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

Blissful doggy smiling with eyes closed and paws raised.

This is how the world felt before Crackberries. (LeoLuigi)

“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

Feel free to surprise others, but don’t be surprised. It just results in unwanted interruption and poor negotiating position. 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

The former scrambles your priorities and plans for the day, and the latter just gives you insomnia. E-mail can wait until 10am, 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

If the desired outcome is defined clearly with a stated objective and agenda listing topics/questions to cover, no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. Request them in advance so you “can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”

4. Do not let people ramble

Forget “how’s it going?” when someone calls you. Stick with “what’s up?” or “I’m in the middle of getting something out, but what’s going on?” A big part of GTD is GTP — Getting To the Point.

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

I belabor this point enough. Get off the cocaine pellet dispenser and focus on execution of your top to-do’s instead of responding to manufactured emergencies. Set up a strategic autoresponder and check twice or thrice daily.

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

There is no sure path to success, but the surest path to failure is trying to please everyone. 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

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. Oftentimes, it’s just a matter of letting little bad things happen (return a phone call late and apologize, pay a small late fee, lose an unreasonable customer, etc.) to get the big important things done. 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 cellphone or Crackberry 24/7

Take at least one day off of digital leashes per week. Turn them off or, better still, leave them in the garage or in the car. I do this on at least Saturday, and I recommend you leave the phone at home if you go out for dinner. 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

Work is not all of life. Your co-workers shouldn’t be your only friends. Schedule life and defend it just as you would an important business meeting. Never tell yourself “I’ll just get it done this weekend.” Review Parkinson’s Law in The 4-Hour Workweek 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.

What other no-no’s would you add to the list?

###

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply to Early Riser Cancel reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

371 Replies to “The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now”

  1. I read this suggestion from you 2 years ago and I’m finally doing it today.

    Ugh!

    I’ve being working on it for 15 minutes and I already feel more powerful.

    Ahh!

    Yes, I should have done this earlier. Yes, I’m glad I’m doing it now.

  2. Great suggestion, Robert, about creating a shortcut to send an email without opening the client!

    I use a task launcher to start programs (“Launchy”) without touching the mouse, so I went a step further with the prompting of your idea.

    I created the shortcut as you said, named it, “Email”, placed it in a folder somewhere named “Shortcuts”, added the folder to task launcher, pressed the button to rebuild the Launchy catolog (of programs and links), and voila!

    Now when I [press together] “Alt” “Space” [then type each letter] email [then press] “Enter” my compose email window opens.

    Of course, I can use this to launch any file on my computer! So if there’s an important spreadsheet or text file on my computer where I take notes or whatever, or say even a telephone script, I can launch it just that way.

    Thank you for the tip!

    Venkat,

    I agree with you that most online list managers are too complicated to be practical with how people’s brains work. Remember The Milk, for example, is a lovely program, but I never remembered where everything is quickly and easily (it’s all probably very logical, but not necessarily where I would have placed it), so I never stuck with it.

    Your list program certainly is visually appealing although i haven’t worked with it. So I can’t say whether it’s good or bad, but, philosophically… you’re bang on.

    The one I use (and I’m just making a suggestion: I’m not an affiliate if they even have affiliates) is GQueues.

    GQueues is light, fast, and just awesome. I really like it.

    The developer is adding new functionality at breakneck speed, but it’s still simple. It actually works for me.

    The Lite version (no cost) does everything I want it to do. It even includes a Google Gadget so on my Google Calendar I can see upcoming tasks.

    If a person wants even tighter integration with Google Calendar (so tasks with deadlines show on GCal), the ability to collaborate with others, and on and on and on, there is a Pro version for only 25 bucks a year with volume discounts available.

    I almost want to buy the pro version to support the developer for being so responsive to my and others’ requests during the building of the app.

    One problem, though! The Lite version really does do everything I need at this time.

    I think it’s awesome and Google should buy out this company. Failing that, it’s still awesome and I wish the developer enormous success attracting customers.

    This combined with a hybrid of GTD and 80/20 has supported me in working how I want to.

    I think it’s better than paper, frankly, because things can be quickly moved around with shortcuts or mouse… and it’s colourful. It looks good.

