With the recent global changes, we can’t help but ask how much remote work plays into eliminating the time-wasting issue many teams face—especially when you consider that 66% of remote workers said working remotely led to fewer distractions and allowed them to build their schedule around personal commitments.
The bad news is that time-wasting is easy to do (even more so if it’s ingrained in your company culture). The good news is that you can take steps to minimize the factors that make wasting time easier.
Ready to stop wasting time and make your remote team more productive? Here are five time-crushing activities to keep an eye out for, with bonus tips on improving employee time management ⏰
Before we get into productivity, procrastination, and how to stop wasting precious time, it's worth pointing out a few eye-opening statistics about how much time-wasting impacts your team.
Our 2021 Global Agency Productivity Report found that 66% of remote workers surveyed work longer hours from home than in the office.
About 19% of those working longer hours claim it's due to additional distractions in their remote environment. If that wasn't shocking enough, 70% of people say they feel distracted at work.
To top it all off, employees waste as many as 31 hours a month sitting in meetings!
4 major time wasters killing your productivity
A study conducted with office workers suggests the average employee is only productive for about three hours during the day. That’s a mind-boggling number when you realize how much time the average full-time employee spends at work!
But if your team is only working for about three hours during the day, what are they doing with the rest of that time? Here are four of the biggest time wasters worth paying attention to.
Excessive emails are one of the most significant contributors to time wasting. While email is necessary to run virtually any business, that doesn't mean that every meeting, note, or memo needs to be sent in multiple emails.
The more you can cut down on excessive emails and aim to be concise, the better off your team's performance will be. According to an annual study by Adobe, employees spend, on average, about five hours per day checking email. That's a lot of time spent managing an inbox rather than on work that moves the business forward.
A recent study points out how poorly planned meetings cost businesses precious work time. In the U.S. alone, the collective cost to companies is in the billions.
Knowing this, it's clear that spending time on unnecessary meetings hurts a business's bottom line. So ditch the unnecessary catch-ups in favor of asynchronous communication through tools like Float, Slack, and Loom.
Interruptions, much like multitasking, hurt your work performance. Interruptions can be the constant pinging of emails, loud conversations between colleagues, outside traffic, or even cell phone notifications.
The interesting part? It isn't necessarily the act of interrupting itself that affects your work negatively, but rather what it takes to focus back on work once the interruption has occured. A recent study published in the Academy of Management pointed out the many downsides of interruptions in the workplace, which include negative outcomes like:
- Less effective decision making
- Lower work quality
- A strain on workplace resources
- Reduction of output
Additionally, the study shows that switching from task to task hurts overall work quality, especially when the task is more complex.
Social media distractions
Can you think of the last time you logged on to a personal social account during work hours when you could have been working on more important tasks? Chances are, the answer is "yes, very recently."
As companies battle time-wasting and the adverse effects it leaves behind, they can't ignore the pull of social media on workers and the direct impact it has on output. Research conducted by Udemy shows social media platforms play a big part in getting distracted. Employees claimed not to be able to make it through the day without it—especially on sites like Instagram and Facebook.
Though social media can be a way for employees to take a mental break, studies suggest its overall effect is detrimental to companies because of the interruptive factor it adds to the workplace. Not to mention, social media usage while working introduces additional mental exhaustion, which decreases the overall quality of work.
What does procrastinate mean?
Any time you put something off that you know should be done within a certain time frame, you are procrastinating.
There are many reasons why we struggle with laziness and procrastination, whether in the workplace or at home. But one of them is giving in to the accessible distractions in your work environment.
The good news is that you can do several things to minimize the effect of distractions on your workday. It starts with being proactive about experimenting with different strategies to find what works for you.
How to stop wasting time at work
Social media, unproductive meetings, and excessive emails are all time-wasters most of us are familiar with. You're probably even guilty of a few. But distractions by themselves aren't what waste time. When you use them to procrastinate, it makes them roadblocks that get in the way of work.
By now, you know what the state of the current workplace is. There's a lot more time-wasting going on than most people realize. Let's dig into the steps you can take to ensure you're managing your time effectively—and stop wasting time at work!
