Profitable Tools

Tim Ferriss: 9 Habits To Stop Now – From 2007, Still Relevant?

12 min read
YouTube video


In this engaging video, Dave from Profitable.Tools dives into a fascinating social media post by Tim Ferriss, the renowned author and podcaster. The post, originally written in 2007, outlines nine habits to stop now – a “not-to-do list” that Tim claims is more effective than traditional to-do lists for improving performance. Dave’s reaction to this content, which was reposted nearly 14 years after its initial publication, provides a unique perspective on the longevity and relevance of productivity advice in our rapidly changing digital landscape.

This article will explore each of Tim’s nine habits in detail, examining their applicability in today’s world and discussing how technology and cultural shifts have impacted their relevance. We’ll also delve into Dave’s personal insights and experiences, offering a balanced view of these productivity principles. Whether you’re a long-time fan of Tim Ferriss or new to productivity hacks, this analysis will provide valuable insights into time management, digital wellbeing, and work-life balance.

Reacting to Tim Ferriss’ Social Media Post [00:00]

Dave’s video begins with his initial reaction to Tim Ferriss’ social media post, which caught his attention while scrolling through Facebook. The post, featuring an eye-catching image of a funny-looking dog, led Dave to click through and discover Tim’s article on “The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now.”

Key points about the social media post:

  • The post was originally written on August 16, 2007
  • It was reposted in 2021, nearly 14 years after its initial publication
  • The content was still garnering engagement and clicks despite its age
  • Dave questions whether this repurposing strategy is effective and if the advice has stood the test of time

Analyzing the content’s longevity:

  • The fact that a 14-year-old article can still generate interest speaks to the timelessness of certain productivity principles
  • It raises questions about the nature of evergreen content and its place in modern digital marketing strategies
  • Dave expresses a mix of admiration and curiosity about Tim’s ability to create content with such lasting impact

The relevance of old advice in a new world:

  • Technology and work cultures have evolved significantly since 2007
  • Some advice may need to be adapted to fit modern contexts
  • The video aims to explore whether these habits are still applicable or if they’ve become outdated

Dave’s approach to the content:

  • He decides to go through each of the nine points, offering his perspective on their current relevance
  • The analysis will consider how societal and technological changes have affected the applicability of Tim’s advice
  • Dave’s personal experiences and observations will provide additional context to the discussion

Habit 1: Do Not Answer Calls from Unrecognized Numbers [02:30]

The first habit on Tim Ferriss’ list advises against answering calls from unrecognized phone numbers. This seemingly simple piece of advice has interesting implications when viewed through the lens of modern technology and communication norms.

Evolution of call screening:

  • In 2007, caller ID was becoming more common but wasn’t universal
  • Today, smartphones and even landlines typically have built-in caller ID features
  • Many phones now offer spam risk notifications, adding an extra layer of screening

The impact of technology on this habit:

  • Modern technology has made it easier to identify callers before answering
  • Spam risk notifications help filter out potentially unwanted calls
  • The rise of texting and messaging apps has reduced the frequency of unexpected calls

Cultural shifts in communication:

  • There’s been a general shift away from voice calls towards text-based communication
  • Many people, especially younger generations, prefer to schedule calls in advance
  • Unexpected calls are often viewed as intrusive or spam

Pros and cons of following this habit today:

  • Pros:
  • Reduces interruptions from telemarketers and spam calls
  • Allows for better time management and focus
  • Aligns with modern communication preferences
  • Cons:
  • May miss important calls from new contacts or in emergencies
  • Could be seen as overly rigid in some professional contexts
  • Might lead to missed opportunities in certain industries

Dave’s perspective:

  • He agrees that this habit has become “par for the course” in modern culture
  • Suggests that technology has naturally integrated this habit into our daily lives
  • Implies that while the advice is still relevant, it’s less of a conscious choice and more of a default behavior for many

Habit 2: Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night [04:15]

Tim Ferriss’ second habit focuses on avoiding email at the beginning and end of each day. This advice aims to prevent email from dictating your priorities and disrupting your sleep patterns.

The rationale behind the habit:

  • Checking email first thing can scramble your priorities for the day
  • Late-night emailing can lead to insomnia and poor sleep quality
  • The goal is to complete at least one critical task before diving into email

Impact on productivity:

  • Helps maintain focus on pre-determined priorities
  • Reduces reactive behavior and increases proactive task management
  • Allows for a more structured and intentional approach to daily tasks

Challenges in modern work culture:

  • The expectation of constant availability in many workplaces
  • The prevalence of smartphones making email access constant and convenient
  • The global nature of business often requiring communication across time zones

Strategies for implementing this habit:

  • Set specific times for checking and responding to emails
  • Use auto-responders to manage expectations about response times
  • Establish clear boundaries with colleagues and clients about availability

Dave’s personal experience:

