Half of All Small Businesses Struggle With Improving This

If you were asked what you anticipate your greatest challenge related to managing your workforce will be in the next 6 to 12 months, what would your answer be?

If you said “productivity”, you’re not alone. When over 300 small business owners were surveyed were asked the same question, at least 52% answered, “improving productivity and efficiency.”

Every workplace has at least one productive employee—hopefully more—that keeps his or her work area clean and tidy, and leaves on time every day while still managing to get everything done. This person always exceeds goals and earns positive reviews every quarter (must be imaginary, right?).

Wouldn’t be nice if everyone on your team performed as efficiently as your most productive employee?

Let’s take a look at 4 qualities your employees need to adopt to be highly productive:

1. Productive employees tackle something hard first

As soon as they arrive at work, highly productive employees choose one item from their to-do list—typically it’s something that most people dread and put off, like making a phone call to a difficult stakeholder—and they get it done.

While not an easy thing to do, the important thing is to move beyond the negative feelings (anxiety, dread, self-doubt, etc.) that accompany a difficult task to the positive emotions (confidence, accomplishment, optimism, etc.) earned afterward. The boost brought on through accomplishment fuels highly productive employees through the rest of the day.

How you can help: Tackle the hardest thing on your own to-do list so you can relate your experience to struggling employees and explain how the approach helps you be more productive.

2. Productive employees are strategic about taking breaks

Did you know that employees who believe that they must work 24/7 to achieve a good standing in the workplace often get this idea through their employers’ attitudes?

In fact, almost 20% of North American workers worry their bosses won’t think they are hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks, and 22% of North American bosses say that employees who take regular lunch breaks are less hardworking.

Unless your employees are like Mr. Data—the Star Trek Generations android—their alertness and attention to detail is going to wane throughout the day. Meg Selig of Psychology Today indicates that breaks improve physical and emotional health, aid in making better decisions, restore motivation, boost productivity and creativity, and improve memory retention.

How you can help: Encouraging your employees to take regular breaks throughout the day—including lunch breaks—is an easy way for you to boost employee wellness and work performance. Lead by example by taking a walk or enjoying a coffee break with some of your employees.

3. Productive employees plan focused work sessions

If you were to ask an employee to sit down and focus on one task for three hours before lunch, that team member would probably get discouraged and let his or her mind wander. If that employee were asked, instead, to focus on the same task for 25 minutes and then take a break, it would be much easier to be productive for that entire 25 minutes.

Enter the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo several decades ago, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the most popular time management methods in the world.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: Choose a task you want to complete.
  • Step 2: Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Step 3: Work on the task until the timer goes off.
  • Step 4: Take a five-minute break (stand up and stretch, take a short walk, get a snack, or chat with a co-worker).
  • Step 5: Every four cycles, you can take a longer break—15 to 30 minutes (have lunch, read a book, exercise, etc.).

How you can help: Buy a box of tomato timers and hand them out to each of your team members—it’s the perfect platform to explain the benefits of the Pomodoro Technique. Don’t forget to take a timer for yourself!

4. Productive employees end the day industriously

“Employees who end their workday by eating a stale doughnut and watching cat videos for 45 minutes are not carrying any productivity momentum into the next day,” says Capterra. “They leave work feeling unproductive and sluggish and likely beat themselves up about it for the rest of the evening.”

Highly productive employees aim to finish one manageable task near the end of the day. This allows them to leave the office with a sense of accomplishment—energy that carries them into another day.

 “How you end the day is critical, as it has much to do with how you start the next day.”

~ According to Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author

How you can help:  Prior to joining your team for happy hour, complete any open tasks and update your to-do list. Use your collaboration channel to let your employees know you’re finishing up an email and updating your to-do list for the next day and that you’ll be with them shortly. This provides you with the opportunity to explain how this process helps you carry momentum throughout the week (just don’t be a show off about it).


Highly productive employees actively work at reaching all of their goals in as efficient a manner as possible.

To help your entire team perform as well as your most productive employee, encourage them to use the four tips above. If they only pick up on one—or a few—of these strategies, you’ll still notice tangible improvements.

Remember to use these practices yourself to demonstrate how making a few small changes can yield big results.

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.