Charles Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel, hired a consultant and said to him, “If you’ll show me how I and other top managers in our company can use our time better, I will pay you a fee of whatever you ask within reason.”
The man said, “All right.” He then gave Schwab a blank sheet of paper and said, “I want you to write on this sheet of paper all the important things you need to do tomorrow and list them in order of their priority. As number, one, put the most important thing you should do tomorrow. As number two, put the second most important thing you should do, and so forth. Then when you go into work tomorrow morning, start with the first thing on your list and stick with it until you finish it. Then move on to number two, and so forth. You more than likely will not be able to accomplish all the things on your list in a given day, but you will have accomplished the most important thing on your list or at least made a major effort regarding it. Then tomorrow night, make a new list for the upcoming day. Do this for several weeks and let me know what happens.”
The consultant concluded, “If you find that this plan is working for you, pass on the idea to your managers. And if this is of value to your company as a whole, send me a check for what you think the plan is worth.”
Schwab did as the consultant advised, and he gave the idea to his managers, who also put the plan into action. A few weeks later, Schwab sent his consultant and friend, Ivy Lee, a check for twenty-five thousand dollars. In 1930, that amount was similar to receiving several hundred thousand dollars today.
I learned the power of a list more than 25 years ago when my first supervisor required me to do this very thing every Monday morning. Of all the leadership books I’ve read and conferences I’ve attended, this simple task that takes about 15 minutes to finish each Monday morning, has keep me organized and productive in every area of my life.
So today is Monday and I’m getting ready to make “the list.” The best part is that because I’ve been in my job for almost five years, I have kept every list I have made since August 2005. Each week I can evaluate my timelines for deadlines and evaluate where I’m behind and where I need to focus my attention.
So here’s your leadership tip of the week. Make a list. Look at it often. Evaluate your priorities and accomplish great things. Whether you’re a woman who is a homemaker, an attorney or a lay leader in your church, time is part of your stewardship to the Lord. Be effective.
(story adapted from “Success God’s Way” by Charles Stanley, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000. Page 193)