A PR Guy Invented the To-Do List

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September 7, 2016
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Ivy_Lee WikipediaI’m a big fan of to-do lists.  I’m just not very good at checking things off my to-do list.  My first boss in my first job after graduation was a HUGE fan of to-do lists.  He even provided us with 8½ x 14 pre-printed pads and colored highlighters to ensure we were making and (I assume he hoped) accomplishing those things on the list.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon an article that said Ivy Lee, a pioneer in the public relations industry, “invented” the to-do list.

In 1918, Lee was called in to meet with Charles Schwab, a successful businessman (no relation to the financial guy of the same name).  Seeking a way for his team to be more profitable, Schwab asked Lee for advice.  He offered up the following:

  1. At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  2. Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  4. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  5. Repeat this process every working day.

Seems simple enough, right?  Tackle no more than six tasks a day, from most important to least.  Anything left over at the end of the day is the start of the next day’s list.  Other reasons the author gives for utilizing this method are that by limiting the number of tasks (he isn’t sold on six as the magic number by the way) and prioritizing them you can actually complete the list and feel that all-important sense of accomplishment.  It also forces you to “single-task” vs the “multi-task” mentality that so many of us have.

So if you truly put the most important thing of the day at the top of the list, think how great you’ll feel when you can check that off and move on to the next important thing of the day.

Now where’s my list!

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio


  1. David Landis says:

    Abbie – brilliant advice. I’m getting to work on tomorrow’s list – today! Cheers, David

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