    Although I DO use a Levenger Slim Wallet Writer with Walleninp pen for my daily, prioritized, to do list. (I also don’t make a penny from them: I’m a full-price paying customer.)

    I love it because it’s small. I can put it in my front or back jeans pocket easily, shorts, whatever.

    Basically it holds business cards… but has a clipboard type area so you can write notes on.

    It is absolutely PERFECT for meeting people and sharing contact details.

    I like too that the paper is big enough to write my most important tasks (and a few others) for the day, but small enough to force me to prioritize… as Tim said to do in his book.

    Sure, you could use a folded piece of paper like Tim and that’s fine. But mine is monogrammed and gets more compliments — plus it’s just as simple and can even hold a few business cards, in addition to the blank cards I use to take notes/write daily prioritized to do’s.

    Okay, seriously none of this is spam because I don’t make a dime off it. I’m just suggesting you productivity and simplicity-minded folks consider checking it out.

    Moving forward, I altered and added to Tim’s list to create my personal “Action Not” list:

    1) Do not check email until near the end of the work day

    2) Do not check email nor social networking more than once a day — “batch” and check once only

    3) Do not engage with people who are not worth my time

    4) Do not consume media outside of my 4 primary areas and fiction

    5) Do not eat unhealthful foods nor drink unhealthful beverages

    6) Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers

    7) Do not agree to meetings nor calls with no clear agenda nor end time

    8) Do not let people ramble… unless wanting rapport or even more with them and this is helping in some way

    9) Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers

    10) Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize

    11) Do not leave a mobile nor phone on 24/7

    12) Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

    13) Do not leave instant messager(s) on

    14) Do not instant message for the sake of instant messaging — use it for building rapport with friends, family, and other loved ones; setting up events; web camming (get your mind out of the gutter, people!); calling; and texting

    15) Do not leave comments on articles nor videos nor audios unless it’s designed to move the ball down the field in a game I choose to play

    16) Do not automatically say yes — the default position is no

    17) Do not procrastinate when should be having fun — “Just do it!”

    18) Do not read sent messages unless reusing them for a template — read them *before* sending if at all

    19) Do not plan when I should do — some things take a [expletive adjective] lot longer to plan than to do

    20) Do not do when I can profitably delegate

    21) Do not generally stay “up-to-date” on anything — instead catch up when I have and/or want to as opposed to keeping up because I feel obligated

    Several of you in addition to Tim helped me create ideas for my list. Thank you one and all for participating in this discussion! And, yes, I believe this did move the ball down the field in a game I care about.

  3. Attention Blog Moderator / Tim Ferriss:

    Can you please NOT allow my previous comment to pass through moderation?

    I pressed send too soon. I corrected typos and wanted to send a different version through, but copied and pasted the wrong version.

    So can you PLEASE delete that long comment?

    THANK YOU!

    Please delete this too, obviously.

    In a moment, I will send through the correct version. Please publish that one.

  4. Great suggestion, Robert, about creating a shortcut to send an email without opening the client!

    I use a task launcher to start programs (“Launchy”) without touching the mouse, so I went a step further with the prompting of your idea.

    I created the shortcut as you said, named it, “Email”, placed it in a folder somewhere named “Shortcuts”, added the folder to task launcher, pressed the button to rebuild the Launchy catolog (of programs and links), and voila!

    Now when I [press together] “Alt” “Space” [then type each letter] email [then press] “Enter” my compose email window opens.

    Of course, I can use this to launch any file on my computer! So if there’s an important spreadsheet or text file on my computer where I take notes or whatever, or say even a telephone script, I can launch it just that way.

    Thank you for the tip!

    Venkat,

    I agree with you that most online list managers are too complicated to be practical with how people’s brains work. Remember The Milk, for example, is a lovely program, but I never remembered where everything is quickly and easily (it’s all probably very logical, but not necessarily where I would have placed it), so I never stuck with it.

    Your list program certainly is visually appealing although I haven’t worked with it. So I can’t say whether it’s good or bad, but, philosophically… you’re bang on.

    The one I use (and I’m just making a suggestion: I’m not an affiliate if they even have affiliates) is GQueues.

    GQueues is light, fast, and just awesome. I really like it.

