Workshop: Personal Trainer

I often work at weekends. I feel guilty, but it is the only time I get for thinking and written work. How can I stop this?

You are in good company: I am writing this article just before Sunday lunch. And Acevo's recent Remuneration Survey revealed that 80 per cent of chief executives work over their weekends.

This is probably not surprising. As you say, there is often not much time in the office to concentrate on writing or thinking. The diary will be full of meetings and even if there is a space, it is surprising how quickly it is filled by an enterprising member of staff who spots that you're 'not busy'.

The average hours of work for Acevo chief executives is 47 hours, but this masks a particular problem for smaller organisations.

We found from our survey that the individual chief executives who work the longest hours - 80 per week - were in organisations with incomes of no more than £1m.

The key is flexibility. Is your weekend working habit coupled with long hours in the office, as well as attending events in the evening? Are you going to breakfast meetings? If there is a pattern of excessive hours then you must be prepared to review your time management radically.

An overworked and stressed senior manager is not going to make the most effective decisions. Decisions that need time and thought end up being rushed and bad.

If, however, your weekend working is coupled with a more flexible approach during the week, it is less of a problem. Are there days in which you leave the office early to get home for an evening in? Do you take an afternoon off to visit an exhibition that you really want to see? Do you compensate by taking time off 'in lieu'?

The problem is our Anglo Saxon Protestant work ethic. If we are not sitting at our desk between the hours of 9am and 5pm, we feel we are somehow not working. The idea of an afternoon off strikes terror in our consciences.

So if you are feeling guilty, use this to review your approach to time generally. At my last appraisal with my chair, we reviewed my time management and agreed that I would generally work at home on Fridays so that I could do the necessary writing and reflection. This has not always been possible but it has been an extraordinarily effective way to work. I know other chief executives do this as well. Make sure you discuss these issues with your partner/family. They probably deserve some of you at the weekend, don't they?

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo).

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