  • Admits to checking email more frequently than he’d like
  • Acknowledges the addictive nature of smartphones and constant connectivity
  • Describes his varied approach to email responses, sometimes immediate and sometimes delayed

Balancing responsiveness and productivity:

  • Immediate responses for pressing or easily answered questions
  • Delayed responses for issues requiring more thought or effort
  • The importance of finding a personal balance that works for your role and industry

Long-term benefits of email management:

  • Improved focus and productivity on high-priority tasks
  • Better work-life balance and reduced stress
  • More intentional and thoughtful communication

Habit 3: Do Not Agree to Meetings Without Clear Agendas or End Times [06:30]

The third habit Tim Ferriss recommends is to avoid agreeing to meetings or calls that lack a clear agenda or defined end time. This advice aims to increase productivity and ensure that time spent in meetings is valuable and efficient.

The importance of structured meetings:

  • Clear agendas help participants prepare and contribute effectively
  • Defined end times prevent meetings from dragging on unnecessarily
  • Structured meetings tend to be more focused and productive

Tim’s guidelines for effective meetings:

  • Meetings should have a clearly defined desired outcome
  • An agenda listing topics and questions to cover should be provided in advance
  • Most meetings should not last more than 30 minutes

Challenges in implementing this habit:

  • Cultural expectations around meetings in different industries
  • Potential resistance from colleagues or superiors
  • The need to balance efficiency with relationship-building and collaboration

Alternatives to unnecessary meetings:

  • Email or messaging for simple information sharing
  • Recorded video messages (e.g., Loom) for one-way communication
  • Collaborative documents for asynchronous input and discussion

Dave’s perspective on meetings:

  • Prefers to avoid meetings when possible
  • Recognizes that some people value meetings for social interaction
  • Suggests that most issues can be resolved through email or recorded messages

Strategies for declining or improving meetings:

  • Politely request an agenda before agreeing to a meeting
  • Suggest alternative communication methods when appropriate
  • Propose shorter meeting times or standing meetings for recurring topics

The art of valuing your time:

  • Communicating the importance of your time without seeming rude
  • Setting clear expectations about your availability and preferred communication methods
  • Leading by example in running efficient and effective meetings

Habit 4: Do Not Let People Ramble [09:00]

The fourth habit on Tim Ferriss’ list advises against letting people ramble during conversations or meetings. This habit aims to keep interactions focused and efficient, but it requires a delicate balance to maintain politeness and rapport.

The reasoning behind this habit:

  • Rambling conversations can waste time and derail productive discussions
  • Keeping interactions focused helps maintain productivity and clarity
  • It encourages others to be more concise and prepared in their communication

Tim’s suggested approach:

  • Use direct greetings like “What’s up?” instead of open-ended questions
  • Set the tone for brevity by mentioning you’re in the middle of something
  • Steer conversations towards the main point or purpose quickly

Challenges in implementing this habit:

  • Risk of appearing rude or dismissive
  • Potential to damage relationships, especially with clients or colleagues
  • Cultural differences in communication styles and expectations

Balancing efficiency and rapport:

  • Finding ways to be direct without sacrificing politeness
  • Recognizing when small talk is necessary for relationship-building
  • Adapting your approach based on the person and context of the interaction

Dave’s thoughts on this habit:

  • Agrees with the principle but acknowledges the difficulty in implementation
  • Recognizes the need for human connection, especially for some individuals
  • Suggests that this habit requires careful consideration of social dynamics

Strategies for polite redirection:

  • Use gentle prompts to guide the conversation back on track
  • Set clear expectations about the purpose and duration of the interaction upfront
  • Develop skills in active listening and summarizing to efficiently capture key points

The importance of context:

  • Recognizing when efficiency is crucial and when relationship-building takes priority
  • Adapting your approach based on the person’s role (e.g., client, colleague, friend)
  • Considering the cultural norms and expectations in different professional settings

Habit 5: Do Not Check Email Constantly [11:30]

The fifth habit Tim Ferriss recommends is to avoid constantly checking email. Instead, he suggests batching email checks at set times throughout the day. This habit aims to reduce distractions and improve focus on important tasks.