    The developer is adding new functionality at breakneck speed, but it’s still simple. It actually works for me.

    The Lite version (no cost) does everything I want it to do. It even includes a Google Gadget so on my Google Calendar I can see upcoming tasks.

    If a person wants even tighter integration with Google Calendar (so tasks with deadlines show on GCal), the ability to collaborate with others, and on and on and on, there is a Pro version for only 25 bucks a year with volume discounts available.

    I almost want to buy the Pro version to support the developer for being so responsive to my and others’ requests during the building of the app.

    One problem, though! The Lite version really does do everything I need at this time.

    I think it’s awesome and Google should buy out this company. Failing that, it’s still awesome and I wish the developer enormous success attracting customers.

    This combined with a hybrid of GTD and 80/20 is profoundly supporting my life.

    I think GQueues is better than paper because things can be quickly moved around with shortcuts or mouse… and it’s colourful: It looks good. (However not as great as you, ladies.)

    Although I DO use paper — a Levenger Slim Wallet Writer with “Wallentini” pen — for my daily, prioritized, to do list. I also don’t make a penny from them: I’m a full-price paying customer.

    I love it because it’s small. I can put it in my front or back jeans pocket easily, shorts, whatever.

    Basically it holds business cards… but has a clipboard type area so you can write notes on.

    It is absolutely PERFECT for meeting people and sharing contact details. This could be great for trade shows, meeting potential sales mates, sales opportunities, friends, or all of the above.

    I like too that the paper is big enough to write my most important tasks (and a few others) for the day, but small enough to force me to prioritize… as Tim said to do in his book.

    Sure, you could use a folded piece of paper like Tim and that’s fine. But mine is monogrammed and gets more compliments — plus it’s just as simple and can even hold a few business cards, in addition to the blank cards I use to take notes/write daily prioritized to dos.

    Levenger is also famous for producing the Pocket Briefcase: It’s essentially the same as the one I have, but instead of 2″ x 3.5″ business cards, it holds 3″ x 5″ recipe-size cards.

    As for nomenclature for my daily list, what works for me is to draw a circle to the left of the item:

    O

    … and if it’s an appointment which MUST be done at a specific time, then I completely fill in the circle making it a solid disc, and I write the time to the right of the event description.

    However, if it’s one of my few non-time-bound 80/20 tasks I’ve decided must get done that day, I put a dot in the middle of the circle.

    Other tasks remain with just an open circle.

    During the day, I check them off when completed.

    Okay, seriously none of this is spam because I don’t make a dime off of either of these companies. I’m simply suggesting you productivity and simplicity-minded folks consider checking it out.

    Moving forward, I altered and added to Tim’s list to create my personal “Action Not” list:

    1) Do not check email until near the end of the work day

    2) Do not check email nor social networking more than once a day — “batch” and check once only

    3) Do not engage with people who are not worth my time

    4) Do not consume media outside of my 4 primary areas and fiction

    5) Do not eat unhealthful foods nor drink unhealthful beverages

    6) Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers

    7) Do not agree to meetings nor calls with no clear agenda nor end time

    8) Do not let people ramble… unless wanting rapport or even more with them and this is helping in some way

    9) Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers

    10) Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize

    11) Do not leave a mobile nor phone on 24/7

    12) Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

    13) Do not leave instant messager(s) on

    14) Do not instant message for the sake of instant messaging — use it for building rapport with friends, family, and other loved ones; setting up events; web camming (get your mind out of the gutter, people!); calling; and texting

    15) Do not leave comments on articles nor videos nor audios unless it’s designed to move the ball down the field in a game I choose to play

    16) Do not automatically say yes — the default position is no

    17) Do not procrastinate when should be having fun — “Just do it!”

    18) Do not read sent messages unless reusing them for a template — read them *before* sending if at all

    19) Do not plan when I should do — some things take a [expletive adjective] lot longer to plan than to do

    20) Do not do when I can profitably delegate

    21) Do not generally stay “up-to-date” on anything — instead catch up when I have and/or want to as opposed to keeping up because I feel obligated

    Several of you in addition to Tim helped me create ideas for this list. Thank you one and all for participating in this discussion! And, yes, I believe this did move the ball down the field in a game I care about.

