You’re in for two revelations today. The first is that the white parts of the barcode — not the black ones — are actually the areas sending messages back to the scanner. The second is that like those background white barcode lines, the most important list you make today isn’t your “to-do” list — it’s your list of “to-don’ts.”
Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, is a big proponent of this approach. Each morning, he builds a daily “won’t do” checklist. The point of the list is to keep his eye on the prize — and off the deceptively eye-catching but relatively unimportant black barcode lines of work and personal life.
Great Leaders Don’t Have to Do It All to Succeed
Dorsey is hardly the only successful leader whose most important hint about building wealth isn’t what to embrace but what to put off until tomorrow (or maybe the second of never). Warren Buffett is also a firm believer that most to-do lists are saturated with time-wasting tasks. His remedy? Pick only the top couple of items, and forget the rest because they eat up precious minutes.
Suggestions like these hardly fit into the mold of what we think we must do as entrepreneurs. In many cases, they’re the opposite of what we’ve been taught. Still, they make sense. You just need to keep in mind that what you’ve been told will lead to glory probably isn’t as accurate as you assume.
Below are three things to stop doing now before you become so mired in bad behaviors that you fall in love with the first iteration of your product or procrastinate on launching your next big idea.
Don’t: Treat your morning routine as sacred.
You’ve probably heard it 100 times: You need to lay out your day in order to get a fresh start. According to some executives, that advice is baloney. As PropertyGuru co-founder Steve Melhuish noted in an interview with CNBC, he stays flexible to adapt to the unexpected. Taking it a step further, many have said it’s a myth that you need a morning routine to succeed. In the same CNBC piece, Shaul Olmert, CEO of Playbuzz, observed that “structuring a routine is like trying to impose your idea on a world.”
Frightened by the idea of an unstructured day? You can still plan ahead the night before by following a nighttime routine that includes downtime and enough hours for mental and physical rest. Then, get up refreshed with the best of intentions, and tackle one of those few to-do items that matter. You may not achieve much before your first interruption, but that’s OK if you account for potential roadblocks in your schedule.
Don’t: Set forever goals.
Your investors wanted to see a five-year business plan. You delivered. But don’t think it’s written in stone or even ink. Your company’s long-term objectives can — and should — change over the years. Otherwise, you might fall prey to unethical or risky behaviors to meet unrealistic expectations, according to research published by Harvard Business School. Rely on realistic short-term goals to get you to the next goalpost, knowing your final destination will be apt to move many times. (And you may never even get to the “end,” which is still OK.)
To help make sure you’re moving toward realigned objectives, take a lean approach to the plans you have in place. Regularly review them to see whether they still make sense, given your current goals. Very often, you’ll discover that new data needs to be incorporated into the framework, necessitating a pivot.
Don’t: Hold tight to outdated work arrangements.
Who wants to toil in a sardine-can area originally meant to house a few people? Entrepreneurs need to know when the time is ripe to switch up the design of their workplace. To get ahead, you must match your working styles and footprints to match your business’s growth and needs.
Sure, you might get some pushback when you evolve your layout from closed offices to an open concept or add white noise machines and collaborative sit-stand meeting spaces. Jason McCann, founder and CEO of active workspace company Varidesk, advises fellow entrepreneurs to anticipate some naysaying, but to stick to the principle of positive change. “Be firm in expecting your people to at least try new ways of working,” he says, “whether that means sharing a central printer to encourage more walking breaks or turning a private office into a yoga room.”
Take a break from that to-do list for a moment, and spend some time jotting down what you shouldn’t do as a leader. You might just find that the road to your biggest achievements lies not in what you’re tackling, but in what you refuse to do again.