The List of Tasks




steel founder munitions
output take over efficiency
urgent evaluate within reason
assure proceed stick to it
task priority responsibility
matter diffuse count (3)
trivial essential figure out
boring tedious sidetrack
put off grueling miscellaneous
agenda overall contribute
worth process and so forth
profit profitable check (2)


Charles Michael Schwab

Charles Michael Schwab (1862-1939) was a leading American industrialist.

He began his career as an engineer with the Carnegie Company. He rose rapidly and became a founder and president of the United States Steel Corporation.

Later he took control of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and directed its growth in shipbuilding, munitions, and allied fields.

Today Schwab’s name lives on as one of the leading investment houses.

Some Advice

As president of Bethlehem Steel, Schwab wanted to improve his and his managers’ productivity, efficiency and output.

So he turned to Ivy Lee, a management consultant, for advice.

“Show me a way to get more things done. If it works, I’ll pay you anything within reason.”

The List

Lee handed Schwab a piece of paper, and instructed him to write down all the things he had to do for the following day. Schwab did as he was told.

“Now look these items and evaluate them. Number them according to their real importance,” said Lee.

In other words, Schwab was to put a ‘1’ next to the most important task, a ‘2’ next to the second most important task, and so on.” He did that as well.

Number One

Lee then said that the FIRST thing tomorrow morning, start working on item Number One on his list. And stick with it until it was completed.

“You must not do anything else until you finish Task Number One.…unless of course, something more urgent came up.”

Only then should he move on to number two. And when he started on item number two, work on that until that is completed. Then proceed to number three in the same manner, and so forth.

Too Many Tasks

Schwab felt concerned that, with so many responsibilities, he’d never be able to finish everything on his list, or even a few items.

But Lee reassured Schwab. Even if at the end of the day, he couldn’t complete everything on his list — or even just one — not to worry.

Priority Management

What mattered was that Schwab completed or at least worked on the most important tasks, the ones that counted the most and produced the greatest results, on a daily basis, rather than diffusing his time and energy on less important, often trivial, items or running around trying to figure out what to do.

Trivial and Miscellaneous

This is the case for many people. They may not be aware of the most important thing that they have to do.

Or even if they did, the most essential tasks are usually also the most difficult…the most tedious…the most grueling…the most boring.

For this reason, people often put off doing them. Instead they get sidetracked and work on easy, miscellaneous tasks — but those that do not contribute much to the overall agenda. They may even not have to be done.

The Trial

After Schwab understood this process, Lee advised him to follow this priority management system every working day. “Test it as long as you like…and then pay me whatever you think this idea is worth,” said Lee.

In a few weeks Ivy Lee received a check signed by Charles M. Schwab — for $25,000 (or about $250,000 in today’s value).

Schwab later said that this was the most profitable lesson he had ever learned in his business career.

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1/2. Charles Schwab was an ordinary businessman. True or false??

1/3. Did he feel that everything in his company was running (operating) smoothly?

1/100. And so schwab told his employees to work harder and harder. Is this right or wrong?

What did Ivy Lee advise Schwab to do? What was Ivy Lee’s advice to Schwab?

3/4. If someone managed to finish only the first job on a prioritized list of tasks, is that a failure? Which is better, completing task number one or completing tasks number two, three, four, five and six?

3/10. Only Schwab followed this technique. Is this correct or incorrect/

4/5. Did Schwab like this idea? Was he satisfied with its outcome? Why was he satisfied, or or why wasn’t he satisfied?
5/8. Have you heard of this or a similar technique?

What are some of your everyday tasks?

What are the two or three most important tasks?

Does everyone in your school, company or organization do this?

What would happen if everyone in a company made and stuck to a list of prioritized tasks?

Can the same be applied to other aspects of life?


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