  5. Hi Team,

    Truly it’s one of the best things i ever read about not to do.

    I appreciate your effort to write such wonderful blogs.

    Thank you,

    Anand

  6. I like this post. I am guilty of checking my email constantly.

    How much time do you spend checking your email only to find nothing relevant there?

  7. I thought this post was really great – I’m usually guilty of a “To-Do” list that never gets done, but I’m full of “Not-To-Do’s” all the time! Really helpful tips.

  8. It took me awhile to say “i can but i won’t do that” due to the fear of losing clients… but then i realized, am i doing this in favor to them or myself… it seems like the more i put them in priority (as should) the more they abuse you and squeeze you as to what they can get… but the yes you were right… the low paying clients are the high maintenance ones.

  9. That’s a good list – google voice is not available in the uk yet but I use a BT service that emails any voicemail left on the office number as an mp3 that can be picked up on the mobile. As I am not in the office much this is really useful. This works much better than wasting time having to dial into the voicemail box number only to find no messages.

  10. Hi Tim,

    How about ‘timeboxing’ i.e. setting aside a period of time at a particular time of the day to batch together small admin jobs that need doing but you have been putting off.

    Gets a load off your mind…

  11. Well, I think that another thing you should not do is clean your own house. Unless, of coarse, your just a cleaning fanatic and really love cleaning. I know that it really makes my day to be able to come home to a nice clean and fresh smelling house everyday that I did not have to clean. Lets face it, it just brings about a certain comfort to live in a cleanly manner. But, it can be quite a task to do all your daily activities and set aside time to clean your house, too. It just makes life so much better when you don’t have to do it yourself. And it is even better when your house stays clean and you don’t do it yourself. So I suggest also, to get somebody else to do your cleaning for you.

  12. #2 and #5 are time wasters of my day-to-day living. If I will not set my priorities and stick to the plan for the day, I maybe checking emails every now and then. Thanks for sharing the advice. I learn my lesson now.

  13. 10. Do not fill time with activity for the sake of activity. Lost internet access for most of last week. I found I got a lot more thinking done in those few days than when I am being busy.

    11. Don’t waste time on people that are a waste of time. Some people just hit on your girlfriends, steal your food, ask for favors, etc. These are not people that you should let be around you. Sometimes I feel like I should run the other way if I see these sorts of people coming towards me. Most people are cool, but some just cause damage.

  14. Hi Tim,

    This was an awsome blog dude, i really liked it. There are few people in this world who can think out of the box.

    Great Article, really making me out.

  15. Don’t do “reply all”….(is there a way to remove this button from the Outlook menu bar?). Use basic business common sense….reply only TO those that need to TAKE ACTION, and if someone needs to be informed (no action needed), just cc them. We all know about the horrific stories of people who mistakenly hit the reply all button….so, the added bonus is that you will avoid those nightmare experiences. An added double bonus: other’s will secretly thank you for reducing inbox clutter, and time they spend having to read/scan meaningless/unnecessary e-mails. The world will be a better place.

    Don’t watch TV….Turn off completely….or better yet, donate/leave on the curbside for trash pickup. I admit I have not done this yet, but I have done a 30-day straight complete cold turkey tv switch-off. A couple of times. This is the number 1 time-wasting activity at home, without much intellectual payback to speak of. Yes, the family will complain…but you get a lot more stuff done, and spend time together outside in the yard, or inside playing board games or just simply relaxing reading a book or two. Keep working on the family….:) If you crave the news, sports, weather, read the paper or go online for 30 minutes a day, and get your “fix”. Or turn on the radio to a news station.

    Don’t have lunch…once or twice a week….IF your health permits it. Tons of people do this, I have done it myself; great way to reduce “snack” distraction, and interruptions to productivity. If you really need to take a break, go outside for a 10 minute walk: you’ll return refreshed, and ready to take on more “work”, and would have had time to think about whatever is on your mind, without distractions. All bonuses!

  16. One thing I have done for a while to save time is not to email / call customers with bad news in the middle of the day if it can be helped.

    I simply send it at the latest point in the day – 4:59pm or 5:59pm as I walk out of the door.

