Best Time Management Tip Ever?

Andy Britnell

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This is a famous story about the use of time. The details vary but the basics are the same wherever you read it.

In America in the 1930’s, Charles Schwab, the head of Bethlehem Steel, the country’s largest independent steel producer, asked a well-known management consultant, Ivy Lee, for his advice on increasing the company’s efficiency.

The advice was this:

Write down all the tasks you want to do tomorrow, and identify the five most important, listing them in order of priority.

First thing tomorrow morning, start working on the first item and don’t leave it until it is complete or you have gone as far as you can.

Then start on the second item in the same way. If things come up during the day, only deal with them if they are more important than the task you are already working on. If not, add them to your list.

When the top five items have been dealt with, or taken as far as you can, repeat the prioritising process. Don’t worry if you don’t manage to do everything on the list – at least the more important tasks will be completed.

Schwab agreed to ask his managers to put this advice into practice for a month and then pay Lee whatever he felt it was worth.

A month later, Lee received a cheque for $25,000, almost $300,000 in today’s money. Schwab later said that it was the single most useful piece of information he had ever received and he believed it was immensely significant in the success of the company.

I admit I don’t always practise what I preach, but I have tried this and it works!

Andy Britnell specialises in sales and customer service training for both the private and public sectors. Go to and you can sign up for my FREE short monthly newsletter and FREE e-mail coaching.

I coach corporate and SME clients who wish to achieve better results - see


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