The 9 Habits to Stop Now — The Not-To-Do List

Advice from American author, entrepreneur, self-proclaimed “human guinea pig”, and public speaker Tim Ferriss

Jun 21, 2017 · 4 min read
Author Tim Ferriss

Not-to-do lists are often more effective than to-do-list for upgrading performance. Why? What you don’t do determines what you can do.

Here are the 9 stressful and common habits that entrepreneurs and office workers should strive to eliminate. It’s recommended to focus on one or two at a time just as you would with high priority to-do items. One or two per day and no more.

  1. Do not answer phone calls from unrecognized or unknown phone numbers. Feel free to surprise others, but don’t be surprised yourself. It results in an unwanted interruption and there’s task switching costs. Going from task to task increases your chances of not finishing the task by 40%. Being surprised will put you in a poor negotiating situation. Let unknown numbers go to voicemail. You could also use an app like freedom.
  2. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night. The former scrambles your priorities and your plans for the day. The latter gives you insomnia. E-mail can wait till 10 am or after you’ve completed at least one of your critical to do items.
  3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda and begin and end time. If the desired outcome for the call or meeting is defined clearly and there’s an agenda listing topics and questions to cover, no meeting or call should last more than 30 mins. Request them in advance so you can quote: “best prepare and make good use of our time together”.
  4. Do not let people ramble. Small talk takes up big time. A big part of getting things done is getting to the point. It’s not a question of whether you have the time to engage in 5 minutes of ‘chit chat’, its whether you can afford the interruption or not. Remind yourself of the task interruption costs.
  5. Do not check e-mail constantly. Batch checking e-mail and check at set times only. Focus on execution of your top to-do’s instead of responding to manufactured emergencies. Set up a strategic autoresponder.
  6. Do not over communicate with low profit, high maintenance customers. “The surest path to failure is trying to please everybody.” Do an 80/20 analysis of your customer base in 2 ways. Which 20% are producing 80% or more of my profits and which 20% are consuming 80% or more of my time. Put the loudest and least productive on autopilot by citing a change in company policy.
  7. Do not work more to fix overwhelm, instead prioritize. If you don’t prioritize everything seems urgent and important. If you define the single most important task for each day, almost nothing seems urgent or important because that one thing is the force multiplier that will render everything else less important or make them all easier. Often times, its simply a matter of letting little bad things happen (like returning a phone call late and apologizing) to get the big important things done. The answer to overwhelm is not spinning more plates but defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life. “If you don’t have time, the truth is you don’t have priorities.”
  8. Do not carry a cell phone or any other digital leash 24/7. Take one day off per week and switch it off or leave it at home or anywhere you cannot get easy access to it.
  9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non work relationships and activities should. Work is not all of life. Schedule life, cool activities and defend it just as you would an important business meeting. To end off you could review Parkinson’s law and force yourself to cram within tight hours so your per hour productivity doesn’t fall through the floor. Focus, get the critical few done and get out. E-mailing all weekend is no way to spending the little time you have on this planet.

It’s very hip to focus on getting things done and there are a million new tools and tricks everyday on a million different websites. However, getting things done truly is only possible one we remove the constant static and distractions. If you are having trouble deciding what to do, just focus on not-to-do list. Different means, same end.

Written by Damin Sahni

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