Do Not Do List

The Do Not Do List is inspired by Tim Ferriss, where we need not only to do more of what’s good and right, but also to remove and lessen the stuff that are not good, distractions and the downright bad from our lives. The original post can be found here, I have reworded and expanded the original to suit my style of writing and thinking more.

“Not-to-do” lists are often more effective than to-do lists for upgrading performance…because what you don’t do allows and determines what you actually can do.

Here are nine stressful and common habits that entrepreneurs, employees and individuals need to eliminate. They are bulleted with a short 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

I usually do not answer calls from unrecognized numbers, simply because

  • I dont like to be interrupted – too much noise nowadays anyway
  • Poor negotiating position so I prefer to get email or Whatsapp where I can read, understand and prepare the best of my ability
  • I’m not that important that I need to make an immediate or impulse decision (even then, even if I’m really really that important, important decisions cannot be made immediately or impulsively anyway)

So I let calls go to voicemail or better still, if it’s important or urgent enough, it will come to be in an email or WhatsApp message where I can then read and reread, understand, clarify and prepare to the best of my ability.

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

Reading and answering emails first thing in the morning just scrambles your priorities and plans for the day; whereas reading and answering emails last thing in the night may just well keep you up at night as it triggers, stimulates and jolts your mind.

Any emails can wait until the next day after 1 PM, after you’ve completed at least one of your critical / vital to do priorities for the day.

3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time

If you call or anyone calls you for a productive / work-related meeting, always asks for a clear objective and agenda with the list of topics and questions or points to cover, and NO meeting should last more than 30 minutes.

Ask for these objectives and agendas in advance so that everyone can best prepare before the meeting and make full and good use of the time together, rather than everyone-wait-for-someone-then-someone-else, which takes a lot of time and makes for poor use of time of a group of people.

4. Do not let people ramble, get them to focus

When it comes to productivity or work or finance related time, please do spend too much time with preliminary small talks of “how are you” or “how’s things going” – keep these to not more than a few minutes or sentences. Go straight then to

  • “What’s up?” or
  • “I’m in the middle of something, but what’s going on?”

A large part of getting priorities and critical stuff done is Get To The Point.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to social or family events – it all depends on the settings and context.

5. Do not check e-mail constantly — batch check at set times

This is the similar to what I had shared above – do not spend to much time on non-important communication work; spend most time on what matters most and do what you do best and on most critical and vital tasks.

You can answer emails once at 1 PM and another once more at 6 PM, and that’s it.

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

I know there is no “clear” path to success, but the most confirmed path to failure is trying to please everyone.

Herein, do an 80/20 analysis on and of your clients to determine:

  • which 20% are producing to 80%+ of profits
  • which 20% are taking 80%+ of my time

Then for the clients who are the loudest and least productive time sucking clients…put them on autopilot by citing a change in company policies – send them an email with new rules as bullet points:

  • number of permissible calls
  • email response time
  • minimum orders
  • etc

Offer to send them to another provider if they cant conform to the new policies.

7. Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize instead

If you do not have a priority and critical to do list, then what happens is then everything seems urgent and important.

Define the most important projects, and the most important 1-3 tasks for the day, and this will be your guiding points – this is the same and inline with my Things That Truly Matter (TTTM) which helps splendidly guide what is important and what isn’t.

Sometimes, this may mean that you have to allow little bad things to happen, such as

  • return a phone call later and apologizing
  • paying a small late fee
  • lose an unreasonable client (this is perfectly okay for me)

to get the large, critical and important things done.

The answer to overwhelm isn’t learning how to spin more plates or doing more, it is really defining the few core things that will fundamentally change you income, business, relationships and life.

8. Do not carry a cellphone 24/7

In fact my phone has been placed on silent mode since 2014 because I’m a clinician, and when I see and treat patients, I do not answer my phone. If I’m in a meeting or with my family, I do not answer my phone…and this habit has stuck.

And I’m perfectly fine with it.

I recommend to take at least a half day off all digital leashes (such as phone, laptop, TV – anything digital) at least once per week. Or a few times.

Leave the phone in the car or home, and go out for a walk.

Leave the phone at home if you go out for dinner.

It’s okay to return that phone call you missed the next day. Same for that email or message or post. It’s really okay you know. Others may work 24/7 and they may expect you to do the same…but why should you?

We’re not presidents of the country therabouts. No one will need us to answer a call or message at 8 PM or 12 AM at night. Yeah, okay, maybe someone was looking for me but I wasn’t able to answer at that time…but what’s the outcome or issue?

Nothing for at least 99% of the time.

And that 1%? It’s fine too.

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

Work is work, and it isn’t all of life.

Your colleagues and co-workers shouldn’t be your only friends.

Please, schedule life and defend that schedule just as how you would an important business meeting.

Don’t say things like “I’ll get it done this weekend” – weekends you can keep for yourself, your loved ones or your side hustle, where it’s something that is outside of regular work. Unless you’re already running a business for yourself, then remember to carve out some time for yourself and your loved ones.

It’s great to focus on getting things done, but remember:

  •  focus on the critical few, get those done, and get out and have a life.
  • sidestep the constant noise, distractions and the lowto-no value tasks and distractions

If you have trouble deciding what to do, just focus on not doing. Different means, same end.

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