    This gives the customer the evening to calm down and respond – saving ranting phone calls which waste time but don’t move things forward.

    Agreed this isn’t the best approach for serious issues but for minor niggles its a great way to minimize time wasted to rambling complaint conversations which go nowhere.

  17. I agree 100% with the no electronics rule. I try to find a day during the week where I can go out for the day with no cell phone. Or, if i’m hiking it will be with me but turned off just for safety sake. Sometimes I’ll take a digital sabbatical and totally disappear for a few days to week.

    For example, this weekend I have 3 days off. I’ll be heading down to the Redwood National Forest for some great camping and photography. I won’t be turning on my cell phone once. I will have my laptop but only to download my photos onto and it will not be connecting to the internet.

    Everyone needs to spend more time with their friends and family with out interruptions by our phones and email boxes.

  18. Great advice. Can I also recommend it worth reading world famous author David Allen – Getting Things Done – which is sometimes better know as GTD it covers many of the points made here in marginally more detail.

  19. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Such a great concept and YET so darn hard to implement.

    People just won’t do it!!

    It’s just too hard for people to decide what is more important to them.

    They’d rather just decide to do everything and be miserable than actually decrease their work load.

    I think we have to devise way in which we let the people know that it’s not always about the number of things that you get done in a day, it’s more about the quality of works you get done in a day.

    It’s especially hard for people locked down into companies where the infrastructure of the working environment doest not allow for the worker to have any flexibility.

    People would be twice as productive, if working environments weren’t so rigid and serious.

  20. I find these 2 tips to be very true and is working towards a lesser work hours week. Thanks alot for the good tips

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

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

  21. The email and the cell phone are huge. I’ve ditched the cell phone. I use Google Voice for my business. I’m still having major problems with email checking every five seconds.

  22. This is an excellent and important list that I strive to use with one exception.

    I don’t necessarily agree with #4:

    ” Do not let people ramble. Forget “how’s it going?” when someone calls you. Stick with “what’s up?” or “I’m in the middle of getting something out, but what’s going on?” A big part of GTD is GTP — Getting To the Point.”

    I agree it is important not to let people ramble. Nonetheless, I think a quick “how’s it going” – and actually listening to the answer – is an important way to build trust and camaraderie among colleagues. I don’t want to work anywhere this does not exist. And if it takes a few extra minutes to check in with folks, then I am okay with that.

    A recent Randstad Work Watch study showed stronger relationships increased teamwork by 69% and led to a 50% increase in knowledge sharing and communication. This work, along with others, show with overwhelming evidence, that the most effective way to achieve a more fulfilling personal and professional life is by being in healthy relationships. It is pretty hard to create that at work if you never make time to talk to your colleagues about anything except work.

    That doesn’t mean it is okay to let folks ramble and waste time, but it does mean that there are times when some chatter about non-work related things can lead to higher productivity down the road. Ignoring this is frightfully North American and could give others the impression that you are a jerk. Who wants to collaborate and share knowledge and information with a jerk?

    Anyhow, thanks again for the list – it is very good, but I think #4 just needs to be more nuanced.

    As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

  23. Hey there have read both book, and I remember seeing some customer service responses templates. Can anyone help me find those again I of course can not seem to relocate them

    Thanks

  24. This applies mostly to work at home Email marketers. I think this one basic thought could relate to a lot of common scenario’s.

    “Don’t try to do it all yourself!”

    There is a world of low cost, if not free, help to be found out there in the form of “Virtual Interns.” This can free up more creative time for the small business owner and entrepreneur by having interns do the repetitious and mundane tasks. More info at: http://www.vivifyllc.com/yourvirtualinterns/

  25. This is really great Tim. To the point. I love how you cut to the chase. Sometimes I find that it is not easy for me to stop the ones that are rambling.

    But I am growing, and finding ways that fits me and am doing that.

    I just had some quality time with a friend of mine today. She expressed how she loves doing thing through her black berry when she’s on the go, and I expressed the exact opposite, when I am on the go I want to be present with what I do. I don’t want to read emails and brows on the internet. I want to see people and smile or connect with them, look at the trees, notice the birds etc.

    There are usually no urgent things as you mentioned in the 4 hour workweek. and if there are, I will be found.

