A “Not-To-Do” List for Boosting Productivity

Denise Caron-Quinn

Busy professionals and homeowners often find solace and guidance in creating task lists. However, it is equally important to consider having a “not-to-do” list. I enjoy reading the blog of Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week. His book is somewhat controversial and he is as well. Regardless of how one views Ferris, I think that we can obtain relevant insights from what he has to say. For instance, the 80/20 Pareto principle that he advocates can be employed in analyzing the utility of many endeavors, both professionally and personally. “Not-to-do” lists are often more effective than to-do lists for upgrading performance. Ferris feels the reason is simple: what you don’t do determines what you can do.

Here are nine habits that Tim suggests we stop doing now. To understand his rationale for each you’ll have to read his post.  Whether or not you agree with these views they should provide some good food for thought.

  1. Don’t answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers. Let it go to voicemail.
  2. Don’t e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  3. Don’t agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time.
  4. Don’t permit people ramble. Redirect the conversation to stay on point.
  5. Don’t check e-mail continuously – “batch them” and check at defined times during the day.
  6. Don’t over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers (the 80/20 principle applies here).
  7. Don’t work more to fix overwhelm – prioritize. If you don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important.
  8. Don’t carry your mobile device 24/7.
  9. Don’t expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should. Work is not all of life.

It’s important to focus on getting things done, but it’s only possible once we remove the constant static and distraction. Ferris suggests, and I agree, that if you have trouble deciding what to do, just focus on not doing. Different approach, same end result.