Interpretation of Tim Ferriss’ Not-To-Do List

Akash Bhattacharya
6 min readSep 6, 2020

Agree and disagree. Reality check. Personal views.

As per Wiki, Tim Ferris is an American entrepreneur, investor, author, and podcaster. The productively guru !!!

Tim Ferriss blog is one of the most popular blogging series with advice on productivity. I picked up below The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now and tried to distill it for my interpretation with some reality check. Is that possible to follow ?

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

1. Don’t answer calls from unrecognized numbers.

Interesting thought ! This depends on where you are staying and your current setup.

Few days back, I got a call from an unknown number which I picked up. It was a lucky draw result call which I won for filling up an online feedback form for a grocery supermarket. If I didn’t pick up the call, it would have gone to next person on list and I would have lost around 300 euro worth gift item. Should I not pick up the call ?

2. Don’t email first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

I wake up around 7:00 o’clock and generally after few minutes I do check or browse through my personal email. The reason being that my critical activities are in another part of world which is around 4.30 hours behind my current schedule. So an important bank email or an email which I need to respond immediately on urgent basis will be lying in my email inbox which I need to work through. If I don’t pick up, I would loose the day due to time difference.

Work emails are different. Some people like to configure emails on mobile. I totally hate it, as its a constant urge to check work related activities, which hampers your .

Totally agree that the last thing in the night should no way be your emails/ Be it personal or professional. Emails should be off after 6:00 o’clock or 7:00 o’clock in evening and everything else can wait for the next day. Even if you reply to an email after 6:00 o’clock or 7:00 o’clock there will no known to reply your emails.

3. Don’t agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time.

Save your time as it’s precious. If not clear, ask beforehand on the outcome expected at the end of the meeting. Be strict. Don’t agree without the outcome defined before the meeting on “why we’re meeting”.

The email in which Jeff Bezos officially banned the use of PowerPoint at Amazon and insisted that people with ideas come to meetings with “well structured, narrative text.”

During Covid-19 time frame, the online virtual meeting has become a trend. Way too many meetings which is happening currently and that’s a waste because if you don’t know the context you’re talking.

During office work, Change the calendar time scale so that you are conscious of your time, from 30mins default to 15 mins preferably. (Most meetings can be over in 20 mins if agenda and outcome is clear enough for everyone)

And give a 5 min break between every meeting for you to get up from your seat and walk along. Take a break.

4. Don’t let people ramble.

Image you’re working on a very important item and suddenly you get a ping or a chat message …”do you have 5 minutes?” ….your answer should be “I’m in middle of something, can we take it later?”

The classical chat starting point in work environment is “Hi”. You don’t know on why is this person pinging you and what does he need…If you reply “Hi” become a open ended loop where the discussion will ramble upon…

Better to reply as “How can I help you ?” …Come to the point …GTP — Getting to the point as soon as possible.

5. Don’t check email constantly — “batch” and check at set times only

This is the one I’m trying to improve upon constantly. I plan to check emails only three times three to four times but I get locked into fear of missed information that I didn’t read the email and came to a meeting so I’m not up to speed with the latest status.

Checking email is a constant urge which we need to control because we need to invest ourselves in some deep work (ref Carl Newport). Recently I’m closing down the outlook and have keeping Microsoft Teams open with the calendar and only look at that so that we know when is my next meeting.

6. Don’t over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers

This is an interesting one. We do spend way too much time on people or work which are of low maintenance and are of less value. Example being trying to help someone and you end up precious time. Sometimes we are trying to bring up someone “up to speed” but in that process we’re spending way too much time which we should focus on the work which is important. The best way to tackle this to count your time. How are you spending it ?

However, do also remember that -

Not everything that matters can be measured. Not everything that we can measure matters.

7. Don’t work more to fix overwhelm — prioritise

Brian Tracy on his book “Eat that Frog” explained ABCDE Method. He has given a very high level view on your priority list is not that whatever you are doing, rather on what prioritized item are you doing. Get ready to hear the below (less than 5mins video ) and take notes —

Do the worst…first. Eat that Frog.

8. Don’t carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7

Not following or being updated cell phone in this world which is “full of news” is a sacrifice. Some days back I spent a Sunday on digital detoxing which was away from smartphone, tablet, television and you know what ? The world moved on ! Nothing changed.

The reason for this is the “infinity pool”.

Infinity Pools are always-on, effectively infinite sources of information and entertainment. Things like:

  • Pull-to-refresh apps (Facebook, Mail, Instagram, Twitter, etc)
  • Video streaming services (YouTube, Netflix, HBO, etc)
  • Even web browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc), which provide on-demand access to pretty much all the information in the world.

9. Don’t expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

Work is not all of life.


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.

Don’t spend all your time on the work related activities. There is world outside work.

Spend time with family , friends and your hobbies (Photography is my past-time here for yours).


The above ideas were published on 2007 by Tim, but these are so relevant in 2020? It’s very much ! Rather, it’s important and relevant than ever before.

I would love to advice these items to “25 years of myself”…Ciao !

PS: As I write this blog, my kid is disturbing me to get his attention. Sunday morning and why am I in laptop writing this. Time for me to follow the #9 on above.



Akash Bhattacharya

Software Product Maintenance. Writes about #book, #people, #product, #productivity