    🙂

    Thanks.

    Sigal Zoldan

    Clinical Hypnotherapist & Master Results Coach

  26. Those are all great tips!

    In my entrepreneurship class, our professors were talking about emails, cell phones, and blackberries, and how such devices/things distract you from what you are supposed to be doing.

    I agree with the email part especially. I feel the need to have to check emails at least 5 times a day, although now it’s down to 3.

    Great list!!!

    Aviva

  27. LOVE THIS! I started working as a freelance copywriter a little over two years ago. Right now, I am working for a client that runs a mattress review site. I have really struggled with figuring out how to set boundaries in my work but still make enough to support my family. My current client is great. No random emails asking for last minute stuff or unexpected requests. Would love clients like this all the time. I have learned to let go of the ones that are insanely demanding. Now, I just need to learn how to prioritize and set my schedule. And the emailing early and late…sooooo true!

  28. I have heard other people mention saying “No” to meetings that don’t have an agenda or purpose. My question is how can you do that if the person calling the meetings is your boss? My boss will send me vague emails asking for appointments where all he tells me is the day and time and no other information. Some are random check in meetings but some have been surprise meetings that I would have preferred to plan for… How do you handle these kind of situations?

  29. Very solid info Tim! Thanks for sharing!

    The best of all, I like habit 7. If I keep myself busy doing things, it is going to stress me out. Instead, if I prioritize all activities within my project, I am happy, because I know some of the most important things are completed.

    Here’s an article about why to do lists do not work for some folks, and what to do about them: http://doubletimetoday.com/get-organized/why-are-to-do-lists-counter-productive/

  30. Hi Tim

    Nice list. have to agree with many of them, especially the point about getting rid of the cell phone. It forces people to find an alternative and acts as a filter against people who wont think for themselves. Plus the biggest bonus assuming you dont tape your cell calls … its all down on paper and avoid any confusion. Thanks again for the list I will take note of a few of the others mentioned in the comments.

  31. Love this list! I’m constantly trying to find a way to stop running for not much gain. My family are the reason i’m doing this but it seems i lose the very time i have with them when i’m working. I’m listening to the 4HWW on itunes and am loving it, parkinsons law all the way!

  32. One more thing. In my opinion that there are numerous travel insurance web pages of respected companies that allow you enter a trip details and find you the quotations. You can also purchase the particular international travel cover policy on the internet by using your own credit card. All you have to do would be to enter your own travel information and you can be aware of the plans side-by-side. Just find the plan that suits your budget and needs then use your credit card to buy it. Travel insurance online is a good way to do investigation for a trustworthy company for international travel cover. Thanks for giving your ideas.

  33. Love the one about turning off the Crackberry once a week. I have actually resisted even getting any type of smart phone so far. I figure that my work is on the computer and I have access to it at least 8 hours a day, but usually more so there’s really no need to have access to my email when I’m out. It can wait.

  34. I have another good one – don’t do things for others that they can do for themselves. I am a Product Manager, and I constantly get requests from Sales for information that they could easily look up themselves on the web, or to write docs that they should be writing, etc. Teach a man to fish and he eats for life, but give a fish and he only eats for a day. It may seem easier to just do something for someone, but if you do, you are setting a precedent that will ultimately mean you will HAVE to labor over email all weekend.

  35. I definitely agree about leaving the phone at home. I currently live in Hong Kong and everyone is addicted to their smart phones. I’ve always been very bad at multitasking (meaning, texting and walking, having a serious conversation and walking) or even hearing my phone ring. People seem to get annoyed that I don’t answer my phone, but it saves me a lot of trouble, and in the end, like you said, nothing bad happens.

    To my personal to do list I have also added not to always say yes, people just expect you to say yes to everything they ask for and take it for granted.

  36. You can also purchase the particular international travel cover policy on the internet by using your own credit card. All you have to do would be to enter your own travel information and you can be aware of the plans side-by-side. Just find the plan that suits your budget and needs then use your credit card to buy it. Travel insurance online is a good way to do investigation for a trustworthy company for international travel cover. Thanks for giving your ideas…..

  37. This piece of writing offers clear idea designed for the

    new visitors of blogging, that in fact how to do blogging

    and site-building.