The rationale behind batching emails:

  • Constant email checking disrupts focus and productivity
  • Batching allows for more concentrated work periods
  • It helps reduce the anxiety associated with always being “on call”

Tim’s suggestion for email management:

  • Set specific times during the day for checking and responding to emails
  • Avoid the temptation to check emails outside of these designated times
  • Use this approach to regain control over your time and attention

Challenges in implementing this habit:

  • The addictive nature of email and the fear of missing important messages
  • Work cultures that expect immediate responses
  • Personal habits and the difficulty of breaking the email-checking routine

Dave’s personal experience:

  • Admits to struggling with implementing this habit consistently
  • Goes through phases of trying new productivity regimens
  • Finds it difficult to stick to set email times, especially when anticipating important messages

Strategies for effective email batching:

  • Use auto-responders to manage expectations about response times
  • Turn off email notifications on devices to reduce temptation
  • Schedule specific “email hours” and communicate these to colleagues and clients

The impact of email batching on productivity:

  • Allows for longer periods of uninterrupted focus on important tasks
  • Reduces the mental load of constantly switching between tasks
  • Can lead to more thoughtful and comprehensive email responses

Adapting the habit to different work environments:

  • Recognizing when immediate responses are truly necessary
  • Finding a balance that works for your specific role and industry
  • Gradually increasing the time between email checks to build the habit

Habit 6: Do Not Over-Communicate with Low-Profit, High-Maintenance Customers [13:15]

The sixth habit on Tim Ferriss’ list advises against over-communicating with customers who consume a disproportionate amount of time while contributing little to the bottom line. This habit emphasizes the importance of prioritizing time and resources for the most valuable clients.

The 80/20 principle in customer relationships:

  • Often, 20% of customers generate 80% of profits
  • Conversely, 20% of customers may consume 80% of support time
  • Identifying these groups can help in resource allocation

Tim’s advice for managing customer communication:

  • Conduct an 80/20 analysis of your customer base
  • Identify high-profit, low-maintenance customers and prioritize them
  • Find ways to minimize time spent on low-profit, high-maintenance clients

Challenges in implementing this habit:

  • Risk of neglecting customers who could potentially become more valuable
  • Maintaining a reputation for good customer service
  • Balancing efficiency with the need for customer satisfaction across all segments

Dave’s perspective on customer management:

  • Prefers to phase out high-maintenance, low-profit customers over time
  • Advocates for keeping the company small, profitable, and efficient
  • Suggests that profitable customers shouldn’t subsidize support for less profitable ones

Strategies for managing customer communication:

  • Implement tiered support systems based on customer value
  • Use automated systems for common inquiries from low-priority customers
  • Establish clear boundaries and expectations for response times and support levels

The impact of effective customer prioritization:

  • Improved focus on high-value clients can lead to increased profitability
  • Reduced stress and burnout from dealing with demanding, low-profit customers
  • More time and resources available for business growth and development

Ethical considerations:

  • Ensuring fair treatment of all customers while prioritizing resources
  • Communicating changes in support or communication policies transparently
  • Finding ways to improve efficiency without compromising overall service quality

Habit 7: Do Not Work More to Fix Overwhelm [15:30]

The seventh habit Tim Ferriss recommends is to avoid working more hours as a solution to feeling overwhelmed. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of prioritization and focusing on the most impactful tasks.

The problem with working more:

  • Increased work hours often lead to diminishing returns
  • Working more can lead to burnout and decreased overall productivity
  • It doesn’t address the root cause of feeling overwhelmed

Tim’s approach to managing overwhelm:

  • Define the single most important task for each day
  • Let minor issues slide to focus on high-impact activities
  • Recognize that not everything is urgent or important

The importance of prioritization:

  • Without clear priorities, everything seems urgent and important
  • Defining key tasks helps in distinguishing between truly important work and busywork
  • Prioritization allows for better time management and increased effectiveness

Dave’s thoughts on fixing overwhelm:

  • Agrees with the importance of prioritization
  • Suggests that delegation is another crucial skill for managing workload
  • Emphasizes the need to balance prioritization with effective delegation

Strategies for effective prioritization:

  • Use techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks
  • Focus on tasks that align with long-term goals and have the biggest impact
  • Regularly review and adjust priorities based on changing circumstances

The role of delegation in managing overwhelm:

  • Learn to identify tasks that can be delegated to others
  • Develop skills in effective delegation and team management
  • Consider outsourcing or hiring to handle increased workload

Long-term benefits of prioritization and delegation:

  • Improved focus on high-value activities
  • Reduced stress and better work-life balance
  • Increased overall productivity and business growth

Habit 8: Do Not Carry a Cell Phone 24/7 [17:45]

The eighth habit on Tim Ferriss’ list advises against carrying a cell phone or “Crackberry” (a dated term for BlackBerry devices) at all times. This habit aims to create boundaries between work and personal life, promoting better work-life balance and reducing constant connectivity.

Tim’s suggestions for digital detox:

  • Take at least one day off from digital devices per week
  • Leave phones in the car or garage when going out
  • Avoid carrying phones during dinner or social events

The context of this advice in 2007:

  • Smartphones were just emerging (iPhone was released in 2008)
  • Not everyone had a cell phone, making this advice more feasible
  • Work-life boundaries were generally clearer than they are today

Challenges in implementing this habit today:

  • Smartphones have become integral to daily life for many people
  • Expectations of constant availability in many professions
  • Reliance on phones for various non-work functions (navigation, payments, etc.)

