Creating a Limited To-Do List May Improve Worker Productivity

Sep 29, 2015

8499752998_a157318905_kLooking for new ways to boost your productivity levels? Sure you are! The greater your productivity, the more work you can accomplish — and that usually translates into more money for your respective business. While there are dozens of productivity hacks, some of which include eliminating distractions, focusing on a single task, and getting a good night’s sleep, a lesser-known technique for improving worker productivity involves creating a limited to do list.

Rather than creating a long to-do list, try to focus on just a few essential tasks for the day. Limited lists such as this will allow you to concentrate your efforts on the task at hand, and when you finish one task, you can move on to the next. It may sound like a simple concept, but it can prove to be highly useful in boosting your productivity levels. But before we discuss how to create a limited to-do list, let’s first talk about the origins of this technique.

I can’t take credit the limited to-do list, because this idea was actually pioneered by Charles Schwab — yes, the same Charles Schwab who started the financial advisory firm of the same name. In the 1990s, Schwab hired a productivity coach named Ivy Lee to help boost the productivity levels of his Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Lee told Schwab that he should create a limited to-to list for each day. Lee was confident in this technique working that he told Schwab to pay him whatever amount he saw fit after three months.

So, how did the limited to-do list work for Schwab and his company? The results were profound, so Schwab paid Lee $25,000 (the modern-day equivalent of nearly half a million dollars) for his service.

You can follow a similar approach with your daily work activities by creating a limited to-do list. The focus of this list should consist of four to eight tasks, prioritized according to importance. If you have a paper that must be completed within a couple of days, for instance, you should place this at the top of your list, focusing your efforts on it first. Lee’s method involves short, straight-to-the point lists such as this that outline a worker’s daily tasks. Once the workday is over, you should create a new list for tomorrow’s tasks; rinse and repeat the cycle to maintain high productivity levels.

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