  38. Hi Tim,

    My name is Jessica I am the editor at “Lifestyle For Men Magazine”

    the reason for me commenting is I am looking for approval to use this blog post in our magazines business section.

    Please contact me and I can give you more details and answer some questions for you 🙂

    Best

    Jessica

  39. I am using 4-Hour Body. Amazing, thank you. Really. Have lost 30 pounds over the last 18 months.

    Can you apply your wisdom and insights to the issue of identifying tried and true, useful, reliable, non-med-oriented, self-help strategies to combat mental illness ?

    I think your particular approach on this broad subject would be well received and constructive.

    Thank you.

    M

  40. But, if I stop doing these time-filling tasks, what will I fill my time with?

    Today: Spontaneous tea party with the kids, acting as stuffy French butler. Delivered 15 bite-sized courses to a couple of rowdy high tippers.

    After a few months of better utilizing my time to rapidly grow my business:

    Spending a month driving up the West Coast, from SoCal to Vancouver with the whole family. Can’t wait. These aren’t tips, they’re life changers. Thanks!

  41. I love #2 and #9. I’m always checking my emails first thing in the morning or on my phone and it really does slow down my productivity in those critical hours now that i think about it.

    I really need to work on #9 and really pinpoint my focus on my tasks. Being a college student, it’s hard to stay focused when the subject material is as boring as watching grass grow. Oh well, gotta get better!

  42. Great list! Another not-to-do: Do not keep talking about what someone did to you that you didn’t like. Either ask for what you want, set a boundary or let it go. This will save time and make you happier.

  43. Hi guys!

    I am a new business owner and would love any tips on how to promote my business. I have read Tim’s book and have already gotten a bunch of awesome ideas, I’ve got to say that purchasing it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

    I’ve been a personal trainer in Canada for almost a decade and moved to Brazil a year ago. I’m living in a small town where my dad and I opened an English school that has been steadily growing in a short period of time. Now that I have helped my dad get things started, I want to continue to follow my passion and take my services to Rio. There is a huge potential for both personal training clients as well as clients who need to learn English (especially with the World Cup and Olympics being hosted in the city within the next couple of years.) I’ve also noticed that Brazilians pay a ton of money to learn English in the most ineffective way possible. They can do up to 6 years of schooling and graduate without knowing how to speak the language at all! The focus is grammar and little emphasis is done on conversational English. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a methodology that has been proven to work and hope to use it in Rio and offer a service where results are actually guaranteed.

    Once I get to Rio, I see endless possibilities on what my company can offer: English in company, personal training in English, Fitness classes for foreigners in hotels, etc.

    I was wondering more in terms of marketing since I don’t know too many people in the city and have extremely limited funds to spend on advertising.

    Any help would be extremely appreciated!!

    Thanks in advance,

    Mariana 🙂

  44. Great tips you got there. For me, real estate is a tough industry and your tips nailed them completely. Bookmarked on this and definitely coming back for more! Of course, keep up the good work too.

  45. I would add to the list – social media on mobile.

    Most of social media (think instagram, facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc) is actually rendered much better in a full desktop browser (remember facebook’s first lousy attempt at mobile?), and the mobile experiences all have some sort of limited functionality.

    But….that isn’t the most important point. Like Tim’s email perspective, I have the same for social media – delete the apps off of your phone, and you won’t be trapped by that addicting “+1” that you see hovering over every app, letting you know that there is something that demands your attention.

    Amazing how much less you even need to check your phone when you don’t have constant beeps, vibrates, etc calling your attention away from whatever you are supposed to be doing (we all know multi-tasking is BS by now – yes, even for WOMEN).

    So, delete mobile apps….and then you’ll only waste time on these sites when YOU decide to check them….on your desktop.

    -Derek

  46. Rule 4: GTP, yes, but never at the expense of being nice and thoughtful. There are way too many pumped up alpha males in the world of work. It pays to be nice, always.

  47. Great information, This is true that to upgrade our performance the “Not to do” list is more powerful that “to do list”. Checking email continuously become very distracting when we work on some important projects. When I eliminated this habit there was a drastic change in my work life. Thanks for sharing your tips:)

  48. Do not smack your users with a popup asking if they want to join your mailing list, especially not on an article about “habits to stop now”.

