Using Ivy Lee Method and Pomodoro Technique to Actually Get Stuff Done

In order to have a productive day, it’s important to:

  1. List your priorities.
  2. Work on completing these priorities.

Sounds simple, but can get tricky without the appropriate structure.

Fortunately, there are 2 tools to help you achieve that.

First, the Ivy Lee Method can help you list your most important actions.

And second, the Pomodoro Technique will help you focus on taking action. 

In this article, we’ll discuss each tool so you’ll know how to use each to have a productive day.

The Ivy Lee Method

Ivy Lee is the man who is credited with inventing this simple but powerful productivity method. 

Ivy Lee established the third PR firm in the United States and he was the first to convince large corporations to create PR departments within their firms. He issued the first press release in history and was a long-time publicity expert for the Rockefeller family. Plus, he made the American Red Cross the most popular charity during the First World War. Enough reasons to remember him as the founder of modern public relations.

Nowadays, Ivy Lee is best-known as the creator of the best prioritization method. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, Charles M. Schwab was one of the richest men alive. He was the head of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the second largest steel maker in the United States. However, he always strived to be better and more successful. So, he asked Ivy Lee for a productivity advice.

Lee asked for no more than 15 minutes with each of his executives. And he didn’t ask for any money. He said that he would accept a check only if the method worked.

Three months later, Schwab called Lee into his office. There, on his desk, lay a check for $25,000.

And in case you wondered the amount of Lee’s check in today’s money – just add a 0 and multiply by 2.

That much.

The Method

All you need to do is follow these simple steps:

  1. At the end of each work day, take few minutes to make a list of the most important tasks you need to complete the following day (5-10 min)
  2. Spend some time reviewing the tasks and then rank them in order of importance (1-2 min)
  3. Strike through all tasks numbered seven or lower (1 min)
  4. There you have it: the list of your 6 most important tasks for tomorrow. The “Ivy Lee” list.
  5. When you start working the next day, start immediately from 1. And don’t do anything else until you complete it.
  6. Once that happens, move on to number 2, and so on.
  7. Complete as much of your list as you can. So for example, if you get 4 done today, then tomorrow’s priority is yesterday’s number 5. You will add just 4 new tasks that evening.
  8. Repeat every day.

If Ivy Lee received $500,000 (in today’s value) to teach this simple technique, wouldn’t it help you?

Pomodoro Technique

Ivy Lee’s method concerns prioritization. The Pomodoro technique, on the other hand, is all about tackling procrastination and boosting productivity.

It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It’s named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by him while he was a university student. (“Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato.)

To use this technique, you will need a simple timer. It’s better if its a stand-alone timer (not a phone app, cause it will get you distracted). A standard kitchen timer usually works best.

The Pomodoro technique is very simple:

  1. Select a task from your list.
  2. Set your timer to 25 minutes.
  3. Start working on the task. It’s only 25-minute, so it’s short enough to focus completely. So, don’t distract yourself and don’t pause the timer.
  4. When the timer rings, put a checkmark on your list. (This doesn’t mean that you have completed your task. It only means that you have successfully completed a full “Pomodoro”. That’s how the 25-minute interval is called.)
  5. Take a 5 minute break. Step away from your work and do something unrelated during the break. 
  6. After the break, go back to step 2 and repeat. 
  7. Every 4 “Pomodoros” you can take a longer break of 30-40 minutes.

Build a Habit, Don’t Give Up

Keep in mind that this might take some time to get used to. You’ll need to build a habit of working this way.

So, commit to doing this for the next 2-3 weeks. Then judge the results and leave a comment below.

About Art

I'm a student of time. In particular, I observe how our perception of time affects design, technology, productivity and overall feeling of fulfillment in life. My formal education is in business technology. For the past 15+ years I've been helping business owners launch websites and run digital marketing campaigns.