Dave’s perspective on constant connectivity:

  • Acknowledges the difficulty of implementing this habit in practice
  • Questions whether Tim Ferriss himself follows this advice strictly
  • Recognizes the need for balance but also the practical challenges

Modern strategies for digital boundaries:

  • Use do-not-disturb settings or focus modes on smartphones
  • Set specific “off” hours for work-related communications
  • Create phone-free zones or times in your home or during social activities

The impact of constant connectivity:

  • Increased stress and difficulty in “switching off” from work
  • Potential for burnout and decreased productivity
  • Negative effects on personal relationships and mental health

Balancing connectivity and disconnection:

  • Recognize the importance of unplugged time for mental health
  • Communicate boundaries clearly with colleagues and clients
  • Find a balance that allows for necessary communication while protecting personal time

Habit 9: Do Not Expect Work to Fill a Void That Non-Work Relationships and Activities Should [20:00]

The final habit Tim Ferriss recommends is to avoid relying on work to fulfill needs that should be met by personal relationships and activities. This habit emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced life and not allowing work to become all-consuming.

The danger of work-centric life:

  • Work alone cannot provide all the fulfillment and satisfaction one needs
  • Overreliance on work can lead to neglect of personal relationships and hobbies
  • It can create an unhealthy work-life balance and lead to burnout

Tim’s advice for work-life balance:

  • Schedule and defend personal time as you would important business meetings
  • Avoid the mentality of “I’ll just get it done this weekend”
  • Cultivate relationships and activities outside of work

The relevance of this advice in today’s work culture:

  • Remote work has blurred the lines between work and personal life even further
  • The “hustle culture” often glorifies overwork and constant productivity
  • Technology makes it easier to work at all hours, increasing the temptation to do so

Dave’s thoughts on work-life boundaries:

  • Agrees that this is still a significant issue, perhaps even more so now
  • Highlights the challenges of setting boundaries when working from home
  • Emphasizes the difficulty of “turning off” when work is always accessible

Strategies for maintaining work-life balance:

  • Set clear working hours and stick to them as much as possible
  • Create physical separation between work and living spaces when working from home
  • Engage in hobbies and activities that are completely unrelated to work

The importance of non-work relationships and activities:

  • They provide a different perspective and help prevent tunnel vision
  • Personal relationships offer emotional support and fulfillment
  • Hobbies and leisure activities contribute to overall well-being and creativity

Long-term benefits of a balanced life:

  • Increased overall happiness and life satisfaction
  • Improved mental health and reduced risk of burnout
  • Enhanced creativity and productivity when at work

Key Takeaways and Summary [22:00]

Tim Ferriss’ “9 Habits to Stop Now” list, originally published in 2007, offers a fascinating glimpse into productivity advice that has largely stood the test of time. While some aspects have been naturally integrated into our lives through technological advancements, many of the core principles remain relevant and challenging to implement consistently.

Evergreen nature of the advice:

  • Most of the habits focus on timeless principles of productivity and work-life balance
  • The advice addresses fundamental human tendencies that persist despite technological changes
  • The longevity of this content demonstrates the value of creating evergreen material

Adaptation to modern context:

  • Some habits, like not answering unknown calls, have been facilitated by technology
  • Others, like avoiding constant email checking, have become more challenging due to increased connectivity
  • The rise of remote work has made some habits, particularly work-life balance, even more critical

Dave’s overall assessment:

  • Expresses admiration for Tim’s ability to create lasting, relevant content
  • Acknowledges the difficulty of consistently implementing these habits
  • Recognizes the ongoing struggle many face in managing time and priorities

The challenge of implementation:

  • Many of these habits require significant discipline and conscious effort
  • Cultural and professional expectations can make some habits difficult to adopt
  • Finding the right balance often requires experimentation and personalization

The impact of technology:

  • While technology has solved some issues, it has created new challenges in others
  • The increasing integration of work and personal life through devices adds complexity
  • New tools and features (like focus modes) can help in implementing some of these habits

The importance of prioritization and boundaries:

  • Several habits emphasize the need to focus on what’s truly important
  • Setting clear boundaries between work and personal life remains crucial
  • The ability to say no and manage expectations is a key skill in modern work environments

Reflection on content creation and marketing:

  • The longevity of Tim’s content raises questions about content creation strategies
  • There’s value in creating timeless, principle-based content
  • Repurposing old content can be effective if the advice remains relevant

In conclusion, Tim Ferriss’ “9 Habits to Stop Now” provides a valuable framework for productivity and work-life balance that remains largely applicable today. While the specific implementation of these habits may need to be adapted to our current technological and cultural context, the underlying principles of prioritization, boundary-setting, and intentional living continue to be essential for personal and professional success. As we navigate an increasingly connected and fast-paced world, these habits serve as a reminder to be mindful of how we spend our time and energy, focusing on what truly matters both in work and in life.

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