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The Six List: The $25,000 Piece of Advice


Guest post from Sarah Mae of

“Before you eat the elephant, make sure you 
know what parts you want to eat.

Todd Stocker, Refined: Turning Pain into Purpose

The line through my handwritten words makes me smile.

Another thing checked off my list. It feels good. I love accomplishing my goals. My list for today? Just six things:

  1. Spend time in the Word.
  2. Put Caroline’s ballet outfits out so they are ready for her practice recital.
  3. Add stories to each devotional I’m working on.
  4. Straighten up the house.
  5. Have a breakfast plan ready for the morning (Sunday).
  6. Read to my kids.

Six simple things.

Oh yes, there is more to my day, and this day in particular—a Saturday—is a writing day for me. But with all the things that call to me for attention, if I can accomplish those six things, I will go to bed with a mind at rest.

Only Six Things

I used to be a Mary Kay lady. It’s true — lipstick, red jacket, tights, and all! And I have to say, I’m thankful for my Mary Kay days because of one very important piece of information I was introduced to: The Six Most Important Things List.

The “Six List” originated during the 1920s when a public relations expert by the name of Ivy Lee approached Charles Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel, with a proposition: If Lee could have a few minutes with each executive of Schwab’s company, he promised that their productivity would increase.

When Schwab asked how much this secret formula was going to set him back, Lee said it would cost nothing up front. But if the strategy worked after three months, Schwab could pay Lee what he thought it was worth. Schwab agreed.

When Lee met with the executives individually, he gave each person simple instructions—before leaving the office at the end of the day, make a list of the six most important things to do the next day, in order of importance, completing them as time permitted. Well, it worked. The Six List secret worked so well that Schwab wrote out a check to Lee for $25,000 (this during a time when an average worker made just under $600 a year)!

The Six List secret can work for you too!
 It is so very simple.
 Every night before bed write down the top six things, in order, that you need to accomplish the next day (no more than six). Then, go systematically through the list, completing the tasks in order, crossing out each thing as you go.

That’s it. That’s the secret.

The story goes that when Schwab sent Lee the check, he also included a note saying the advice was the most profitable business lesson he had ever learned. I bet it is just as profitable in other ways for us homemakers.

Want to give it a try?

Sarah Mae has a past that would be her present if it weren’t for Jesus. His wild saving grace and gentle leading keep her in awe. She is the author of the new book, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way: 31 Days to a Clean House and a Satisfied Soul.

Sarah and her family make their home in the beautiful Amish countryside of Pennsylvania where she often ponders what life would be like if she actually finished all the laundry. You can find her writing at

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