Advice Worth $20,000 A Minute

In the early 1900s, Charles M. Schwab (not the financial guru Charles Schwab), Andrew Carnegie’s right-hand man and president of Bethlehem Steel, wanted to increase his efficiency and that of his management team.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. suggested Schwab meet with Ivy Lee, a well-known efficiency expert and his personal consultant. Schwab was extremely busy, and despite his disdain for consultants, decided to schedule Ivy for a 20-minute meeting.

Lee began by asking Schwab to outline his vision for the company. Schwab responded immediately with a clearly articulated vision. Lee then asked Schwab to write down the six most important things he needed to do each day in order to achieve that vision. He then instructed Schwab to complete the tasks from the most important to least important and cross off each item that was completed throughout the day.

At the end of the day, Schwab was to create another prioritized to-do list for the following day. If he wasn’t able to complete a task, he would move it to the top of the list the next day. Lee was done with the meeting in less than 15 minutes.

Schwab responded with, “That’s it? How much do I owe you for this advice?”

Lee told Schwab to try out his advice and then send him a check for what he thought the advice was worth. Several weeks later, Schwab sent Lee a letter thanking him for the most profitable advice he had ever heard, and enclosed a check of $25,000, worth approximately $300,000 today’s dollars! Schwab later went on to build Bethlehem Steel into the largest independent steel company in the nation.

In time-management circles, this prioritized to-do list is called the “Ivy Lee Formula.” This advice can be applied to anyone, try it for yourself.

  1. Clearly define your vision, goals and objectives for your life, business and family.
  2. Create a “Daily Priority To-Do List” on your computer, notepad or smart-phone, whatever works best for you.
  3. Write the top six tasks that you must complete the following day to reach your vision, goals and objectives.
  4. Work through your list throughout the day and cross off the items you completed.
  5. Create another “Daily Priority To-Do List” at the end of each day.

We can’t change the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, but we can effectively manage our time through proactive personal management to gain more time.

Good luck with your prioritized to-do list – and anyone, of course, is welcome to send me a check!

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