – so make some of them very small and manageable – a phone call to the bank, for example, or ordering that book you’ve been meaning to buy for ages – so that you get that satisfying buzz when you tick them off your list).

The next morning, start at the top of your list and complete the tasks one by one. The piece I read advised that rather than ‘book a holiday’ (I wish!), be more specific with your tasks, so you might put ‘search for the best places to stay in Majorca’ instead. If we turn that into something more writing-focussed, it might be ‘Draft a blog post’ or ‘Spend 1 hour researching women’s clothing in WW2 for novel’.

The Ivy Lee Method ‘stops you getting distracted by less important tasks and seeing things ticked off a list is very motivating’.

Also, you wake up each morning knowing exactly what you want to get done that day and limiting your list to 6 things means you don’t end up with a crazy, never-ending ‘to do list’. Six things should be achievable.

*I have not yet managed to tick off all 6 items on my list in one day but apparently, that doesn’t matter. Anything that’s left over, will help you to build your list for the next day. Or you can just start again from scratch.

What d’you think? Do you do this already or do you have a better method? Let me know!

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

– Mark Twain

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12 Responses to Getting Things Done: The Ivy Lee Method

  1. says:

    Great advice. My problem with lists is I write them but forget where I put them.

  2. pennywrite says:

    Reminding me: our (late) tabby cat used to catch frogs (they scream horribly!!) and bring them inside for our approval. But he never ate one of them. (He never ate birds either, but that was because he never caught one).
    Yes – it’s good advice – I make Lists, and have learned to keep them short as this works best. But success or failure is usually dependent on whether I subsequently *lose* the vital piece of paper upon which the List is written 🙂

  3. Sharon Boothroyd says:

    To me, this is simply plain common sense. I regularly set myself monthly writing goals and tick them off the list. Then, when I’ve achieved them, I set even more goals!

    • Helen Yendall says:

      You’re more organised than me, then, Sharon! I need shorter-term goals (ie: daily!). Monthly writing goals don’t work for me because I just feel like I’ve got too much time to complete them. I suppose the message is, we’re all different and what works for one, won’t work for someone else.

  4. juliathorley says:

    I know several people who could benefit from this. Not me, obviously. I’m already perfect!

  5. Hilary Tan says:

    I make lists all the time but procrastinate on the big projects that need my attention. I will choose easier tasks over the ones that are most important, because the one that I should be doing is often the most intimidating. This morning, I decided to eat two grumpy frogs first thing in the morning and I finished both of them by 10AM!

    • Well done, Hilary! I bet you felt great, too! Keep it up!

      • Hilary Tan says:

        Thank you so much! Yes, it did give me a bit of a dopamine rush haha 😆I just stumbled upon this method and it seems to be a good antidote to procrastination. My productivity drops significantly in the afternoon and evening, so it makes sense to do things first thing in the morning.

  6. I’m exactly the same, Hilary. I’m much better at getting things done in the mornings. If the day doesn’t start productively, then it’s downhill all the way!

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