The Ivy Lee Method - Deepstash
The Ivy Lee Method

The Ivy Lee Method

Rank your work by its true priority with the Ivy Lee Method:

  1. At the end of each work day, write down the 6 most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. 
  2. Prioritize those 6 items  n order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the next one.
  4. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  5. Repeat this process every working day.

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MORE IDEAS FROM How to Prioritize Work: 7 Practical Methods for When "Everything is Important"

Master lists

Capture everything on a Master List and then break it down by monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

  1. Start by making a master list—a document, app, or piece of paper where every current and future task will be stored. 
  2. Once you have all your tasks together, break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
  3. When setting your priorities, try not to get too “task oriented” - you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the more effective work.

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Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy
Cut out “good enough” goals with Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy.
  1. Write down your top 25 goals: life goals, career goals, education goals, or anything else you want to spend your time on.
  2. Circle your top 5 goals on that list.
  3. Finally, any goal you didn’t circle goes on an “avoid at all cost” list. These are the tasks that are seemingly important enough to deserve your attention. But that aren’t moving you towards your long-term priorities.

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Once you’ve prioritized your most important work, it’s time to actually choose how to attack the day.

How you start the day sets the tone for the rest of it. And often, getting a large, hairy, yet important task out of the way first thing gives you momentum, inspiration, and energy to keep moving. 

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The sunk cost fallacy
Humans are especially susceptible to the “sunk cost fallacy”—a psychological effect where we feel compelled to continue doing something just because we’ve already put time and effort into it.

But the reality is that no matter what you spend your time doing, you can never get that time back. And any time spent continuing to work towards the wrong priority is just wasted time.

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Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix is a simple four-quadrant box that answers that helps you separate “urgent” tasks from “important” ones:

  • Urgent and Important: Do these tasks as soon as possible
  • Important, but not urgent: Decide when you’ll do these and schedule it
  • Urgent, but not important: Delegate these tasks to someone else
  • Neither urgent nor important: Drop these from your schedule as soon as possible.

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...means getting more out of the limited time you have each day. It’s one of the cornerstones of productivity and once you know how to properly prioritize, it can help with everything from your time management to work life balance.

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The ABCDE method

Instead of keeping all tasks on a single level of priority, this method offers two or more levels for each task:

  • Go through your list and give every task a letter from A to E (A being the highest priority)
  • For every task that has an A, give it a number which dictates the order you’ll do it in
  • Repeat until all tasks have letters and numbers.

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RELATED IDEA

Accepting that you can't do everything

The antidote to chronic overwhelm is accepting that you cannot do it all.

Prioritizing means embracing the limits of your time and your energy, and taking back control of your to-do list. Embrace tactical strategies to ensure your priorities rise to the top amid the busyness of life.

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  • Task management. This one is most commonly taught and includes systems like Getting Things Done.
  • Knowledge management. This is embodied in systems like productivity educator Tiago Forte's Building a Second Brain.
  • Priority management. Without this category, the first two will fail. You need to have your tasks and resources organized, but also know how to prioritize them.

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It means deciding not to do things you'd really like to do. It also means deciding what's the most important task even when everything on your list feels crucial.

But if you can prioritize until you have only one thing to focus on right now, you can't help but get to work.

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