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

“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 not-to-do habits that entrepreneurs and office workers should strive to eliminate.
Focus on one or two at a time, just as you would with high-priority to-do items.

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 a poor negotiating position.

No, they are not from your potential customers. They are either recorded messages from insurance products or from banks trying to give you cheap loans.

For years I used to pick up these calls so as not to miss any potential customers.Till I realised that this was the most wasteful practice which destroys your mood also.

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

The former screws upyour priorities and plans for the day, and the latter just gives you insomnia.
E-mail can wait till later in the day, after you’ve completed at least one or two of your critical to-do items.
The best time to send e-mails is between 3-5 pm.

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

In an ideal world, no meeting should last for more than 30 minutes.I also realised that in our beloved country, there is no end time for a meeting. The meeting time is decided by the top boss.

If you are senior enough,request in advance so you “can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”

I always tell my clients in advance that I have only a certain amount of time for the meeting. Most of the time it works.

4. Do not let people ramble

We are a nation of small talk. 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?” 
During work hours, get to the point fast.

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

Please allocate time to check your messages. You don’t have to see your WhatsApp after every 5 minutes.

Focus on the execution of your top to-do’s instead of responding to manufactured emergencies. Checking your messages 3 times a day is good enough.

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 customers on low priority list(autopilot by citing company policy changes.)
Let your juniors manage these customers.

7. Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize

If you don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important. Almost nothing seems urgent or important if you define the single most important task for each day.

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 doing more-but defining the few things that can fundamentally change your business and life.

8. Do not carry your cellphone  24/7

Take at least one day off from your mobile and computers which I call “ Digital Detox”. Turn them off or, better still, leave them inyour bag 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 of my friend put it to a miffed co-worker who worked 24/7 and expected the same: “I’m not the Prime Minister of India. 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.” Focus, get the critical few done, and get out.
I am sure that E-mailing all weekend is no way to spend your little time 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 it.
Different means, same end.

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

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Hemant Mishrra

About the author: Hemant is the Founder & CEO of branding and marketing firm ”Neeti Brand Accelerator” in Mumbai. He is a brand strategist and has worked with more than 150 brands during last two decades. He is also mentor and coach to SMEs and startups. You can visit the website You can contact him at

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