  49. I especially like the part addressing the cost and energy from the mind to leave a productive state on a project and switch tasks when interrupted.

  50. Don’t take any wooden nickles. Just kidding. But I’ve never understood the relevance of that saying. Or quite what it means. I’m guessing at some point in history people attempted to use wooden nickles and it turned out be a bad idea. There’s a blog. Historic relevance to old sayings. On Tim Tim talk talk

  51. I take a cell phone whenever I leave the house, not so I can receive calls, but so that if there’s an emergency, I can make calls. Like if my car breaks down, I want to be able to call for a tow truck. If I’m talking to a friend or some such and the phone rings, I pull it out and look at the caller ID. If it’s not one of my kids, the police department, or the hospital (who may be calling about one of my ids), I turn it off and put it away. I figure that if it’s important, they’ll leave a message.

  52. Do not think about work after work hours. Be disciplined. As soon as you catch yourself doing it, redirect your thoughts.

  53. This hit me between the eyes this morning. I left corporate last year and wish I had this post around then. However I have flailed around since then and seem to take so long to get things done these days. Thanks for your simple and wise words.

  54. A great blog post showing what things should not be done. However, I disagree quite a bit with number 4.

    “Do not let people ramble”

    Sometimes, building relationships with the client requires small talk. it starts the communication pattern with talking about something trivial and then going on towards the meat of the problem. That is, talking about something else before going into the main reason may be a bit helpful in building rapport.

  55. Do not check in to facebook more than 3 times a day more than 10 minutes each. This will be my not to do list to improve the quality of life.

  56. One thing I would add to this list:

    Only spend time with people who deserve your time. Stay away from energy sucking, rumor spreading co-workers. Who wants to be associated with that?

  57. 10. Don’t waste time on hobbies or personal interests if they stop being fun/educational/meaningful for any reason.

    11. Set strict limits for how much time you spend on “time sink” websites (e.g., Twitter, Digg, favorite blogs)

    12. Don’t waste a moment of your life arguing with trolls on the Internet

    13. Don’t do anything that seriously compromises your health or prevents you from taking care of yourself.

  58. Caveat to #8: If you are a parent of children, you will likely need to be get-in-touchable all the time you are away from them (including out at dinner). But you don’t need to answer the phone unless it’s from the person watching your children (or you child if s/he is older).

  59. I love this list. My most recent addition is, “Never read the comments.” No matter what post or article I may read, I don’t read comments. The majority of people who comment tend to be negative, and I prefer positive energy. Of course, I just commented, so I won’t be reading it after it posts. 🙂

  60. I love the idea of batching emails and have implemented this recently. It had an improved on my productivity and ability to focus and complete tasks. I am also better at responding to emails vs. opening email reading it and forgetting to respond. However, my out of office definitely became a topic of discussion among my colleagues and I am still getting a by of flak about it – all in good fun. Aside from that, the hardest thing about the switch is trying to obey by the rules myself and only focusing on emails during that time. I guess email addiction is no different than any other and will take time to overcome.

  61. Do not respond to emails that are not sent directly to you. Set up a separate folder that deposits cc.’d email to it and check it separately for informational purposes.

  62. When my boss sends me an email and I don’t respond right away, she’ll text me with “Did you get my email?”

    1. I have clients do this. I’ll text back an hour later or so “No I’ll check email after 2pm and respond” May not be able to do this with a boss but there are subtle ways to “train” them 🙂

  63. Hi 🙂

    My name’s Harsh and I’m a college student, really intent on maximizing productivity to make time for my myriad interests which include debating, content writing and engineering. However, I’ve noticed – not only with me but with others around me as well – that we often need to take out a fixed slab of time every day to “chill.” And by “chilling”, I mean watching TV, eating sugary products like Oreos and generally being unhealthy and unproductive. My question it – how do I break out of this cycle? How do I work so that even when I want to take a break, I’m not abusing my health or my mind? Are there ways to achieve self-growth even when we take a break?

    I think this is important because it’s a barrier to achieving maximum productivity, so I’d really, really appreciate it if you could answer. Thank you 🙂