Working hours

Being a business owner doesn’t have to mean being on call 24/7. Setting and maintaining professional boundaries can be one way to improve your work-life balance. For example, if you answer a work call after you’ve just shut your lap to down or find yourself working at a weekend to satisfy a last-minute client demand, it’s a sign you need to set better boundaries for yourself and your clients. These boundaries could be as simple as ‘no work calls during meal times’ or a strict 9-5 working schedule. Whatever you choose, you need to stand by them consistently if you want them to be respected.

Other things to think about are:

Learn to switch off (your devices)

Set a strict time when you turn off your laptop and put your smartphone away. Even if you’re using your mobile or laptop for relaxation at home, work is never far away. It can be tempting to ‘just check your emails’ and you’re sucked right back into a business mindset.

Take care of yourself

Rather than feeling like you own your business, sometimes it can feel like you ‘are’ the business. You might be tempted to work a bit longer or push a bit harder – even if it puts strain on your health.

But these long hours, missed lunch breaks and stressed evenings can take a toll on your emotional and physical wellbeing. Push yourself too far and you risk burning out, and then you’ll have no choice but to take a back seat for a while.

Before that happens, prioritise and practise self-care as a business essential, not a nice-to-have.

Ask for a helping hand

Having more ‘me time’ is all well and good in theory, but carving out that time can be a bit trickier in practice. Small business owners frequently fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. It’s hard to extend your trust and it can seem like a waste of resources to pay another person.

However, this isn’t just taking time from your home life, it could also be holding back your business. Not only is it OK to outsource, it can be a huge boost to your efficiency and profits. Check out our advice on outsourcing.


Look at ways to boost your productivity when working

Background noise

Researchers from Yamaguchi University in Japan discovered that while background noise is conducive to productivity, background conversations can distract you from the task at hand. Try using headphones and play some gentle, constant background noise such as music without lyrics or nature sounds to boost productivity when you have a noisy workplace. And if that fails, head to a coffee shop (if you can) where a steady stream of background noise could be just what you need to concentrate.

Grab a Coffee Nap

A cheap and easy way to boost productivity is to have a 20 to 30 minute midday-nap – especially if it’s a coffee nap.

A coffee nap simply refers to drinking a cup of coffee then sleeping for about 20 minutes. Though it’s a stimulant that can improve reaction time, the caffeine in coffee takes about 20 minutes to hit your system. And sleeping reduces brain chemical adenosine which accumulates when we’re awake and can contribute to brain fog. Caffeine works by inhibiting the adenosine receptors. So napping while giving the caffeine from your coffee time to kick in could make you alert, focused, and ready to work when you wake up.

Drink More Water

Recent studies have found a surprising link between mild dehydration and our ability to focus, which in turn helps us work more efficiently.

Scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College’s Brain & Mind Research Institute found that mild dehydration (defined as “water loss below 5 percent of our body weight”) interferes with the increased blood flow necessary for proper neural activity. Feeling even a little thirsty means you may fall short of your peak productivity.

Get a Blue Light

Blue-light exposure can make you more alert and attentive, which boosts productivity.

A June 2016 study found that subjects exposed to blue light in a darkened room finished cognitive tasks more quickly than the control group. What’s even more interesting is that the subjects only needed 30 minutes of blue light exposure, and that the effect continued on for more than another 30 minutes after the exposure ended. So schedule a blue-light break right before you turn your attention to difficult or complicated tasks that need your complete attention.

Schedule fewer working hours

The six-hour workday seems to be boosting productivity in Sweden, so why not here?

Increasing numbers of businesses in Sweden are experimenting with 6-hour workdays. While the idea was to improve work-life balance, the shorter workday seems to increase productivity. And scientific studies back up the anecdotal claims in these news stories — that when we work fewer hours each day, we are more focused and productive.

Stanford University and the Institute for the Study of Labor found a non-linear relationship between output and hours worked in the performance of female munitions workers. So at some point, known as “threshold hours,” the relationship between hours and output changes, and output declined as the number of hours worked increased. In layman’s terms, our productivity changes after working a certain number of hours, suggesting we are most productive when we work fewer hours.

So though it may seem counter-intuitive, working less hours each day could boost your productivity.

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice, contact our experts* Michelle and Lee at Pro-Development:

01904 628838

*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.