Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
19 things not to do
Good advice from Tim Ferriss, even if it's getting a bit long in the tooth. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
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The 4-Hour Workweek
Fifteen years ago, the top selling book on the NYT list was a surprise out of nowhere: The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss. For at least a decade, it was a must-read for any young entrepreneur, and while it's getting a bit dated, I think it's still relevant.
This book meant a lot to me, because I learned a ton from it, and also because I originally read it cover to cover in the café of the Borders store in North Attleboro, Massachusetts (RIP) when I should have been writing my own book, The Intelligent Entrepreneur.
If you haven't read Tim’s book; TLDR (literally), it’s largely about eliminating things that distract you from achieving your life goals. Afterward, he wrote a blog post about the top things he decided not to do. And, in the years that followed, readers added comments with even more smart suggestions.
I dug through a lot of it, and here are the top 19 things I learned or at least found insightful about ways to not do things you don’t want to do.
Let us know in the comments if you can come up with a great No. 20.
1. Find a way to work less.
Time is the most valuable asset, and thus the thing you need to reclaim. So set your priorities and stick to them.
"If you don't prioritize, everything seems urgent and important," Ferris writes. "If you don’t define the single most important task for each day, almost nothing seems urgent or important."
2. Shut off your phone.
Back in 2007, the first iPhone was only about two months old, and the App store was still a year away. But even if the specifics seem less realistic now, the spirit is still valid.
"So what if you return a phone call an hour later or the next morning?" he writes. "As one reader put it ... 'I'm not the president of the U.S. No one should need me at 8 at night.'"
3. Don't answer calls from phone numbers you don't recognize.
The heading here is self-explanatory, so allow me to segue to the fact that since I never answer calls unless I know who's calling, I'm happy to give out my number (well, one of my numbers) to just about anyone.
I even used it here a while for a different purpose. You can call me anytime at (424) BILL-MUR(phy), which is also (424) 245-5687.
Chances are I won't pick up, but you can leave a voicemail that will be transcribed and sent to me automatically. I invite you to give it a try!
4. Don't waste time with "low-profit, high-maintenance customers."
Spending time out of habit on things that you don't truly enjoy? Maybe it's time to quit. In a bad relationship? Cut it off.
"The surest path to failure is trying to please everyone," Ferriss writes.
5. Don't check e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
Checking email in the morning "scrambles your priorities and plans for the day," Ferriss writes, and checking it at night "just gives you insomnia. E-mail can wait until 10 a.m.
6. Don't agree to meetings without a clear agenda or end time.
"No meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. Request [objective and agenda] in advance,” and if people balk, tell them it's so you "can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”
7. Don't let people ramble.
"A big part of GTD [getting things done] is GTP—Getting to the Point. One important way to do that is to insist that people you deal with cut to the chase."
8. Do not check e-mail constantly.
Again with the email! "I belabor this point enough," Ferriss writes. Besides simply not being a slave, which is always good advice, he suggests training other people not to expect a quick reply.
"Set up a strategic autoresponder and check twice or thrice daily," he suggests.
9. "Do not expect work to fill a void"
Many of us have good friends that we first met at work or school. But, don't count on these kinds of relationships to fill up your life, according to Tim. Also: "Schedule life and defend it just as you would an important business meeting. Never tell yourself 'I'll just get it done this weekend.'"
10. Adopt the 5-sentence rule.
Now we start to move into the inspired-by suggestions. One is to adopt a personal policy that you will not send emails that are more than 5 sentences long. Or four, or three. (Or newsletters over 1,800 words long.) You get the picture.
11. Don't try to save everything.
Reader Jason Peck suggests: "Save documents you think you might need on your computer and then throw the hard copies away. You can always print stuff out later if you really need it."
12. Cull your social contacts.
"At the top of my Not to Do list is associate with the people who perpetuate and enable bad habits of any kind," writes Jason DeFillippo, "whether it be bemoaning their shitty jobs or people who just like to get by and not change their situations. Even spending time alone and working on your dreams is preferable in my opinion."
