The Don’t Do List

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

Most people have their TO DO Lists even if they have not written it down somewhere. I had written a Nano on To DO List and To BE List in 2020. I have shared it here and I am sure you would find it refreshing. However, there is one list that I have never seen most people having or giving priority to (though many would probably have it in their minds). I am sure you guessed the name.

I have asked this question “Do you have a Don’t Do List or Not To DO List?” to countless people. Often, they are surprised “Really…There is a List for this too”. I can say that this is one of the most powerful lists and an instant source of productivity and leverage. I can confidently say having this list and working on it will drive significant benefits for you and your firm.

Let me explain this to you with a nano portion of my story.

In the first 18 months of starting off and making tons of mistakes, I realized that there is very limited time capital that I have (just like everyone has). The key question was “How do I deploy this capital and where do I deploy this capital?”

There were hundreds of activities staring at me; some of which I have captured below:

  1. Calling Prospects
  2. Meeting them
  3. Documenting the meeting and Collecting Data
  4. If the prospect signs up, then doing the Financial Plan
  5. Meeting and Presenting the Plan. Reworking the Plan and Presenting it again
  6. Paperwork for Implementation
  7. Loads of Administrative Functions
  8. Practice Management
  9. Answering Client Queries
  10. Marketing
  11. Doing Research of Different Investments
  12. Identifying Software, Meeting Vendors and then evaluating them
  13. Implementing the Software
  14. Building Collateral, Communication Materials, and others
  15. Meeting Asset Managers
  16. Going to Fund Manager Meets or Attending Calls
  17. Recruiting (So many things on this front even if you have to hire 1 person). The cost of going wrong on this front is huge.
  18. There are 100 more things that I want to write but I am sure you get the point.

I asked myself the following questions “What is the best use of my time? What will drive value for the firm and What are the key activities that I need to handle?”

I knew that my skill was not in negotiating with AMCs (as many think their skill is this and that is why they need to go to an Asset Manager – to get a better deal) and neither was I going to build a world class business doing it.  I never wasted any time on it and I never regret it. The AMCs respected us either for being naïve or for having a vision and executing on that vision (building a truly global offering that would be loved by folks even in the most developed economies). I like to believe it was the latter that they respected us for.

I also figured out the business we were in – Investor Management, Personal and Trust.

Then I asked these 2 questions:

  1. What are the fundamentals that I need to focus on to win in this business?
  2. Who is going to teach me that or Where am I going to Learn this from?

I realized that the fundamentals of this business were the following:

  • Meeting as many of your ideal prospects as possible
  • Getting better at first meetings and conversations
  • Delighting Prospects and Creating a WOW Experience (Doing something that they had not expected from your meeting; in our case it was our process)
  • Culture
  • Building a Passionate Team
  • Client Communication
  • Strategy – What to do and more importantly what not to. This also involves going after a certain segment of clients, understanding the competition and your source of competitive advantage. Most people think their competitive advantage is beating markets or benchmarks. Sadly, it is not for anyone. Strategy also overlaps with the next section Marketing.
  • Marketing – I love the definition by Seth Godin here and have repeated it often – Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.

Where could I learn all of this? Nowhere in one place.

Most of the things above I learnt from reading, seeing what the best globally were doing, thinking about next practices and better ways, reflecting, experimenting, and practicing.

I figured out a first meeting Process that had worked in the US for decades and learnt, practiced, and mastered it. I did not ask questions why this or that nor did I have any doubts. I was a great student, and I knew if it did work for someone, it would work for me. So, I Just DID IT and It worked.

Thus, my focus was to create more time to work on the Fundamentals. The only way to do this was to have a Don’t DO List. What will I not DO that will create more time for me?

Thus, my list was born.

  1. No Fund Manager Calls or Meetings. I do not need to feel special or have any ego issues of meeting only the Top Brass of a company. Additionally, I could just read their commentary if I wished to.
  2. No Events and Award shows.
  3. No TV Appearances. Frankly, I was not so great at it and even if someone felt I was, it was a sheer waste of time.
  4. There were many more, but I am sure you get the idea.

Your list can be different than mine, but I would not imagine radically different. Additionally, this list is not a static list. Some things were added, deleted and at all points of time the list was kept current.

Finally, this list is not just applicable to our work life but our personal life as well.

So, what is your Don’t DO List or Not To DO List?

The Algorithm for this is simple:

Write your list today.

Look at it every day. If you happen to still do it, no worries… Just say “Needs Work” and Try it again the next day.

REPEAT until it becomes a HABIT.



P.S. We have created the world’s first place where you can not only learn, practice and master but implement it at breakneck speed.