Increase Your Efficiency By 50%

Yesterday I shared with you a technique I learned from Earl Nightingale, in his audio program “Lead the Field,” that you can use to move forward towards achieving your goals, rather than getting discouraged and lapsing back into old habits. (If you missed it, you can access it here.)

In that same program, Nightingale tells the story about an efficiency expert by the name of Ivy Lee.

Lee had a meeting with the president of a steel company (who I'll refer to as "Smith" for the purposes of relating the story) who was seeking a way to make his organization more efficient.

Near the start of their meeting Smith told Lee that "we know what we should be doing. Now if you can show me a better way of getting it done, I'll listen to you and pay you anything within reason that you ask."

Lee told Smith he would only need about 20 minutes of his time to increase his productivity by 50%.

Lee handed him a piece of paper and told him to write down the six most important things Smith had to do tomorrow.

After a few minutes, his list was ready.

Then Lee told him to number them in their importance of completion.

After a couple of minutes or so, his tasks were prioritized.

Lee then told Smith to put the piece of paper in his pocket and take it out first thing tomorrow morning.

He told him to start working on his number one task (ignoring the others) and stay with it -- if possible -- till its completion.

Then once number one was completed to do the same thing with his number two task, then his number three task and so on.

Lee advised Smith not to worry if he hadn't finished all the tasks by the end of the day. Just to focus all his attention to doing the best he could at the task at hand.

He told Smith to do this every day, suggesting that by using this simple system he could do up to ten times the amount work in one day as someone who wasn't using a system.

After Smith had used the system for a while, Lee told him to ask his people to try it. Then if productivity increased to send him a cheque for what he felt his suggestion was worth.

The story goes that after a few weeks Smith sent Lee a cheque for $25,000 saying that it was "the most profitable lesson from a money standpoint he'd ever learned in his life.”

It eventually enabled his small steel company to grow to be one of the biggest independent steel producers in the world.

What type of system do you use each day to stay on track? I invite you to share it with me and your fellow readers by posting it in the comments section below.

If you're getting the results you expect, great. If not, why not try Ivy Lee's simple system?
And if you haven’t chosen which path you’re going to take to live the writer’s life, I highly recommend you check out the virtual Work at Home Career Summit, which will be held next Saturday, February 19th starting at noon ET.

During this free event, 8 different work-at-home professionals who are currently living the writer’s life will share with you their chosen path, and give you insights into what they do, how they got started, and what you can expect if you choose the same path.

Rebecca will also be joining the line-up with some tips on how to effectively choose the opportunity that’s right for you.

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Published: February 8, 2011

4 Responses to “Increase Your Efficiency By 50%”

  1. I very much agree with the philosophy of this article. In fact I have been using a software called Simpleology that makes use of these same principles along with others. Simpleology has helped me to define my goals, and increase productivity more than anything else...and I've read much on the subject.


  2. I use Things for Mac, but I still struggle with staying with that one task until completion. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you want and need to do, and then you are pulled this way and that, and never see anything through to satisfaction.

    Because I've been there, I wholeheartedly agree with this article, too. Just need to keep working on implementation!

    Guest (Melanie Grove)

  3. I schedule tasks,when the time is due the tasks become task at hand which must be done.


  4. John, I liked your article on increasing productivity by 50%.

    I think that Earl Nightingale and Ivy Lee should attribute the source of the priority list to the management consultant and guru, Peter Drucker, who recommended this technique to the CEO of GM about 60 years ago.

    Drucker was reportedly paid $25,000 for the recommendation and that was real money back then.


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