13. Control the time you budget for tasks.
A reader who calls herself Renata says: "Do not do something 'for as long as it takes.' Decide beforehand how much time you're going to spend (e.g. 3 minutes for an email, 20 minutes for a blog post, 30 minutes to practice the first mov't of a Beethoven sonata). Nothing gets you focused like a deadline."
14. Don't work for a**holes.
"Life is too short," writes one reader.
15. Avoid passivity.
This one, by a commenter identified simply as Matthew, is quite a list, but it's compelling:
“The fastest way to being dull, bored and unhappy is to constantly engage in passive habits or activities: watching TV excessively, playing online games, drinking alcohol or eating when you are bored, driving instead of walking, using drugs, not exercising, gambling ... following manufactured drama in the news or on TV, having no activities in your life that challenge you to grow …”
16. Find time for silence.
A reader named Bruce suggests you stop "filling your life with noise. Every once in a while, turn everything off, and I mean everything. Listen to the silence. ... Obviously, you can't do this all the time, but at least once a week, shut it all down."
17. Don't be a paper hoarder.
"Never handle the same piece of paper/email more than once. Only handle a paper document/email if you can finish the task you are about to start," suggests Damien M.
18. Don't clean your house.
"It really makes my day to be able to come home to a nice clean and fresh smelling house everyday that I did not have to clean," writes Joshua Abernathy. "Get somebody else to do your cleaning for you."
19. Don't feed trolls.
This one seems even more relevant than it did years ago, and good advice for comments sections everywhere: "Don't waste a moment of your life arguing with trolls on the Internet," suggests a writer identified simply as NPE.
7 other things worth knowing today
Protesters angered by strict anti-virus measures called for China’s powerful leader to resign, an unprecedented rebuke as authorities in at least eight cities struggled to suppress demonstrations Sunday that represent a rare direct challenge to the ruling Communist Party. (AP)
At the World Cup: Yes, it's terrible that it's in Qatar, but if you're into it, as I am, there have been some fantastic games and storylines. The United States controls its own destiny with a big game tomorrow against Iran. At the same time, Iran is trying to get the US kicked out of the tournament (we assume futilely) for displaying a version of the Iran flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic. (CNN)
The only good age for applying for a job is 35, according to a former Amazon recruiter. She's speaking sort of tongue-in-cheek, but not really. Anyway, here are her tips if you're not 35. For our readers who are 35, enjoy it while you can. (Business Insider)
What recession? Consumers spent a record $9.12 billion online shopping during Black Friday this year, according to Adobe, which tracks sales on retailers’ websites. Overall online sales were up 2.3% over last year. Electronics sales surged 221% over an average day in October, toys were up 285%, and exercise equipment, was up 218%. (CNBC)
Secrets of ‘SuperAgers’—the term for people over 80 with memories as good as average people 30 years younger. Interview subject, age 85: "I may know an awful lot about Beethoven and Liszt, but I know very little about Beyoncé and Lizzo.” (CNN)
Nearly 26 million Americans 50 or older now live alone, up from 15 million in 2000. Older people have always been more likely than others to live by themselves, and now that age group—baby boomers and Gen Xers—makes up a bigger share of the population than at any time in the nation’s history. “There is this huge, kind of explosive social and demographic change happening,” said Markus Schafer, a sociologist at Baylor University who studies older populations. (NYT)
France’s highest court has ruled that a man fired by a Paris-based consulting firm for allegedly failing to be “fun” enough at work was wrongfully dismissed. The man, referred to in court documents as Mr. T, was fired from Cubik Partners in 2015 after refusing to take part in seminars and weekend social events that his lawyers argued, according to court documents, included “excessive alcoholism” and “promiscuity.” (WashPost)
Thanks for reading! Photo credit: Fair use. I wrote about some of this at Inc.com. See you in the comments.