How to work less and achieve more

These are my notes from the book-Work Less, Achieve More-Great ideas to get your life back by  Fergus O’Connell.

Part 1: The Essentials


One simple idea: Extreme time management: We are not going to do lots of things.

Three simple things:

  • We are not going to do some stuff at all :Saying ‘no’ nicely
  • We are only going to do the things which align with our priorities: Prioritising viciously
  • Anything we do, we’re going to make sure we do it with the least amount of effort:A little planning is better than a lot of firefighting.

The ideas are simple but to do them requires you to change your behaviour and habits and there’s probably nothing harder in the world.


  • Keeping a list
  • All you need is a piece of paper
  • The closer something is to the top the more important it is
  • You can write everything down or keep somethings in your head

 Making your list 

  • It needs to be written down somewhere-paper or an electronic device
  • The things on your list need to be SMART: specific( precise and not vague), measurable(whether the goal has been achieved or not), achievable( attainable as opposed to some pie-in-the-sky-nonsense), realistic(actually makes sense) and time-bound(has a time frame or deadline).
  • Prompts for making your list: yourself, your family, your job.
  • Your list is dynamic and it can and will change
  • You also need a diary to keep track of appointments
  • You need to have a daily list

The list of your contenders- your list of things that could be done

Life list: write down things that need to be done today
Diary: write down appointments that need to be fulfilled today
Any other things

Mark each item with:

  • A- I have to get this done today
  • B- It would be nice to get this thing done today
  • C- realistically I am not going to get this thing done today
  • D- Delegate it. I can get somebody else to do this.

Do all the D’s first.Next do all the A’s.
When you have finished all the A’s, stop.
The B’s and C’s are for another day. 

So, to summarise,

Make and rate your list for today, if you haven’t already.
Allow an A for unexpected stuff.
Do the A’s and D’s.
Record how much time goes into unexpected stuff.
Make your list for tomorrow.
Do some or all of your tomorrow’s list today.
Be sure you finish the day with a list of stuff to be done tomorrow.
Go home.


  • Supply=How much time you have available= usually overestimated
  • Demand=How much you have to do=usually underestimated
  • You cannot do everything. So the things you do must be pretty important to you.

Therefore you should

  • Say no nicely
  • Prioritize viciously
  • Planning 

Part 2: Your job 

What exactly are we trying to do?
Whenever you get handed a project or any kind of request, figure out what event would mark the  end of this project.
Write down what could have to be done or achieved or delivered by the time that event takes place.
Make a list of all of the project’s stakeholders. if your initial impression was that the request was pretty small and self-contained, yet your list of stakeholders(the people who are affected by the project) is starting to grow, then maybe the thing is not as simple as it may have first appeared to everybody.
Ask each of the stakeholders what their win-conditions are, i.e. what they would regard as a successful outcome to the project. Alternatively, write down what you believe to be their win conditions, and then confirm those with them.
When the event that marks the end of your project is reached then all of the win conditions need to have been met.( They don’t all have to be met on that last day but they have to be met along the way.)
If it doesn’t look like all the win-conditions are going to be met, then either the event that marks the end of your project needs to change or else some of the win-conditions need to change
What do we have to do and who’s going to do it?

The basics for each job that we have to know are:

What jobs have to be done?
The work involved in each of the jobs?
When things are going to happen and what depends on what?
Who is going to do the job?
How much will it cost?
What if things go wrong?

Irrespective of how well we plan, bad stuff will happen on our project. We have to try to stop this by:

1. Identifying the things most likely to affect the project

2. Grading these as to their likelihood and potential impact( high=3, low=1, others=2)

3. Exposure= Likelihood x impact. If exposure is 6  or 9, then take action to deal with it.

How do we keep the show on the road?

How to track your project

  • Identify the jobs you have to do today.
  • Do them.
  • Once you have done them, you record what you happened exactly( work, duration, budget)
  • See if there are any changes.
  • If there are changes deal with them- Say it is a big change. Use contingency to cover the change. Suck it up-work more to deal with the change.
  • As a result of this the project completion date will change or remain static
  • And keep doing this regularly

Status reporting

  • How we are doing versus what we predicted
  • How we got to be where we are
  • Assessing a project in five minutes

How well defined or not is the goal?
Is there a final definitive detailed list of jobs where every job has been broken down to the 1-5 day of detail?

  • Does the project have somebody who, day-to-day shepherds all of the jobs forward?
  • Are there people to do all of the jobs and do they have enough time?
  • Is there contingency in the plan?
  • Has an up-to-date risk analysis been done and are the jobs to reduce those risks part of the plan?

Part 3: Your organisation

For an organisation to function properly we should decide at the beginning of the year what we could do and what we could not do. We then prioritise and assign resources and get things done. This will make things more effective and smooth.

Part 4: Your life
Take some time to describe in detail the life you would like to have at a day/week/month/year level.
Make a list of people affected by your life. Write down whether or not they are happy with your life at the moment. Then write down how they would feel if you moved to your new life.

You can’t change your past.

You can’t predict your future.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Therefore there is no use for guilt or worry.

You can plan or live your way to your new life.

Planning your way– use the plan above

Living your way
Make your life list and your work list(projects and day-day work)

  • Prioritise your projects and day-day work
  • Work down your priorities

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