When in a group setting, one person’s time management can be a headache for others. For example, what would happen if I missed the deadline for submitting this article? No doubt, my fellow teamlancers on the project would have been forced to miss their own deadlines. My editor would have missed her deadline in submitting her request for any revisions from me which would then have delayed her delivery of the polished copy to the web team. The illustrators probably would have missed their deadlines in creating the visuals to run with the piece and so on and so on until everyone involved in production might have been negatively impacted.

Individual slacking leads to collectively missed deadlines

Had I slacked off on this assignment, the team’s future workload would have suffered as well. Even more, their future workloads might have suffered since in missing a deadline I’d have forced them to use time budgeted for other projects to catch up on my delayed article submission. Fortunately, I fully intend to submit this article on time. And while not every assignment is critical, every element of production is  or at least it should be.

Being polite vs. being professional

There’s a fine line between being attentive vs. being a doormat, especially at work. Paying attention to details makes you a valuable member of a team. Being so obsessive about things where you put the needs of others before your own, will probably cut into your own productivity and success rate. But aren’t we always told to help or mentor others at work? When it comes to time management though, it’s critical to realize you can’t elevate someone else’s needs above your own responsibilities. It may sound cruel, but if someone on your team believes deadlines are fully elastic, it’s not in your interest to keep helping them out to the detriment of everyone else involved in the project. But how can you determine how much time to spend on your own responsibilities while still being attentive to your fellow team members?

One more thing to think about, what if you’re the weakest link on a project? Maybe it takes you longer to catch on to a project’s necessary parameters or perhaps you like to chew on things for a while before jumping in. While that might work for solopreneurs, as a teamlancer you need to ensure you’re not wasting anyone else’s time along the way.

Can you leave a meeting or conversation that’s a waste of time?

To paraphrase Tesla owner and entrepreneur Elon Musk’s somewhat controversial advice, if you don’t feel a meeting is working for you or it’s a waste of your time, just get up and walk out. But the ever-evolving workspace doesn’t exactly work that way. Most of us will still be working in a remote work environment for the foreseeable future and that means it’s unlikely we’ll be able to cut to the proverbial chase in person, and will instead have to figure out how to keep working in a more interconnected way for best results. In a virtual teamlancing environment, you can’t just leave mid-project, but rather have to check in with your colleagues to see if you’re needed or can move onto a different project element or client.

Three tips on how not to waste other people’s time:

  1. Before you ask a colleague for help with a topic, do a quick search through the team’s communication channel or email chains, the information might already have been covered.
  2. Don’t always rely on one person to help you out of tough situations. If you’re new to a project, consider reserving one question for each colleague instead of peppering one person with every problem.
  3. Pad your deadlines. If you’re the slowest to finish and think a project might take longer or you might need extra help, add a few extra days (or weeks if it’s more detailed) for onboarding or last-minute edits and updates.

Create a team with the best possible dynamic and work style

Teamlancers often find themselves as members of multiple teams and that sometimes involves creating teams for others. In addition to pulling together qualified professionals, they also determine the teamlancers whose skills work best together.

Sam Neeser the Lead Talent Manager here at ClearVoice, has spent the better part of the past three years working with, “teams of people whose full-time job is to curate the best content for the client.” He explains the core team works on teamlance initiatives they’re no longer exclusively the experts of the content anymore, but have evolved along the way. At this point, Neeser and his teammates are “galvanizing the teams to work together on creating the best content.” which means being hyper-aware of how to create a team with a strong dynamic and shared work commitment. Neeser believes this style is creating an added layer of support.

Pay attention to the time zones

In my own professional life, I was on the East coast while my then business partner was on the West coast. Adding to the merriment, my neediest (and most well-paying) clients were in the U.K. and the Middle East. Depending on our workload, I’d start my days at 4:30 a.m. EST and recap the end of the day with my business partner at about 9:00 p.m. While I could have handed off project elements to others, I felt to keep my clients happy I had to give up all semblance of any healthy work/life balance. I would not be doing that again.

Neeser explains in managing an international team, he’ll “hire anyone in the world, as long as they fit the client needs.” Neeser said a major goal is to create workarounds to keep teamlancers happy. So for instance, when creating a team, a lot of the deciding factors include, “who’s going to be good and who’s available for freelance right now,” Neeser explained. So, what happens if a European freelancer is the best possible content creator for an American company? Neeser said they’d likely be assigned an editor who worked in Denmark so they could work the same hours without lag. “Freelance management is definitely a moving target,” Neeser said. Potentially complicating things, “Everyone is on their own timeline and in their own timezone.”

Something to keep in mind when assembling a team is not only the need to work well together, but also to figure out a way to minimize a lag in interaction. Despite the fact that most of us are comfortable working remotely these days, there’s less of a disconnect when you know your concerns can be addressed whenever possible.

Two ways to keep your international team connected:

  1. Pair team leaders and team members with share time zones when possible.
  2. Choose team members with similar work ethics or levels of commitment.

A more accurate measure of productivity

Attention to how much time spent on a project is crucial, especially if pesky details keep dragging on and prevent you from meeting deadlines. Even if you closely track the time theoretically spent on a project, that doesn’t always mean you’re keeping track of all your work  much less the time spent daydreaming or brainstorming.  While many teamlancers use tools like Toggl to track billable hours, the constant time tracking might not be as effective as you’d think. In fact, at times, obsessively tracking your hours could end up hindering productivity.

Time tracking isn’t necessarily the key measure of productivity

A recent article about employee productivity on SFGate.com, detailed some of the more well-known tools used to track and measure employee hours when working from home.  Just because someone is at a keyboard or tracking their hours does not mean that they’re actually working, much less doing their best possible work. The article also highlighted how we are all probably incorrectly measuring productivity. As the SFGate article puts it, “confusing inputs for outcomes.” Insisting that people work a certain amount of hours daily doesn’t mean that they’re accomplishing their goals, much less leading the team in the right direction.

Trust, rewards, and check-ins

If respecting others’ time is something you or your team struggle with,  it’s time to take a new view of project management.

In early 2017, the Harvard Business Review published an article by Paul J. Zak called The Neuroscience of Trust. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and the author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companiespresented a premise that employees in high-trust workplaces have greater productivity, energy, collaborative skills, and staying power with their employers compared to those working in low trust companies. Zak also said employees in those spaces also “suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”

Another way to create a happier and productive workspace is to consider implementing a reward system. And rewards given don’t have to be as dramatic as a Mary Kay pink Cadillac to work either, consider a gift card for a food delivery system randomly given to the person who leads a team to an early delivery date.

Finally, if you think someone on the team is lagging behind, set up a group check-in system or one-on-one goal buddies. While some people thrive in isolated work environments, others really need the warmth of a connected environment. It might even be the key to keep team members from missing deadlines.

Quick ways to create a more in-tune team

  • Set up team check-ins – whether it’s daily, weekly, or at set milestones, let team members know they’ll be accountable to each other
  • Change up your inspiration – if the idea of successfully completing a project isn’t enough to motivate everyone, add some elements that inspire those lagging behind.
  • Define benchmarks and success – try to come up with ways to share even small milestones. An accepted draft, the creation of an editorial calendar, anything that shows how well your team can work together and succeed together.
  • Consider a reward system – try surprising everyone from time to time. Sending a gift card to a meal delivery service along with a friendly note about treating to dinner reminds team members that you appreciate them meeting or beating deadlines.