How to Be More Productive

Charles Schwab, a successful steel businessman in the 1920s, struggled with productivity issues within his team. In search of a solution, he enlisted the help of Ivy Lee, a productivity consultant.

Lee provided him with a simple yet effective productivity tip but asked for payment after Charles tried it based on its value: each day, write down the five most important tasks to get done the next day.

These tasks should be ordered from most to least important, and one should only move onto the next task once the previous one is completed, regardless if all tasks are finished within the day.

This method was so successful that Schwab ended up paying Lee $25,000 and called it the most valuable business lesson he had learned. It lead to Charles leading the most successful steel company in the world.

Building on this method, the Pomodoro Technique was introduced. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the technique uses a timer to break work down into intervals of 25 minutes of work separated by short breaks.

To make these methods even more effective, a productivity planner can be used to keep track of daily tasks and evaluate the day’s productivity.


1. Define and Rank Your Priorities

Start by defining your top five tasks for the day, ensuring they align with your overall goals and priorities. Once you have your list, rank these tasks in order of importance. This practice not only helps you visualize your objectives but also clarifies your most crucial tasks, allowing you to tackle the most impactful ones first.

2. Work in Order with Focus

Execute your tasks starting from the highest priority and work your way down the list. Do not move to the next task until you've completed the previous one. This approach prevents multitasking and ensures that you remain concentrated on a single task, avoiding distractions and promoting effective task completion.

3. Use Time Management Techniques

Apply techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique—working in 25-minute sessions with a 5-minute break in between. After four cycles, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This structured work-break pattern helps maintain high concentration levels without risking burnout.

4. Daily and Weekly Evaluations

  • Daily: At the end of each day, gauge your productivity on a scale of 1 to 10. Reflect on your task completion and assess how accurately you estimated task durations.
  • Weekly: Review your achievements, patterns, or shortfalls over the week. Adjust the coming week's strategy based on these insights, ensuring that daily activities continually align with long-term goals.

5. Manage Low Priority Tasks

For tasks consistently on the lower end of your priority list, assess their necessity. Consider eliminating, delegating, or automating tasks that aren't vital or aren't an effective use of your time.

Important Insights:

1. Flexibility and Discipline

Stick to your productivity plan but adjust according to unique circumstances and needs. Recognize that everyone has their pace and approach to work.

2. Importance of Breaks

While it's essential to stay focused, it's equally crucial to take breaks. Refresh your mind between work sessions to sustain productivity levels and prevent burnout.

3. Pre-emptive Planning

Preparing your priority list a day before allows for a clear, objective-driven start to the day.

4. Embrace the Discomfort

There will be times of discomfort during intense focus periods. Learn to sit with this discomfort and push through, honing your ability to remain committed even when challenged.

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