Protect Your Time When You Work Online


There are only 480 minutes in a typical 8-hour workday. That’s not much time at all.

Especially when you think of the number of minutes that you spend:

  • In meetings
  • Clarifying misunderstandings
  • Writing emails
  • Trying to find documents/emails/etc.
  • Creating or adjusting processes
  • Scheduling meetings
  • In meetings

If your job description includes nothing but meetings… then, great!

But for the rest of us, this is a real problem. How do you protect your time when you work online?

We Spend Much of Our Workday on Anything But Work

How much time do you actually get to spend on your work?

The ugly truth is that a lot of our workday is wasted. That’s true for traditional workplaces and it’s also true for distributed teams. Here are the four biggest time sucks in remote workplaces:

1. Meetings

There is a tendency in remote teams to think that because the team is distributed, you need more meetings. This is a big mistake—more meetings simply lead to more wasted time. Meetings are not what keep your workforce engaged. In many cases, meetings are simply unnecessary—and usually, there are people in attendance who really don’t need to be there.

2. Miscommunication 

Miscommunication wastes time because you have to spend time fixing the issues that it causes, like costly mistakes, hurt feelings, incomplete or unsatisfactory work, just to name a few.

3. Disorganization

Lack of processes. No consensus about where and how information is stored and retrieved. Unclear ownership of information, processes, deliverables. All of these issues come from general disorganization, which is all too common in distributed companies.

4. Distraction

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention distractions… while many if not most remote workers learn how to minimize distractions in their workspace, distractions do happen. And it can be hard to reel your remote team back in when you’re not physically there to do so.

There are plenty of other ways that we all waste time, but these are the biggest culprits when it comes to wasting our remote workday. I’m guessing each and every person who has ever worked remotely has a cautionary tale (or dozen) to share about how valuable time was wasted in each of those categories.

Protect Your Team’s Most Precious Resource: Time

Time is money, people. If you and your team are wasting valuable time due to any of the above reasons, it’s time to buckle down and see how you can fix it.

Here are some easy ways to protect your time:

  1. Have fewer, better meetings. Ask yourselves: is this meeting really necessary? What is the minimum amount of time that we can spend on this topic? Can we make it even shorter if we do some of the work on our own? Create an agenda and stick to it. Assign someone to take notes so that there is a written record of outcomes and decisions. Only include people who absolutely have to be there.
  2. Communicate better. The answer to miscommunication is not more meetings (as you might have guessed from the number one time suck listed above)—but better communication. Establish processes and policies that clearly state expectations for communication, and then hold everyone accountable (even yourself!) for following those policies.
  3. Establish and follow processes. Even if you have a designated person who is supposed to document processes, each individual should be responsible for documenting and sharing the processes that they own in their roles. Establishing this as a universal practice minimizes confusion and has the added bonus of being reusable for onboarding and training new hires.
  4. Set clear and consistent expectations. When people understand exactly what is expected of them, they are less likely to get distracted. If they know they have to deliver a report by the end of the day, they’re more likely to focus on that task and get it done.

Speak Up For Your Time

It’s not just a question of whether your team uses time wisely. You are responsible for sticking up for your time when you need to. That means:

  1. Speak up. Communicate when a meeting or process is not productive. If you were included in a meeting that you think you don’t need to attend, communicate that to those who are organizing it. They may be privy to information you’re not, or they may have made a mistake.
  2. Say no. Say no to unnecessary requests. How do you know if a request is unnecessary? Ask. Don’t be rude about it, but asking about the purpose of a request will help you understand if it is something you really have to do or if perhaps there is another solution that the requester hasn’t considered.
  3. Help solve problems. If you see that there are problems in communication, organization, or other areas, then help to solve those problems. Don’t just call attention or complain about them—make steps to make a positive change in your team.
  4. Make an effort to improve your own productivity. Just as I mentioned above, we’re all guilty of wasting time at work. Everyone has their own inefficiencies that we can work on improving, which helps everyone on the team, as well.

We’re All in This Together

It boils down to this: we are all responsible for sticking up for our own time and that of our colleagues.

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Workplaceless Team

Workplaceless Team

Workplaceless envisions a workforce that thrives in a flexible and digital-first future—where performance and growth are not constrained by location. Our team goal is to share insights and practices that will help professionals and companies achieve this aspiration.
Workplaceless envisions a workforce that thrives in a flexible and digital-first future—where performance and growth are not constrained by location. Our team goal is to share insights and practices that will help professionals and companies achieve this aspiration.
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