Leadership

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey writes a 'won't do' list every morning — and you should, too

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, Chairman of Twitter and a founder of both, holds an event in London on November 20, 2014.
Justin Tallis | AFP | Getty Images
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, Chairman of Twitter and a founder of both, holds an event in London on November 20, 2014.

A productive day isn't just about what you will do, but also what you won't do. That's why Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square and Twitter, lists out what he will and won't do at the start of each day.

Dorsey shared the strategy in a recent tweet. On that particular day, Dorsey listed some priorities. He decided he would meditate, read the bestselling non-fiction book "Winners Take All," consider Twitter's metrics and write his notes regarding the dining experience for users of Caviar, the delivery platform Square bought in 2014.

His "won't do" list included drinking alcohol (for Sober October, a cancer awareness challenge) and making a decision on an initiative labeled "#fast team initiatives."

Commented Dorsey: "Every morning I write a checklist of work I intend to do today, and work I won't do today," explaining that he's more "focused on more strategic efforts rather than calendar stuff."

He added that the "won't do" section of his list is checked out before he goes to sleep. Eventually, many of these items are moved into a "do" list.

"To-do" lists can often get a bad rap since they don't "distinguish between urgent and important," noted bestselling author Kevin Kruse and author of "15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management."

These lists also don't often acknowledge other tasks and activities that can compete for your time. As a result, "to do" lists don't always mirror the decisions you need to make in a given day to move forward on key priorities.

Dorsey's morning checklists show he's deliberate and mindful about what he will and won't work on, helping him take control and better organize his day. In fact, ruling out the unimportant tasks is often essential for boosting productivity.

"The "won't do" list is often more important than the "do" list. Setting the intention to deliberately not work on something gives me clearer space to think and work, and be less reactive," tweeted Dorsey.

Dorsey has talked about his "won't do" lists several times in the past decade, including during a speech at Y Combinator Startup School in 2013. The "won't do" list he shared during that talk included being late, avoiding eye contact and setting expectations he couldn't meet.

Many items on the list have become part of a routine for the billionaire CEO. As Dorsey explained, "some items stay on the lists for days/weeks/months, some I want to make sure I do every day."

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