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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

Productivity Hacks: Action vs. Motion—Be Productive Rather Than Busy

GettyImages-534040654How many times have you looked back at a day and thought, “Man, I wish I would’ve been more productive,” while your to-do list seems to grow and grow. Or maybe you feel like you were crossing a lot of things off the list, but no meaningful work was actually accomplished? In my experience, it’s almost a weekly occurrence. I feel like I’m flying around at work, checking off boxes. But then I get to the end of my day, scan back through, and realize that I didn’t actually work on any of the big jobs that I had originally intended. Its days like these that made me want to begin a blog series that attacks the idea of productivity: what it actually is, where our pitfalls lie, and how we can improve on it to get more out of each day.

So What Is Productivity?

In the words of the eloquent Julie Andrews, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. What the heck is productivity? We throw around the term all the time. But what it actually entails is the efficiency a person has when it comes to completing a task. It actually has nothing to do with how many tasks you get done in a day. And I think that’s where many of us miss the boat a little bit. We get so caught up in the trap of being in motion and thinking that we’re being productive as a result. Being busy is not being productive. If anything, sometimes it detracts from it. And I get it; sometimes our jobs require little tasks like answering emails, structuring your schedule, and other daily logistical to-do’s. But they shouldn’t be the things taking up the bulk of your working hours.

Taking Action: Process Goals

This leads into the concept of taking action versus just being in motion. Taking action is the direct line to achieving a result. Sometimes in the biz, we can even describe this as a process goal. It’s a physical step you’re taking toward accomplishing a task or goal. For example, if you need to write a report for work (or in my case, write this post), an action would be to physically sit down and start hammering out the intro—put pen to paper. With that same example, being in motion would look more like reading various articles, doing excessive research because you feel you’re not ready to start, or maybe even doing something completely unrelated like immediately checking emails when you sit down in your office.

This same concept of action versus motion can be seen outside of work in goal setting, too. Let’s say you want to make weightlifting part of your exercise routine. You want to get stronger and healthier, and maybe even train for a powerlifting meet! Being in motion would be to start reading books about training, reading articles written by coaches, or setting up a physical meeting with a coach to talk about where to start. Now, some of these are steps that can absolutely be taken along the way to being productive in the form of starting a resistance training plan. But that’s the thing; they shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing. Sooner or later, you’ll need to jump in, take action, and start lifting. Getting too preoccupied in the planning stages, waiting until you feel ready, often stalls you to the point of not actually starting in the first place. Sometimes you’ll never truly feel ready. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start. Don’t delay; choose action over motion when push comes to shove.

How You Can Take Action Now

Here are some tips for getting started.

  • The smaller the task, the sooner the start. Don’t get caught in the storm of overplanning prior to starting.
  • If it’s a big project, set up meetings and set some deadlines. Yes, planning will absolutely be a part in larger tasks. Break it up piecemeal style and have the action take the form of you accomplishing a critical branch of the project. You should also have a clear-cut vision of what your next step entails.
  • When in doubt, just get started. Get started even if it’s not perfect—in fact, especially if it’s not perfect.

So whether it’s a task on the docket at work, or a personal goal you have set for yourself, you can start to become aware of when you’re stuck in the endless loop of motion. For some projects, especially bigger ones, there will be necessary checkpoints and planning along the way that would be considered motion. But don’t let that take over and be the only thing that’s happening. Take action. Get started. And in the words of legendary basketball coach John Wooden, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

Be on the lookout for the next installment of the productivity series where I’ll tackle the topic of the Ivy Lee Method: how to set yourself up for success the following day!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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: productivity goals wellness take action be productive hacks Productivity Hacks