NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Productivity Hacks: Prioritize Tasks with the Ivy Lee Method

GettyImages-157742734Welcome back, all you NIFty readers! In the first installment of this productivity series, we tackled the idea of being in motion (being busy without being productive) versus taking action (the direct line to achieving a result). Now that you have a better grasp on what taking action entails, we can dive into the concept of how to set yourself up for success for that action the following day.

Story time! In the early 1900s, a guy by the name of Charles M. Schwab was one of the wealthiest people on earth. Working in the steel industry, he was anecdotally known as a “master hustler” and would never miss an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition. So one day he enlisted the help of Mr. Ivy Lee, a prominent productivity consultant of the time. Schwab wanted to pick his brain to see whether there was any way he and his company could boost productivity and daily output. Ivy Lee responded with a 15-minute solution, and he personally shared it with all executives within the company. And it goes something like this.

The Ivy Lee Method

  1. At the end of each day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow.
  2. Prioritize the six in order of importance.
  3. When you arrive at work, focus on the first task. Work until it is complete.
  4. Tackle the rest of the list in the same fashion.
  5. Rinse and repeat each workday.

The beauty of this technique lies in its simplicity. You can easily adapt it to not only any work day, but also any to-do list you have laying around.

Other Benefits of This Productivity Method

Here are a few other benefits of Ivy Lee:

  • Reduces daily decision fatigue due to prioritizing the night before (see this post about decision fatigue).
  • Trades multitasking for single-tasking. This allows your brain to dive into a “deep work” state, leading to greater focus and productivity overall.
  • Builds constraints on our day to our benefit by fostering commitment to one thing. If we commit to nothing, or rely on “going with the flow,” the brain tends to wander and become distracted more easily.
  • Eliminates the “I have so much to do, I don’t even know where to start” phenomenon.
  • Allows you a chance to self-evaluate. Did I work through these in order? Or did I get derailed?

The Ivy Lee Method has been around for more than 100 years, has helped professionals in a wide array of fields boost productivity, and can be applied to your daily life today. So give it a try tonight! Determine those five or six must-do’s, place them in order of importance, and attack the next day methodically!

Be on the lookout for the next post in my productivity series, where I talk about specific time-chunking methods to bolster your focus.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: work/life balance workplace wellness productivity prioritization Productivity Hacks

Wood Chipper: How to Be More Efficient, Productive, and Successful

GettyImages-455422071I was recently chatting with my brother Tim about work stuff in a conversation filled with multiple shop-talk topics. You see, he is an assistant chief of a pretty large fire department, and we share common goals and challenges when it comes to managing a crew. Needless to say, our conversations can get quite lively and the ideas are always abundant.

Enter the Wood Chipper: Getting Things Done Fast

During this particular conversation he used a phrase that I absolutely loved (and actually told him I will be stealing): he referred to someone he works with as a “Wood Chipper.” If you are like me, you immediately imagine a large piece of wood being thrown into a box filled with super sharp blades and being spit out the other end in a different form—in this case, a million pieces of shredded wood.

Mind you, Tim was using “wood chipper” as a compliment about this person’s ability to get things done, and quickly. The analogy of taking on a task (feeding the wood chipper) and spitting out a completed product quickly, and to the specs that you are given, is a great strategy in being successful in anything that you do. Working at a task with the voracity of a well-oiled wood chipper means that you don’t delay and you take the necessary steps to complete the task using the resources (blades) you have available to you.

5 Strategies to Help Earn the Nickname “The Wood Chipper”

Do you want to be known for speed and efficiency in your life? Here are five strategies for tearing through tasks like a machine.

  • Focus on the most important thing and the most important time: Not all tasks are created equal, and some carry more weight than others. The best first step is focusing on the most important thing that will lead to success in all other steps, or even eliminate them as unnecessary. This prioritization takes some skill to harness, but just like any skill you can train it by making it a habit. Start by asking yourself often “what is the most important thing I can do right now?” Laser focus on the most important thing and the most important time!
  • Tackle the big stuff first: The stuff that scares you should be done first. Don’t get bogged down by the small, tedious tasks that make you feel busy. Being busy is not the same as being productive. Put most of your energy into the big-ticket items right away and you might find that many of those smaller tasks get completed as well, or don’t even matter.
  • Say “No” more: In their best-selling book and popular website, The One Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan discuss the power of the ability to say no and how it leads to greater success. Do you say “yes” to not feel bad? Does saying “yes” take away from family and friends, personal wellness, and rest? We must break the habit of saying “yes” to everything and only saying “yes” to the most important thing. Trust me, it’s okay. Because the bottom line is that not creating boundaries will only lead to more obstacles.
  • Stop trying to multitask: If you agree with the first of these five strategies (not all things are created equal), the idea of multitasking should seem goofy. I believe the old saying goes, “A man who chases two rabbits (it could be bunnies) catches neither.” Simply put, if you attempt to put in equal amounts of effort for all of your “things” at the same time, the result will be equally insufficient. Give all your focus to one thing at a time, complete it, then move on. This is science, people. Research has shown that humans can’t focus on more than one thing at a time, and those who multitask are shown to be less productive. What is the most important thing? Focus on that one thing, and then move on.
  • Get some sleep: This seems a bit out of place considering the other four strategies listed here, but it plays, I think, just as big a role. Create a habit of getting at least 7 to 8 hours a night so that you are fresh to make that decision about what is the most important thing to be focusing on. We have covered the importance of sleep in previous posts, so simply put, IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT! Sleep can effect so many functions we rely on, so create the habit of getting more sleep. Here is one strategy to help create a successful sleep habit: turn off the electronics early and go lie down!

Put a few of these strategies into place and start “wood chipping” your way to success. Focus on one thing, the most important thing, at one time and see how productive you become.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: sleep productivity goals prioritization