Your Never Do List (NDL)

NDN = Not Doing Now

Inspired from a post by Tim Ferris


Create a NDL list to become more effective.

The reason is simple: what you don’t do determines what you can do.

Here are nine stressful and common habits that entrepreneurs and office workers should strive to eliminate. The bullets are followed by more detailed descriptions. Focus on one or two at a time, just as you would with high-priority to-do items.

1. Never 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).

2. Never check e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night

The former scrambles your priorities and plans for the day, and the latter just gives you insomnia. E-mail can wait until 10am, after you’ve completed at least one of your critical to-do items…

3. Never agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time

If the desired outcome is defined clearly with a stated objective and agenda listing topics/questions to cover, no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. Request them in advance so you “can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”

Taking this further, what if you took this degree of discipline to your daily agenda? Do your most important tasks (MITs) get slotted into your schedule? It's as much about your ability to not allow the less important tasks (LITs) take priority over the MITs. Or even the LIPs (less important people & projects) take priority over the MIPs (most important people & projects).

4. Never let people ramble

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?” A big part of GTD is GTP — Getting To the Point. I remember when I was extremely busy one day, a particular 'rambler' called me. I said '_____, I'm very busy, please get to the point.' He hung up on me. He clearly didn't need anything, but instead called me to ramble. My guess is after a short time, he called someone else. Consider you are being USED!

5. Never check e-mail constantly

Timeblock and batch - stick with checking email at the predefined times only!

"Get off the cocaine pellet dispenser and focus on execution of your top to-do’s instead of responding to manufactured emergencies. Set up a strategic autoresponder and check twice or thrice daily."

Brendon Burchard also touched on this when he told me 'email is convenient organizing system for other peoples agendas.'

Revisit my idea of expiring emails:

Every email has an expiration date. It expires 48 hours after it arrives in your inbox. When it expires, it gets deleted forever. The sender is notified that the email was never read and given the option to resend. Within 48 hours, you must decide on one of four actions: delete, forward, reply, or archive. Emails you move to your archive expire in 30 days. Again, the sender is notified once their email is deleted. Being realistic, if you aren't able to take action within 30 days, will you truly ever? The idea of getting to it someday/maybe is an illusion. By the time you get to your archive folder, you've received already hundreds more emails. If you are anything like me, your inbox may have hundreds of unread emails. What if you started assigning an expiration date to each email?

6. Never 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.

7. Never 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 — or doing more — it’s defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life.

8. Never carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7

Take at least one day off of digital leashes per week. Turn them off or, better still, leave them in the garage 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 reader put it to a miffed co-worker who worked 24/7 and expected the same: “I’m not the president of the US. 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. Never 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.” Review Parkinson’s Law in 4HWW and force yourself to cram within tight hours so your per-hour productivity doesn’t fall through the floor. Focus, get the critical few done, and get out. E-mailing all weekend is no way to spend the little time you have on this planet.

It's not about getting more done, it's about eliminating the ever present static and distraction. If you aren't able to decide what to do, maybe you should decide what not to do. The process of elimination will open up space to do more. It's psychic decluttering. Different means, same end.

What other Nevers help you stay focused?