Tim Ferriss: “9 Habits to Stop Now”


In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss spends a good amount of space talking about time management and life management skills.  A few weeks, ago I wrote a Blog Post about Tim and his book.  I had a lot of reader interest, so I thought I’d follow up with another post on Tim’s philosophy.

The section entitled “The Best of the Blog” features one of Tim’s blog entries entitled “The Not-to-Do List:  9 Habits to Stop Now.”   Here is his list with my comments in Italics:

1.  Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers.  I admit I do this, especially since I get a lot of phone solicitations from people I don’t know.  If it’s important, the caller will leave you a voice mail, or try and reach you via email or other means.  The key here is that you won’t be distracted by any calls from unknown callers. 

2.  Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  Ferriss thinks the former “scrambles your priorities” for the day, and the latter causes insomnia.  While I like to batch ,my email responses as much as possible, I actually prefer to check my email first thing in the morning, as well as late at night.  I don’t seem to have any problem focusing on key priorities.

3.  Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda and time.  He also believes that no calls should take longer than 30 minutes.  This is great if you can do it.  Otherwise, I suggest setting expectations for topics and time at the very beginning of the call or meeting, and then stay on track as best as posible.

4.  Do not let people ramble.  Obvious.

5.  Do not check e-mail constantly.  “Batch” and check at set times only.  Sometimes, you are expecting emails and responses from important team members or clients so it’s necessary to stay on email continually throughout the day.  I agree that email can be a huge distraction, and a time suck, so try and do whatever you can to minimize wasted time and increase efficiency, including following this advice if it works for you.

6.  Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers.  Great advice and I will go even further and suggest that you should either terminate or restructure contracts with any low-profit and/or high-maintenance customers.  A huge key to success is in having discipline in the kinds of customers you accept.  Bad customers can put you out of business!

7.  Do not work more to fix overwhelmingness – prioritize.  Tim says that “the answer to overwhelmingness is not spinning more plates – or doing more- it’s defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life.”  I agre 100%.

8.  Do not carry a cell phone or Crackberry 24/7.  Tim thinks you should take one day per week off from cell phones and emails.  Nice idea in concept, but the stark reality is that most businesspeople and business owners can’t afford to be out of touch.

9.  Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should.  Tim says, “Schedule life and defend iit the way you would an important business meeting.”  This is not easy for a lot of workaholics I know, but it’s important to keep this in mind if you seek true work-life equilibrium.

I don’t think there’s anything earth shattering here, plus I am sure you have heard of some or most of these ideas in one form or another over the years.  But it’s always good to think about tips like these to help you be more productive and focused.

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Featured image courtesy of timferriss licensed via creative commons.


14 thoughts on “Tim Ferriss: “9 Habits to Stop Now”

  1. Pingback: 7 Tips on Controlling Your Email and Social Habit (so it doesn’t control you) | OnePageCRM

  2. Tien,

    I think that getting away from email for a chunk of time, be it a couple of hours, or a day at a time, is not only possible but very healthy. I too have not yet pulled off the full day as I check my mobile phone too often on the weekends. However, my company recently implemented something called Quiet Time, which is a mandatory 1 hour period (expanding to 2 separate 1 hour sessions soon) where email, IM, text messages, cell phones, land line calls, and in-person drop bys are outlawed. During this time, employees work on projects that require deeper thought, whatever that may be. We had massive productivity gains as we implemented this program (a part of our implementation of Rockefeller Habits) and I am planning to ratchet that up until we have much larger chunks of time away from the ADHD inducing flow of electronic messaging of all kinds. Ferriss is, I believe, intentionally somewhat nutty, partly because he is, partly because that gets people to think. Thanks for posting this, well summarized and helpful for many!



    • Hi Amith, thanks very much for your comment and for sharing this innovative policy in your company. I love that idea: forced quiet time! Like Study Hall in school. Let me know how that is working. I would bet your team members like this a lot too, as it provides a nice break from noise while allowing them the white space to get stuff done, yes? See you soon! T


      • Yes, many of them do in fact really like it. However, the common feedback we got when rolling this out as part of our Q1 Theme was – I’m client facing – I can’t do that. The reality is, people take lunch breaks, personal time for doctor appointments, use the bathroom and have other “offline” moments – so there is no reason that quiet time can’t be implemented by anyone, even people in Customer Support roles who spend their day on the phone with customers. We found that those folks who were initially most resistant were often those that came back citing the impact that Quiet Time had on their personal and professional productivity. We are now building on this momentum with other related initiatives, but the core of it is all about focus. The human mind is an incredibly adaptable “machine” but needs time to recalibrate too, and part of what quiet time seems to do is not only create results in a focused area, but refresh and replenish those reserves to then go after the insanity that undoubtedly awaits most of us after quiet time ends. Happy to share and hope this helps!


  3. I think Tim is spot on – as entrepreneurs we create our own rules or confirm to others’ rules. While some might not resonate with everybody – I do think it’s important to have our own criteria. Email is a huge hot button topic and so is being disconnected. There’s a lot of evidence and research (especially from Tony Schwartz) on totally disconnecting and taking breaks on how that rejuvenates you. I don’t think enough entrepreneurs truly take OFF days. Even answering 1 work call is enough to get your mind spinning on obligations and work related things. By giving ourselves some ‘white’ space we can be creative and innovative.


  4. i took a few licks implementing my refusal to always be on email…

    but it was worth it – it forced me to be better at setting and managing expectations up front… definitely improved my sanity and accomplishing my priorities!

    keep up the blogging tien!


  5. Tien, I find Ferriss interesting but a little nutty (or “unrealistic.”) Looks like you agree. But the first point – never answer an unknown phone number – is my favorite. I benefit from having a full-time receptionist at intelligent Office. When I pick up my phone, a receptionist is on the other end telling me who is calling and why. People don’t typically buy our services for the benefit of “time savings”, but once they start our service, that’s the most common benefit we hear.


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