M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
Stop Working Harder (2020)
by Arthur Worsley
Stop Working Harder Review
Stop Working Harder is The Art of Living’s very own ultimate productivity primer – a practical, no-nonsense guide to basic, day-to-day productivity; the kind of everyday skills that you wish someone taught you in school.
How do you cut down distractions? How do you work out what to do next? How do you prioritise? What’s the best way to deal with emails? Or use your calendar? Or run meetings? Or name files? Or get organised? Or stop procrastinating?
These are just some of the meta-problems we all face on our first day on the job. And solving them doesn’t just make us more effective at work. It’s the foundation of living a happy, full and productive modern life.
And yet NOBODY gets any training in them. Not at home, not at school, not even in the best companies in the world. Result? Senseless anxiety, overwhelm and frustration. Needless burn out. Billions of wasted hours each day. Hours that could be better spent on projects that matter, or relaxing, or on the pastimes and with people we love.
It is literally madness.
So that’s why I wrote Stop Working Harder. It’s the über practical, tool-focussed training manual that I wish someone gave me on my first day of work.
I hope the secrets inside help you as much as they helped me. I hope you enjoy this free summary. And most of all, I hope you take something away today that helps you live a fuller and happier life. 🙌
Stop Working Harder Summary
There are two main times to read a book summary:
- Before you read a book – To prime your brain; to decide if it’s worth reading; and
- After you read a book – As a way to recap the main points.
If you’re here before reading the primer (and you enjoy this free summary), please consider ordering your own copy of the book. It comes with instant digital delivery, way more detail (including tons of screenshots, pro tips and links to game changing resources) and access to a whole heap of bonuses.
If you’re here after reading, then WELL DONE for taking action and I hope you enjoy this quick recap. Do what you can, from where you are, with what you have and remember: the only way to version 100 is through version 1.
Stop Working Harder Contents
Click any chapter to jump to its section of the summary.
- Step 1 – Destroy Distractions
- Step 2 – Eviscerate Emails
- Step 3 – Conquer Files & Folders
- Step 4 – Master Meetings
- Step 5 – Tackle Tasks
- Step 6 – Dominate Every Day
- Step 7 – Win Every Week
- Step 8 – Upgrade Your Goals
- Step 9 – Beat Procrastination
- Step 10 – Reflect & Repeat
Step 1 – Destroy Distractions
Here are 7 steps to destroying distractions so you can enjoy more time, space and energy to get big things done:
- Gather all your devices.
- Create a “Check Me” list.
- Disable all notifications.
- Pick up your first device.
- Open the device notification settings.
- Disable all notifications on every app.
- Add important apps to your “Check Me” list.
- Repeat for each remaining device.
- Take control of your browsers.
- Install ad blockers.
- Open your desktop browser notification settings.
- Disable/deny all website notifications.
- Disable autoplay.
- Add important sites to your “Check Me” list.
- Organise your “Check Me” list.
- Scan the whole list.
- Delete as many entries as you can.
- Organise and prioritise the rest.
- Put your personal details into stealth mode.
- Make yourself really hard to disturb.
- Become hard to book.
- Become hard to find.
- Make it tricky to get your attention.
Step 2 – Eviscerate Emails
Here are 9 steps to hit inbox zero and drastically cut down the time that you spend dealing with emails each week:
- Shut off the supply.
- Disable notifications.
- Add emails to your “Check Me” list.
- Learn to find your stuff, fast.
- Set up your system.
- Create your “# Action” folder.
- Create your “# Waiting for” folder.
- Clear, review & engage.
- Clear – Get to zero.
- Review – Review what’s left.
- Engage – Take action.
- Hit inbox zero.
- Archive stale email.
- Start at the top of your inbox.
- Clarify the email.
- Organise the email.
- Keep it clear, quicker.
- Auto-archive newsletters.
- Send CCs to a secondary inbox.
- Configure out of office replies.
- Review what’s left, regularly.
- Engage like a pro.
- Engage with the right email.
- Engage with it in the right way.
- Upgrade your toolkit.
- Use keyboard shortcuts.
- Use canned responses.
- Use snippets.
- Create mailing lists.
- Learn to mail merge.
Step 3 – Conquer Files & Folders
Here are 4 steps to clearing up your clutter and creating a light-weight, simple filing system that never fails:
- Centralise your storage.
- Sign up for/upgrade Dropbox.
- Set up your basic folder structure.
- Stockpile ALL your documents into your “# Inbox”.
- Process your “# Inbox” into your filing system.
- Simplify your folders.
- Name your files effectively.
- Download and use game-changing power tools.
Step 4 – Master Meetings
Here are 5 steps to eliminating pointless meetings while mastering those that are left:
- Avoid the unnecessary – ask:
- What’s it for?
- Is it necessary?
- Who is necessary?
- Is it worth it? and (if 2 or 4 aren’t “Yes!”)
- What’s the best way to say no?
- Destroy distractions.
- Pick a quiet location.
- Make tech easy to use.
- Keep it short.
- Bring back-up work.
- Start on time.
- Ban phones.
- Keep things on topic.
- Make it clear.
- Prepare in advance.
- Use a whiteboard or presentation.
- Confirm the agenda.
- Assign a timekeeper.
- Keep moving forward.
- Table new items that come up.
- Eliminate repetition.
- Agree on a speaking order.
- Record notes, issues and ideas visually.
- Follow up fast (within 24 hours).
- What was learned?
- What was decided?
- What tabled issues are outstanding?
- What are the next actions?
- Who’s responsible?
- And by when?
Step 5 – Tackle Tasks
Here are 5 steps to extend chapter 3 into a full, practical, über light-weight productivity system:
- Set up your system.
- A calendar.
- A task manager.
- A projects list.
- A plans folder.
- Empty your head into your task manager.
- Gather all your lists of next actions.
- Clarify – Ask “What is this?”
- Organise – Ask “Where does it go?”
- Get clear – Repeat steps 2 to 4.
- Get current – Ask “Where am I on this?”
Step 6 – Dominate Every Day
Here are 4 ways to set every day up for success:
- Plan tomorrow, today.
- Identify your top priorities.
- Plan your ideal schedule.
- Master your morning.
- Start the night before.
- Eliminate friction.
- Mould your mind.
- Keep it simple.
- Do first things first.
- Track your time.
Step 7 – Win Every Week
Here are 4 ways to make sure you win every week:
- Set weekly goals.
- Plan your week.
- Unlock accountability.
- Find some people whose opinion you care about.
- Share your weekly goals with them at the start of the week.
- Share what you did and didn’t do at the end of the week.
- Schedule ABC days where:
- A days = doing days;
- B days = planning days; and
- C days = Recovery days.
Step 8 – Upgrade Your Goals
Here’s how to make your goals SMART:
- Make your goals simple.
- Make your goals measurable.
- Make your goals actionable.
- Make your goals realistic.
- Make your goals time-bound.
Note: This chapter contains tons of real-life before and after examples.
Step 9 – Beat Procrastination
Here are the only 3 things you need to do to beat procrastination permanently:
- Work out “when” you procrastinate.
- Grab some paper or open a digital note.
- List anything you know you do when you procrastinate.
- Keep and add to the list whenever you spot new behaviours.
- Understand “why” you procrastinate.
- Lack of clarity.
- Lack of courage.
- Lack of motive.
- Lack of energy.
- Decide “how” to beat procrastination.
- Get clear.
- Find courage.
- Refresh motive.
- Restore energy.
Step 10 – Reflect & Repeat
Here are 3 questions you should ask constantly to give you the ultimate edge:
- What went well?
- What did I learn?
- How could I do better?