Office Work Studying
Studies show that leaders and business owners work more hours than most, with some putting in over sixty hours a week. Pixabay

We have all encountered a super-productive employee or colleague, as well as an incredibly unproductive one.

As a leader, encouraging effective time management is vital to boosting the productivity of your team, your division and your entire organisation. Start with yourself and lead by example. If your team see you as being positively productive (as opposed to just busy or overworked), you will inspire them to follow suit.

Complete with a time audit. Catalogue where you spend your time on an average day, week or month. Are you drowning in emails or simply moving from one Zoom call to the next? Meetings are vital for communication, but they can significantly drain your time. Consider if you really need to attend or chair each one and if tasks could be delegated or communication shared in other ways.

An underlying cause of inefficient working is often taking on too much. No one performs at their best when they are overworked and firefighting. Studies show that leaders and business owners work more hours than most, with some putting in over 60 hours a week.

But working so many hours isn't healthy in the long term. No matter how determined you are, you cannot be productive for 50-plus hours of your week.

Maintaining a work-life balance is critical to avoid burnout. Poor time management creates stress, which leads to overwhelm, feeling unmotivated and poor decision-making. Think about working smarter, not harder. Consider working fewer hours, not more. Research from the major UK trial of a four-day week earlier this year highlighted the benefits of reduced-hour, output-focused working.

In the pilot programme, conducted by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global, the UK's 4 Day Week Campaign and think-tank Autonomy, over 60 companies and almost 3,000 workers completed a six-month trial of a four-day week, with no loss of pay for workers. Nearly every organisation planned to stick to a four-day week post-trial, with companies reporting increased revenue, decreased absenteeism and significant increases in physical and mental health, time spent exercising and overall life and job satisfaction.

Rates of stress, burnout and fatigue all fell, while problems with sleep declined. Having recently started a four-day week, I agree with the results. I am more focused and productive during my work time, as I have more balance during my week.

Think about the working patterns amongst your team, whether they are office or home-based. How many hours do they spend staring at a screen? If someone has been at their computer for more than an hour, they are probably less productive than at the start, more likely to make mistakes or work more slowly as their concentration suffers.

Here are some productive habits that you should encourage your team to follow:

1. Take regular breaks: Use the Pomodoro Effect – do 25 minutes of solid work, then take a five-minute break. Get up and stretch and make a cup of tea – just something to change your focus for a few minutes. Looking out of the window is a good idea, too, to rest your eyes after screen time. Repeat this three times, then take a longer 30-minute break.

If you're struggling with something, like finding the right way to word an email or visualising a new concept, step away from the computer and do something else. Your break will refresh you, and you should be able to unravel your problem more quickly afterwards.

2. Eat the frog: Tackle your most challenging task first. Don't put it off. You'll simply waste mental energy thinking about it, distracting you from other tasks. By addressing the issue head-on, you can be proud of your achievements and move on to the rest of your day, knowing the worst is behind you.

3. Break down your to-do list: It's easy to feel unproductive when every task is massive. Simply writing 'finish report' on your list means it might not get crossed off for a few months. But suppose you break it down into individual elements you can achieve within a few hours, like 'analyse February's data' or 'write the introduction'. In that case, you are more likely to make progress.

4. Create the right work environment: Whether in an office or at home, ensure your work area is tidy, organised and workable. Don't be afraid to change your space and routines occasionally, like making work calls whilst walking (as long as your signal is good), or using a co-working space. Switching things up can boost your productivity and creativity.

You can't stop or turn back time. But you can make the most of it. Along with productive working habits, think about incorporating regular routines into your day, week or month. Simple changes, like not pressing the snooze button or starting your day by saying three things you are grateful for, can make a big difference for you, your team and your business.

By Rebecca Newenham, Business Mentor & Franchise Consultant Rebecca Newenham

After a successful career in corporate buying for retail head office, Rebecca Newenham set out to grow and scale a business that worked for her and her family. She founded Get Ahead in 2010 and has built a thriving, award-winning global VA franchise business. A business mentor, franchise consultant and flexible working champion, Rebecca published her first business book, 'Virtually Yours' in 2020 and won the British Franchise Association Franchise Balance award in 2021.