Tackle time-killers with our 4 week productivity makeover

30th November 2016

7 minutes

A completely efficient workplace is the stuff of every manager’s dreams. Despite this, it’s not something you can realistically achieve in the modern day workplace. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try every trick in the book to streamline operations and help you get the most out of your working day.

To help you take another step towards increased productivity and efficiency, we’ve followed the journey of business owner Stephan Baart as he begins a productivity makeover. On top of that, we’ve also gathered the top office time-wasting activities to help you cut down on wastage and improve productivity.

Top tips to boost productivity

Productivity Makeover

Setting up on your own can be a liberating and exciting experience many of us only ever dream of, but Stephan Baart made it a reality when he recently started real estate management firm Minerva Vastgoedbeheer. Success has come naturally to the entrepreneur, and his company has enjoyed rapid growth during its first year, however there is one thing that he would like to have more of…and that is time.

“Running my own business means that I handle everything from filing and finance to client calls and new business meetings, which is absolutely normal but I’ve got to a stage now where I need to streamline my daily activities, make the most of my meetings and make sure that I am investing most of my time where it matters – developing relationships, whether with my existing client base or expanding my network,” said Stephan.

As part of Staples’ Prepare to Succeed in 2016 campaign, we teamed up with award-winning careers mentor Aimee Bateman to challenge business owner Stephan to make some key changes in the way he works over the space of four weeks. The objective? To save him one hour each week, time he can spend on clients and new business or on basic organisational work allowing him to reduce the amount he spends on external administrative services.

Productivity Makeover Challenge

Name: Stephan Baart

Goal: To become more effective in time management and work towards saving one hour each week, enough time to fit in two more meetings each month.

Week One

Challenge: Stephan was asked to spend one hour on the Sunday evening looking at the week ahead, visualising what he had going on each day and fine tuning plans, whether that be reviewing travel routes or rearranging meetings so his week was streamlined. He was also asked to consider spending some time organising his home office by filing, or shredding unwanted documents.

Stephan’s must-have products: Shredderfiling cabinet

Result: Stephan saved 90 minutes

He said: “It really surprised me how much time I saved by sitting down and reviewing my week in advance. My regular client meetings are on a rolling weekly or monthly basis, and I’ve realised now that occasionally these need to be reviewed to see if they still make sense to everyone, as a few tweaks made the working week much more efficient. A few changes meant I wasn’t travelling to and from meetings at random points in the day, or leaving a task half-finished because I needed to start something else.”

Week Two

Challenge: Stephan was tasked with writing a daily to-do list each evening for the following day, but asked to limit it to just five key tasks. This was designed to help him prioritise and avoid filling his day with non-essential tasks.

Stephan’s must-have products: Notebookpage flags

Result: Stephan’s efficiency soared, saving him more than 1 hour

He said: “Having to limit myself to just five key tasks a day was difficult as there was always the temptation to jot everything down. It did make me more focussed and I achieved more as I was less distracted. I even found I had some time left over at the end of the day for smaller admin tasks I had been putting off.”

Week Three

Challenge: This week Stephan was asked to say no to three things that he would normally have said yes to – these needed to be three things that did not directly impact the financial success of his business. He needed to work out what was important by prioritising workloads and seeing what could be done at a later date.

Stephan’s must-haves: Highlighter penssticky notes

Result: Stephan saved 30 minutes

Stephan said: “My biggest challenge was working out how to say no, rather than actually doing it. I didn’t want people to think I was being unhelpful if I asked if we could schedule another time to speak, but it did become easier as the week progressed. Once I became more comfortable with the idea the trick became about getting into the habit of transferring reminders from Post-it notes to my personal calendar so I didn’t forget jobs I had pushed back. This challenge has been about a change in mind set, and being confident to reschedule – which is difficult to justify when you are working for yourself.”

Week Four

Challenge: In week four, Stephan was limited to checking his emails just three times each day – once in the morning, once at lunchtime and once one hour before the end of the day, for just 30 minutes at a time. This was designed so he could get the important things done, like digitally filing away documents from the day, working to his own agenda as opposed to those of others.

Stephan’s must-have products: Mobile scanner.

Result: Stephan saved almost 45 minutes

Stephan said: “Emails have a will of their own and can take over your day so I found this task extremely useful. It’s important that clients can easily contact me, so while I gave myself certain windows in which to answer emails I still scanned my inbox through the day to watch out for anything urgent that couldn’t wait. It meant that I could concentrate on more important jobs and find time for organisational tasks too, such as stepping away from my desk or my smart phone to do some filing. My mobile scanner allowed me to transfer and file documents almost immediately.”

Top time-wasters

To help you on your journey to a more productive and efficient workplace, we’ve identified all of the main time consuming office habits that could be wasting time, and brought you solutions to help minimize the damage.

Time killer – Fuelling up on caffeine

The holy grail of office life – that extra cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon can help see you through until home time. But, recent research has found that we spend 24 minutes a day making hot beverages – that’s two hours a week just brewing up!


Rather than individuals making their own drink, go in “tea rounds” so the process of brewing can be more efficient and effective. Alternatively, you could introduce an instant hot water dispenser to cut out any time you spend waiting for the kettle to boil.

Time killer – Waiting on printing

The one time you’ll need to print something out will be the one time there is a huge queue of paper waiting to be produced.


Nominate a printing delegate to collect all of your table or team’s printing, or introduce smaller printing stations to eliminate any potential backlogs.

Time killer – The Social Network

With the average person spending 1.72 hours a day on social media, it’s unsurprising to hear that is it also one of the biggest time-killers in an office environment.


Block all forms of social media from being accessible on your company network. But be warned, this may make you a very, very unpopular figure within the office!

Time killer – The crafty ciggarette

Smokers – did you know you spend 45 minutes a day outside puffing away, at a cost of £8.4bn to British businesses each year?


One of the most effective ways to cut back on the time spent outside is to introduce either specific time periods where smokers can get their nicotine fix, or, perhaps more harshly, take the time out of their lunch hour.

Time killer – Enjoying the social perks

To spark that creative buzz, many businesses are introducing the likes of ping pong, table football and pool to get the most out of their employees – but some workers tend to take the mickey!


Introduce new rules where your employees can only play a set amount of games per day (one is surely enough?), or have a booking system where you have to put your name down to play.

Time killer – Nipping to the loo

We needn’t go into too much detail here.


Well, there is no real solution – people will take as long as it takes when nature calls! There is nothing within your power that can alter that.

Time killer – Emails

Wading through our emails on a daily basis is a highly time-consuming task, with 33% of participants in a recent OfficeNet survey claiming they spend up to two hours a day checking their inbox!


Setting up a spam filter can help eradicate any unwanted messages, or you can filter your emails so they will go into the correct and necessary folders in reference to their subject title.

These are our top 10 office time killers – but how many of these are you guilty of?

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