How we work at Bottle: 6 Things Methodology

1. Backstory of the 6 Things Methodology

A few years ago, I came across “6 Things,” otherwise known as the Ivy Lee method, while reading an article by James Clear. The legend is that Bethlehem Steel CEO Charles Schwab hired Ivy Lee, a PR and productivity expert, to come help his executives get more done.

Ivy Lee said he’d be happy to help. Schwab asked how much it’d cost. Lee told him to wait three months, and then pay him whatever Schwab thought was fair.

So Lee met with each executive. And this is what he said:

  • Each night, write down 6 things you want to get done the next day.
  • Rank them by level of importance.
  • Focus on the first task. Once completed, move to the next one.
  • Do this every work day.

2. The beautiful tie-in with Process Goals

There are two types of goals. Outcome Goals and Process Goals. Most people set Outcome Goals. “I want to run a marathon.” “I want to save $100,000.” “I want to make the varsity basketball team.”

The problem with Outcome Goals is that they are out of our control. Ultimately, you can’t control bear and bull markets; you can’t prevent the company you work for from going bust. You can’t prevent 10 other basketball players better than you from attending the same school.

But you can control what you do every day. You can control whether or not you wake up and run for 30 minutes every morning. You can control whether or not you shoot free throws for an hour every day. You can control what you choose to focus on at work. 

These are Process Goals. All of our goals at Bottle are process goals. 

The 6 Things Methodology aligns perfectly with Process Goals. You can’t control whether or not you’re the best at your job, whether you can run 26 miles, whether you can save enough to buy a house. But you can control today. You can prioritize the things you need to do today to make this day a successful and complete day.

Over time, getting 6 things done every day will compound. And you’ll put yourself in a position to achieve your Outcome Goals. And that’s the best you can do.

3. Things I’ve found

Creating my list at night is hard. I usually do them first thing in the morning. But, doing them at night is more calming.

The more specific the task, the better. If I feel like I have way more than 6 things, that’s okay. But I’ll choose 6 that absolutely must get done. The smaller the task the better.

For example, programming tasks can be big. Oftentimes, I will make one of my 6 tasks just the very first step in the programming task (writing a test, creating a controller, defining a method). Then, I’ll plan on chipping away at the next step the next day.

A lot of days I fail. I fail to make the list. I fail to complete the list. That’s okay. Try again tomorrow.

Personal tasks are okay to include. Those are important too.

4. Why I like doing 6 things

It provides an actual end to my work day. Ending my work day is important.

It narrows my focus.

The system aligns with the idea of process goals. I can’t focus on outcomes, only the minutiae of the daily day-to-day.

5. How much did Schwab end up paying Lee?

$25,000 (about $400,000 in 2019 dollars)