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

“Not-to-do” lists are often more effective than to-do lists for upgrading performance.

The reason is simple: what you don’t do determines what you can do.

Here are nine stressful and common habits that entrepreneurs and office workers should strive to eliminate. The bullets are followed by more detailed descriptions.

Focus on one or two at a time, just as you would with high-priority to-do items. I’ve worded them in no-to-do action form:

1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers

Let it go to voicemail, and consider using a service like GrandCentral (you can listen to people leaving voicemail) or Simulscribe(receive voicemails as e-mail).

2. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night

E-mail can wait until 10 a.m., 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 or end time

Request them in advance so you “can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”

4. Do not let people ramble

5. Do not check e-mail constantly — “batch” and check at set times only

6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers

Do an 80/20 analysis of your customer base in two ways–which 20% are producing 80%+ of my profit, and which 20% are consuming 80%+ of my time?

Then put the loudest and least productive on autopilot by citing a change in company policies. Send them an e-mail with new rules as bullet points: number of permissible phone calls, e-mail response time, minimum orders, etc.

Offer to point them to another provider if they can’t conform to the new policies.

7. Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize

The answer to overwhelm is not spinning more plates — or doing more — it’s defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life.

8. Do not carry a smartphone 24/7

So what if you return a phone call an hour later or the next morning? As one reader put it to a miffed co-worker who worked 24/7 and expected the same: “I’m not the president of the US. No one should need me at 8pm at night. OK, you didn’t get a hold of me. But what bad happened?”

The answer? Nothing.

9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

Never tell yourself “I’ll just get it done this weekend.” Review Parkinson’s Law in 4HWW 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 spend the little time you have on this planet.

It’s hip to focus on getting things done, but it’s only possible once we remove the constant static and distraction. If you have trouble deciding what to do, just focus on not doing. Different means, same end.

This post originally appeared on my blog.

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Author of 5 #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers, investor (FB, Uber, Twitter, 50+ more: http://angel.co/tim ), host of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast (300M+ downloads)

Author of 5 #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers, investor (FB, Uber, Twitter, 50+ more: http://angel.co/tim ), host of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast (300M+ downloads)