How Can I Be More Productive? The Not-To-Do List


Tim Ferriss, author of the The 4-Hour Work Week, has published a great list of 9 Not-To-Do’s in an article titled The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now. I thought this was a really great read for anyone trying to increase the productivity in their life. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below:

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).

I’m a bit of a phone hater anyway, so this one rang (pun intended) especially true for me. One of my best friends was known for looking at the phone and seeing a number that he didn’t recognize and not answering. He’d then say, “Sorry, you did not authenticate.” I like that. Of course I actually take this one step further. Even if I recognize the number but it is not a convenient time for me to talk at that particular time I won’t answer. If you need to convey something to me then leave a voice mail and I’ll try to get back to you when I’m not right in the middle of something (dinner, trying to meet a deadline, etc).

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.

Umm… hello? This one should be painfully obvious, but in real life it is usually not practiced. Why? Well there is a saying that the squeaky wheel gets oiled (or something like that). If you raise enough of a fuss then most people will respond in some fashion just to get you to shut up. I’ve worked places that actually practiced this when making business decisions. Not a good idea. Prioritize your clients/customers and keep the ones that make you the most money.

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—doing more—it’s defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life.

This is one area that I’ve picked to work on in my personal life. It is especially bad in my case when it comes to my online activities and blogging. It is so easy to get distracted by all of the little things that you “should” do to promote a blog. I often get so far down some of those paths that I forget the single most important aspect of blogging… content.

If you liked any of these Not-To-Do tips then please go check out the original article. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