Life is a bizarre paradox.
What I’ve learned is to take a proven strategy like a to-do list and do the opposite. It shouldn’t work in theory, but it does.
There’s our to-do list and then, there are all the micro-habits we do and don’t often realize. The key is to take the unconscious and make it conscious.
When I did this exercise I turned these micro-habits into a Not-to-do-list. I like to track compliance, too, to help rewrite my mind’s software.
Quit these micro-habits asap.
Giving mental energy to bad customers
No matter what industry you work in bad customers are everywhere.
They’re either cheap, hard to deal with, or love to create drama. Make it a micro-habit to do everything in your power to quit these customers.
- Give them less attention.
- Give them less time.
- Do the bare minimum.
- Sell them on going to your competitors.
Once you get bad customers out of the way it leaves room to focus on the good ones. And the thing about bad customers is they drain your mental energy. When your brain is drained it’s hard to work effectively at all.
Bad customers aren’t worth the energy leaks. Quit ’em.
Flogging the monkey during the day
Everyone gets a little hot and heavy at times. It’s human nature.
The bear trap is we can give into temptation and flog the monkey at random times of the day when it’s unproductive. The energy is best saved up and used in a real-life encounter with another person.
Playing phone lottery
Calls from private numbers are more common as computers and bots can now dial phone numbers to see who answers.
When the call comes through it makes you feel important, especially if it happens in front of another person. The challenge is they create more problems than they’re worth.
If it’s a scammer then they now know you’re real and will answer. If it’s a telemarketer then it may be hard to get them off the phone — especially if you hate being rude to strangers like me.
Let private numbers send texts or leave voicemails. That way you can screen whether they’re genuine.
Put an end to meeting tourism
There’s a strange lady on LinkedIn who takes photos at every big tech office. Her feed is full of them.
She’ll go to Google’s office in San Fran and then take hundreds of photos. She’ll ask Google employees to take the photos for her. Some of them are staged. I even saw one today where she was holding different flags from different countries while standing in front of a big tech logo.
When you go to a meeting at a big brand company you look immature and unprofessional taking selfies in front of the logos in their foyer. Even worse, wasting their employees’ time for fake ‘likes’ probably won’t get you any brownie points either.
Instead, focus on the meeting. Prepare. Be mindful. Or as I like to say…
Build your empire in silence.
Listening to audiobooks
This one’s controversial.
Andrew D. Huberman, a professor of Neurobiology at Stanford Medicine, says if you want to be a better communicator, quit the micro habit of listening to audiobooks and take up reading again.
Texting, voice dictation and audiobooks are wonderful but degrade articulation. Conversely, structured writing aids structured speech.
I find when I listen to audiobooks I lose a lot of the message when I try to summarize the book later on. My wife loves to listen to audiobooks or podcasts at like 3X speed. I’ve told her to reconsider but she loves it.
As a result, when I say “did you hear that line on the Tim Ferriss podcast,” she’ll look at me with a blank stare. That’s 3X speed for ya!
Maybe listening to audiobooks is making us dumbasses.
Checking emails every hour
Email is a time drain.
It’s like being taken into an underground world with Alice in Wonderland. There’s so much time to lose. By the time you return to the real world you forget what your biggest priority for the day is.
Try batch-checking emails twice a day instead.
Repeating the same processes like a drunk monkey
I’m a drunk monkey with processes.
I’ll send the same reply email over and over. Or I’ll struggle to do the same monthly spreadsheet repeatedly and then forget how I did it prior.
Quit doing repeatable tasks. Make checklists for everything. Note down how you do things. Record Loom videos, even, of you doing a task so it’s much easier to repeat.
Writing processes down helps to make them a system.
Once you’ve done the system a few times, and it’s worked, you can then decide whether to outsource it or not.
There are virtual assistants in the same country as you (or another) ready to go through your processes and do them for you, so you can focus on higher-value tasks you’re actually good at.
Asking questions you can google
I get emails all the time asking me questions I’ve already answered in tweets or articles. Don’t ask questions without at least googling first. Laziness rarely solicits a response or gets rewarded.
Doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions that are already in google. Just means you can reference the google answer and say “hey, I read your answer on this topic but wondered if I could get you to elaborate.”
The 5 seconds of research beforehand makes you look like a genius.
Having your phone next to you
The phone is a slot machine. The brain can’t help but look at her gorgeous rainbow colors and pull the lever to see what notifications are on the home screen.
I don’t care whether you passed Navy Seal training, no human can resist the allure of a phone a few inches away.
The curiosity factor is simply too much.
Humans weren’t designed to have our attention high-jacked hundreds of times a day. So, use the natural human laziness we’re born with to your advantage and put your phone in the other room when you’re trying to do deep work or focus.
Doing work without rewards
One way to hack the game of work is to add tiny rewards to the end of productive periods.
I’m like a furry dog.
I use treats in the form of food to reward myself at the end of a big day.
My wife helps too. She often books dinners or trips to the cinema for the end of my writing day. This gives me free motivation to work hard, finish early, and prepare for my tiny reward.
Use our ape roots to your advantage. Monkey get reward, monkey do.
Walking past trash
It’s tempting to see trash and leave it there. Or worse, to complain about your fellow humans and how dirty and disrespectful they are to the environment.
Ryan Holiday taught me to be the example you wish to see in the world. If a problem annoys you then fix it in public where people can see. Or record a Youtube or TikTok video if no one is around.
As people see the correct behavior they naturally wonder “why not me?”
I once heard Eric Thomas say in this cliche motivational video, “leave the world better than you found it.”
It stuck with me.
So next time I went on an airplane and used a disgusting toilet, I cleaned the mess up after I finished so the next person would have a good experience.
If you’re not a good example then you’re complicit in the problems you notice.
Seeing an innocent person obliterated in the comments as entertainment
If you see an innocent person copping a beating in the comments on social media, quit seeing it as fun or entertainment.
Stand up for the underdog. Help to override meme/sarcasm culture. It’s only funny until it happens to you — and it will. Pinky promise.
Reading everything as you discover it
I read a lot.
I used to read newsletters and blog posts as they hit my inbox. Now I save everything I want to read for later. You can even get your email software to do this automatically.
Here’s one strategy I absolutely love from Julian Shapiro:
If you want to avoid 95% of promotional spam in your inbox, just set up a Gmail filter that moves any email with the word “Unsubscribe” into a separate folder. Welcome to a clean inbox.”
This works for reading material in your inbox too.
Reading stuff as you find it switches your brain into reactivity mode, which is highly unproductive.
Batch-read all your content at a time during the week where you have the energy to grasp the ideas and not get tempted to skim as much.