How throwing her weekly to-do list in the trash helps this executive focus on what's important


Kate Lewis has a lot on her to-do list.

Lewis is chief content officer of Hearst Magazines. The company's portfolio includes 300-plus international editions and more than 25 U.S. print brands, including titles like Harper's Bazaar, Esquire and Marie Claire. Lewis took on the role in August of 2018, becoming only the second person ever to hold the position overseeing all of Hearst's editors-in-chief and digital directors.

To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, Lewis has developed a unique habit. "Once a week I write down everything on my to-do list," Lewis told The Cut in a recent interview. "It's a full page of items in eight-point font, and it's a tremendously overwhelming thing. Then I throw it out.

"I figure whatever I can remember from what I've written down is what I really have to do, and everything else is kind of b------t," Lewis says. "It's so good. For so long I had notebooks and downloaded to-do list apps, and as soon as I wrote everything in there, I was mad. So I was like, okay, I'm going to try a new approach, and this has been very effective for me. If you fall off the list, sorry!"

While executives like billionaire Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson and "Shark Tank" star Barbara Corcoran swear by making to-do lists to stay organized, others echo Lewis' advice, finding different ways to make traditional to-do lists work better for them.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey writes a "do" and "won't do" list every morning, and he says the latter is often more important. Sharing this habit in a tweet in 2018, his "won't do" list included drinking alcohol and writing projects (the work tasks on his daily "won't do" lists eventually get moved up to his "do" list.)

And Lewis' system may not work for everyone, but she tells The Cut that as someone who's good at living with stress, it helps her to get her work done.

"I think stress is part of what makes me optimistic, because stress and excitement are related," Lewis says. "Sometimes stress is just a major downer, but sometimes stress is anticipation — the open door of something new."

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Don't miss: Tony Robbins: A to-do list isn't the best way to achieve your goals—this is

These successful people share how to get more done in your 24-hour day
make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us