For Productivity: Stop Doing These 9 Things

Stop Doing Stuff that Doesn’t Serve

168 hours in a week.  24 hours in a day.  I haven’t done the math to work out how many in a year or a lifetime, but however large the number, it is still finite.  It is limited.  We get so much, and no more.  This leaves you with a choice.  My friend Verne Harnish is fond of saying “we can do anything we want, but not everything”.  He is in great company:

  • “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Warren Buffett
  • “What you don’t do determines what you can do.” Tim Ferriss, author of the best-seller ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’
  • “Prioritization is as much about what we choose not to do as what we do.” Jonathan Becher, Chief Marketing Officer at SAP

Creating Your Not-To-Do List

My own notebook right now
My own notebook right now

You already have a to-do list (Come on, you are reading this blog…  you must have a list somewhere in front of you?)  It may not be enough.  In my workshops I ask people to create a do more and do less page.  Big sheet of paper, top of the left side write: “Do More” and top of the right side write: “Do Less”.  What tends to go on “do less”?  TV, facebook, attending meetings with no agenda.  What tends to go on “do more”?  Lots of great stuff.  It is a powerful exercise.

Tim Ferriss argues that there are 9 habits we must eliminate to free up time for more important activities:

  1. Do not answer phone calls from people you don’t know
  2. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night
  3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time
  4. Do not let people ramble: “Small talk takes up big time.”
  5. Do not check email constantly
  6. Do not over-communicate with low profit, high maintenance customers
  7. Do not work more to fix being too busy
  8. Do not carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7
  9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

Check out the original list by Tim here.

What’s on your “Do Less” list?  Any clear “Do More” ideas?

4 responses to “For Productivity: Stop Doing These 9 Things”

  1. *Sacks (Dammit!) 🙂

  2. I well remember the Tim Ferriss podcast in which he gave his nine-point list. In Ferriss’ podcast with Maria Popova, he asks her how she says no to all the requests that she gets. As part of her answer, she tells the story of Oliver Sachs, the famous neurologist and writer who, when he started to become famous and receive lots of requests, took a piece of paper, wrote “NO!” on it, and stuck it above his desk.

    If saying no is going to take you away from doing productive, meaningful work, there should be a good reason for it (helping others, spending time with family / friends, rest, etc.)

    1. Although I seem to have the ability to free up my time and then procrastinate it away… rather than dedicate it with discipline to the important big things 😉

  3. Good points. I am reminded of Paul Graham’s Top Idea in Your Mind essay: http://www.paulgraham.com/top.html

    Focus is one of the best examples of a trait that looks incredibly simple and easy but which turns out to be incredibly difficult in practice.

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