Here are 12 things to include in a not-to-do list.

1) Don’t email first thing or last thing each day                                                                                                                                                                        Don’t email before 10am or after 4pm. Emailing first thing screws up the day as you get distracted beyond belief. Emailing last thing screws up your sleep pattern – it can wait till tomorrow!

2) Don’t check emails regularly
Check them at set times, say 10am and 3.30pm (ie: not often). You must define one important/key task for each day and that must be your first priority. Email addiction will destroy your business and screw up your brain.

3) Don’t answer calls form people you don’t know/recognise
Never ever answer a call unless you know who it is from. You should have a PA or virtual PA screening all your calls. Let them know who you will and who you won’t speak to and instruct them as to how to handle the various different types of call, eg keynote speaking enquiries to Trish, consultancy enquiries to Jo and so forth.

You should be designing the business so that it operates without you. Try putting autoresponders on your email that say,

“I am out of the office but consultancy enquiries can be dealt with right now by Jo at or on +44 (0)1225 851044 and keynote speaking enquiries can be dealt with by Trish on….”

You could do the same with your direct line answerphone if you don’t have someone to filter your calls for you. Just stop talking to people you don’t know – the call is probably for their benefit and not for yours!

4) Do not turn up to meetings on time
This is known as Lombardi Time. The great Hall of Fame football coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, invented a strategy that he recommended to his coaches and players. Lombardi Time states:

“Show up for every important business meeting 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled meeting time.”

The idea is to use the 15 minutes to catch your breath, collect your thoughts and pre-plan what you want to accomplish in the meeting and how you’ll go about it. I hate being late. If others are late I consider it the height of rudeness. If you look closely (because you arrived early), you’ll see people arrive at meetings, and this will tell you a lot about the way they lead their lives.

5) Don’t work with or employ energy-sapper                                                                                                                                                                              This one is “stolen” from Clive Woodward. From time to time, we all work with energy sappers/zappers and don’t we just know it. They seem to squeeze every last ounce of passion and excitement out of any project. Their mantra is some permutation of:

  • “Yes but…”
  • “If only…”
  • “They won’t/can’t’/haven’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t…”
  • “Well, if that’s what you want to do…”
  • “I don’t really see the point of…”

These people become high-maintenance (and usually low-profit) because of the damage they do to your own immune system. Their stress and negativity-dumping behaviour sucks the very lifeblood out of your most precious asset – your enthusiasm. Replace all energy sappers with energisers. It is as simple as that.

6) Don’t build the business around yourself
In the early days it’s great to see those emails and texts for you – you are important and wanted. However, this excitement soon turns into an addiction. Your definition of success starts to depend on how much you are needed.

Wrong! Try to design the entire business model with the sole intention of getting it to operate without you. Start with the end in mind: if you intend to get out of your business at some point, then you need to design the whole thing with that endpoint in mind. Otherwise you end up as the tiredest person in the graveyard!

7) Don’t carry a BlackBerry/iPhone 24/7
The world will not grind to a halt if you are not there to take every call. In fact, customers might treat you with a bit more deference if you ration your available time with a little more respect for what is really important.

8) Don’t play it too safe The riskiest thing is to be safe. Very good is bad because no-one notices it.

9) Don’t be reasonable
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” GB Shaw

10) Don’t get the negative feedback habit
We spend 95 per cent of the time focusing on the five per cent of things in our businesses that don’t work and only five per cent of the time focusing on the 95 per cent of things that really do work. When things go wrong, there is no point dragging the team into the boardroom to dissect and analyse every action that (may have) contributed to the poor result.

It is far better to take the team into the boardroom when things have gone well to dissect and analyse every action that (may have) contributed to the good result.

11) Don’t take it all too seriously
No-one enjoys working with a bore.

12) Don’t forget why you are doing it in the first place
When you are on your deathbed, you won’t say say, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Get real, have fun, laugh and lighten up!

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