Implement asynchronous communication
Turn to asynchronous communication when you're trying to stop wasting time. This happens when you communicate with colleagues and team members out of sync or not in real time.
Async communication gives each team member a chance to work on their own schedule and not be constrained by too many time-sensitive tasks. This approach to work is a beneficial strategy when you're working with remote teams.
For example, if a remote team member works better in the morning and collaborates on a project with five other co-workers, they can communicate through email or Slack. Other team members have the flexibility to answer at their convenience while working on a general timeline.
Understand your resource utilization rate
One of the best ways to safeguard against wasting time is to use tools designed specifically for time tracking and reporting. Tracking resource usage helps managers make better decisions by showing them exactly how the team spends their time. Once you're armed with time tracking reports (like the ones Float creates with one click), you can make the necessary changes to increase your team's productivity.
Besides tracking time, knowing how to calculate resource usage so you have a finger on each team member's productivity is a must. Here's a simple formula: Total billable hours ÷ Total available working hours x 100. Say a developer on your team works seven hours a day, three days a week. This means their availability is 21 hours per week (7 x 3). If 15 of those hours are billable while the rest aren't, your formula would look like this: 15 / 40 x 100 = 37.5. The developer's usage rate is 37.5% for that project.
With hard numbers like these, it's easier to get a clearer picture of where your team's time is going—and if it's being spent as optimally as possible 🙌.
Have fewer meetings
Unsurprisingly, one of the most effective ways to stop wasting time is by eliminating unnecessary meetings.
Unnecessary meetings are such a time-waster that about 66% of teams have to work overtime because of them. Pair this with the fact that most workers can only spend about two hours doing deep work, and you've got a serious time-wasting problem on your hands!
Don't underestimate your team's ability to cut out meetings and still deliver quality work. Hosting fewer meetings often means higher productivity and less time wasting. Float's Director of Marketing, Siobhan, spends just one hour each week in meetings. This allows her to dedicate about 97% of her time to more productive work. "It starts with creating a culture of time accountability," Siobhan says.
"This includes how we plan and spend our own time and the time we ask of our teammates. Whether it's assigning or requesting tasks, sharing documentation, project status updates sent via Slack or email, or even creating the occasional meeting invitation—these all take time. "Having fewer meetings doesn't make us any less accountable for the time we ask of each other."
Encourage deep work sessions
If you're having trouble with time management, you're likely not paying enough attention to deep work and the impact it can have on your team's productivity.
Encouraging deep work is an essential step in establishing a productive work culture. It can also lead to higher rates of creativity. The additional creative output can be invaluable to your business, depending on your industry. Don't be afraid to make time for deep work—even if that means canceling meetings when necessary or rescheduling less time-sensitive tasks.
In fact, allowing your team members to organize their day around their deep work hours can ensure they prioritize the time they use to ship their most important work.
"A big reason why we can offer more flexibility at Float is that we work hard to limit our meetings, communicate asynchronously, and continuously look for ways to make our processes more efficient."
Promote a 6-hour workday
With the onset of the pandemic and the global changes that came with it, the effectiveness of an eight-hour workday is being put to the test.
We know that workers can only produce about two or three hours of deep work daily. What's to say about the time that's left? Steve Glaveski argues that a shorter workday makes for a more efficient approach to work. This is true the more complex and abstract the work becomes. To stop wasting time and change your approach to how you allocate it as a resource, Glaveski recommends that you:
- Prioritize high-value tasks that align with team goals and individual strengths
- Be ruthless about cutting tasks that don't add value
- Automate what doesn't need to be done manually
- Outsource as much as possible
- Test and adapt quickly if something isn't working
Stop procrastinating once and for all
Procrastination and time-wasting go hand in hand, and eliminating them is easier said than done. But with the right approach and the ability to consider the specifics of your team, it's possible to minimize the huge waste poor time management can become.
