New research from AXA Business Insurance[1] reveals more than a quarter of small business owners in the UK regularly push past the maximum 48 hour week recommended by the EU Working Time Directive.

Sixty eight per cent exceed the standard 35 hour working week, 25 per cent put in 51 hours or more and three per cent clock up an exhausting 80 hour week.

But despite the risks linked with longer working hours, the study also found that most small business owners enjoy what they do and feel overfilling their own diary is more appealing than punching a time clock for someone else.

Darrell Sansom, Managing Director at AXA Business Insurance, a leading provider for sole traders, self-employed people and small to medium size enterprises said:

"Running your own successful business can be a real labour of love so it's no great surprise that most small business owners work beyond the standard 35 hour week and are happy to do so.

"What could be a concern is the number of people who frequently put in more late nights and early mornings than experts consider safe or reasonable.

"Of course hard work is to be applauded, but burnout is bad for business. Research shows that productivity declines after a 50 hour week, while longer hours also bring increased health, safety and reputational risks - so everyone needs some down time, no matter how committed or effective they are.

"No one is invincible, and if you are regularly struggling to fit everything into your day, it might be time to take a step back, reflect and re-prioritise the key things that will protect your business and help it grow."

AXA's top tips on time management:

  • List it

With so many different tasks to complete every day that it's impossible to keep everything inside your head. If you haven't already done so, note your daily, weekly and monthly tasks to keep a rolling list of what you need to prioritise - and what can wait until tomorrow

  • Take advantage of technology

We all know the ‘always on' culture digs into your personal time, but it can also help you get better organised too. Use better connectivity to your advantage and check out the range of apps that can save your business time

  • Outsource

Time is money, so you may be better off outsourcing the parts of your business you struggle with to focus on the things you do best

  • Trust your people

Your people really are your greatest asset! Hire effectively, and surround yourself with reliable people who care about your business as much as you do to ease the burden and make delegation easier

  • Brain dump

The things on your mind can often stopping you completing the task at hand. Everyone has business worries and it's important to review the risks to your business as it grows and adjust your business continuity plan accordingly. Making sure your business is protected means you can clear your fears and focus on action.

[1]The survey of 350 small business owners across the UK was carried out for AXA Business Insurance by Taylor McKenzie Research and Marketing Ltd in December 2014