You Can Spare 15 Minutes a Day For the Habit That Will Make Your Team More Productive

Leaders can quickly increase their team’s productivity by introducing a new habit to help them work more effectively.

This seems counterintuitive, but if you and your team stop working 15-minutes before you walk out the office door or log off your computer and reflect on what you learned, you can boost productivity over 20 percent.

If I hadn’t tried it and benefited (and if it was not backed up by Harvard Business School Study), I am not sure I would believe it.

When I first tried it, I felt guilty.

I had an inner voice saying, “You should be making progress on that big project” and, “You should be working on your to do list for tomorrow”. Once I silenced the “shoulds” and embraced this 15-minute habit, I quickly began to see an impact on my efficiency. I noticed patterns for working smarter, not harder.

A similar impact was shown in a Harvard Business Study as researchers divided employees into two groups. One group worked their normal work day and the other group stopped 15-minutes before their work day ended and reflected, “Please write about the main key lessons you learned”. They did this for 10 straight days and the result was a 22.8 percent increase in performance. When reassessed a month later, they were still performing higher.

The study showed that the power and ease of this short reflection exercise:

  • Boosts productivity quickly — In just 10 days it increases performance double digits.
  • Has a lasting impact — A month later the employees still had a noticeably higher level of productivity.
  • Can be very inexpensive — No formal system was required. They just wrote in a paper journal.

This simple habit works so incredibly well because it gives employees a dose of two positive elements often missing from a typical work day:

  1. Translating experiences into practical wisdom — In the world of psychology this is called “codifying”, which helps you remember what and then incorporate it into your work strategies tomorrow.
  2. Building confidence and motivation — When you notice your progress it is easier to keep going. This is also known as “self efficacy”. As HBS professor Francesca Gino. “They feel more confident that they can achieve things. As a result, they put more effort into what they’re doing and what they learn.”

You can immediately use this simple strategy in any industry and at any level of the organization with these three simple steps:

  1. Create a recurring 15-minute meeting on your calendar — Make an appointment with yourself.
  2. Set the timer for 15 minutes.
  3. Use that time to answer, “what two to three lessons have you learned today?”.

Here are a few FAQ’s based on my experience:

  • What if you cannot think of anything? It took a little digging the first time; but once you come up with one or two, it get’s much easier.
  • What if you are done before the 15-minutes is over? Move on. After some practice, it rarely takes me 15-minutes. In fact, I now note lessons throughout the day, not just at the end.
  • Can I just type this on my computer or “think” about it? Yes, but it works better if you write it down. Writing taps into a different part of the brain.

You can also use this exercise to increase team’s productivity. To do that:

Step 1. Share the research

It can be challenging to change your team’s work habits. Help them understand the benefits by sharing this article.

Step 2. Try it in your next staff meeting

They may be less likely to try it on their own. A great time to introduce this is in a manager-led meeting.

Step 3. Set the timer for 5 minutes

If it is a time-limited exercise, they will get down to business. Since you are adding this process to a staff meeting agenda, I suggest a shorter time duration for their first reflection exercise.

Step 4. Ask them to write down what one lesson they learned today or recently learned

Keep focused on the one big lesson since they only have 5-minutes.

Step 5. Ask them to share their lesson with the broader team

This helps increase personal performance, and also helps the overall team benefit from each other’s learning.

So what are you waiting for? Schedule time on your calendar now for your first reflection and put it on the agenda for the end of your next staff meeting.

Here’s to increasing productivity!


P.S: Download my free report, 7 Strategies for Senior Leaders To Get the Most Out of Their Workforce

This modified version of this article originally appeared in Ben Fanning’s Inc Magazine column