As you work to implement these strategies, gather feedback from your own team members. Employees who are encouraged to give feedback tend to be more engaged, and, as a leader, you'll be able to cater to your team's specific time management needs. Additionally, a big part of time management is streamlining your team workflow. Businesses like Impression use Float's resource planning and time tracking tools to not only save about four work hours a week but also to maintain a workflow that enables that.
"Before we added time tracking to our Float account, it was troublesome to switch between platforms and remind the team to log their actual hours worked. Now everyone has no qualms about logging their time daily, and we're able to make smarter resourcing decisions with accurate data!"
6 ways to improve employee time management
You've done the basics and eliminated time-wasting tasks. Maybe you've even eliminated unnecessary emails and use a tool like Float 😉 for better resource usage. What else can teams do on an individual level so that their day doesn't get away from them?
Nir Eyal, a behavioral design consultant and the author of Indistractable, writes extensively on the benefits of designing a daily schedule to ensure the most important tasks are getting done. He suggests these tips for effective time management:
Build a schedule, not a to-do list
It's easy to get away with creating endless to-do lists that make you feel like you're being productive. Eyal argues it isn't as effective as building a schedule.
When you build a schedule, you decide what you do with your time beforehand—which has been shown to lessen distractions. As you set your schedule for the day ahead of time, instead of depending on the whims of a hurried to-do list, it helps you create the structure you need to carry you through the day.
As you build a schedule and stick to it, Eyal says: "Measure yourself not by what you finished, but whether you did what you said you would do, for as long as you said you would, without distraction."
Use timeboxing to your advantage
When you timebox, you set apart or block sections of your daily schedule to dedicate to the most important tasks—including deep work. According to Eyal, timeboxing works because it sets an intention. With intention baked into your day, you're less likely to fall for easy distractions, psychological reactance, and time-wasting tasks.
To start timeboxing, use your favorite calendar tool and start designating blocks of time for your most important tasks. As you do this, it's important to remember that time blocking is an iterative process. You want to experiment with it until you create something that works for your specific needs.
However, as you incorporate it as part of your day, starting small is essential. It's the best way to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Create a precommitment pact
Making promises to yourself can help you stick with your schedule. When you precommit to something, you eliminate a future choice, which enables you to stay away from impulsivity.
A precommitment pact is a deal with yourself about what you'll get done before starting. Make a pact with yourself about what you will or will not do in the future. Eyal says: "An effort pact prevents distraction by making unwanted behaviors more difficult to do. Lots of products and services have been developed to help us make effort pacts with our digital devices."
Some binding actions that can help with the process are doing things with a friend to increase accountability or using technology to lock you out of certain websites or phone apps.
Use the 10-minute rule
If you have trouble staying focused for long periods, you'll love the upside that comes with the 10-minute rule.
The next time you want to do something other than the task at hand, remind yourself that it's OK to get distracted and have some free time (but only after 10 minutes of work). It's a way to sit with the urge of wanting to do something else that might seem more gratifying.
The 10-minute rule makes it so that you often won't want to fulfill that if you can hold out long enough (i.e., after the 10 minutes is up).
Tell people when you'll be doing deep work
As you time block, create pacts with yourself, recruit your friends to help keep you accountable, and let fellow team members know when you'll be doing deep work.
These updates—which can be as simple as Slack statuses—are superb ways to eliminate distractions under your control. As you create a space where people don't walk in unannounced, you improve your chances of focusing for more extended periods. This applies whether you're working in the office or remotely.
Take charge of your time with Float
Time-wasting habits are a problem all teams deal with in some capacity. But it doesn't have to be your Achilles heel when you're shipping projects and meeting deadlines.
If your team is having trouble with time management—whether you're working remotely or in-office—it's a great opportunity to problem solve. As a resource management tool, Float equips you with the tools to make time-wasting a thing of the past. With our time tracking feature, you can track your team's time on projects, and they can log their tasks with one click.
Complete with pre-filled timesheets and the ability to track your hours on the go with the Float mobile app, your team will be able to tell exactly where they're spending their time. You get a clear picture of each project's progress and your team can visualize the areas where they can manage their time better—a true win-win.