You Should Copy This 100-Year-Old To-do List Model

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Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Oh, 2016, you with your “cult of productivity” and your many well-intentioned calendars and apps and terrifyingly well-ordered bullet journals. And yet the modern era hardly invented the preoccupation with “getting things done,” nor has it clearly identified the best way one might go about “getting things done.” As Fast Company notes, it might be worth borrowing an idea from a century ago: the Ivy Lee Method. (It’s named after its creator, a big-deal “productivity consultant” at the time.)

And here it is:

1. Before you finish work for the day, jot down the most important things you need to do the very next day. (Lee suggested writing down no more than six.)

2. Order this list from most to least important.

3. In the morning, jump right into the first item, and keep working until it’s done. (In other words: Don’t move on to the next task until the first is done.)

4. If you don’t get to all the items on your list, that’s okay — just bump them to the next day.

The genius of this method is in its simplicity, in that it forces you to identify your most important tasks, thereby shielding you from multitasking and other nonsense that may pop up as the day wears on. Simple and straightforward — no artistic skills necessary.