Have you ever sat through a meeting that lasted hours, only to think to yourself as you finally exited the conference room, “What exactly did we just accomplish?” You’re not alone.

Time is still every company’s most valuable resource, and too many waste it. The COVID-19 outbreak may have put the kibosh on most conference room gatherings for now, but it seems the proliferation of videoconference invites has more than made up for them. Aimless meetings squander time, whether in a room or on Zoom.

Not that extended meetings are the only productivity suck, of course. Employees who are overworked are another source of inefficiency. The same goes for employees who don’t feel challenged. These workers tend to find other ways to keep themselves occupied, often to the detriment of the bottom line.

Maximizing Company Resources

Utilization planning ensures there’s a consistent balance between tasks and resources. It should be a major focus of any leader attempting to get the most out of her team, especially when that team is dispersed. Putting support structures in place for employees who feel overwhelmed or disengaged can promote productivity far more effectively than, say, micromanaging.

If you’re looking to save time and boost productivity, start with these areas:

1. Prioritize Thoughtfully

You might have heard that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. You might also be familiar with Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. These philosophies are rooted in the idea that maximum productivity requires the ability to manage time, and that starts with properly prioritizing tasks. Karin Hurt, founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, understands that the thought of prioritizing work can be a source of anxiety on its own. “Teaching your team to place an item on the bottom of the list is scary,” she says. “What if they really don’t get to it?”

To overcome the challenge of prioritization, don’t attempt to consider everything. Instead, focus on the one or two tasks that are the most urgent; make sure those get done first. Then, track projects that don’t make that list to ensure they don’t fall off your radar.

Also, be aware of the common traps your team may fall in, and help when they do. For instance, an employee might opt to work harder to do everything on his to-do list — no matter how little sleep he gets. This tendency may be heightened when team members work from home, when it’s difficult to switch off. As a manager, make employees aware of the support that’s available from others and help them find the most efficient ways to get work done.

2. Streamline Communication

In addition to being thoughtful about your team’s top priorities, streamline how you communicate those priorities. With an increasing number of teams working remotely, it’s important to use a collaborative project management tool that allows everyone to see where a project stands. Unfortunately, this isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Many companies require employees to use a number of different communication tools. These tools often cost money, and learning to use them almost always takes time away from other work. Giving employees too many platforms can make internal communications fragmented and ineffective.

Instead, invest in a small number of tools that truly streamline communication to make your team more efficient. Cloud infrastructure provider Nutanix, for example, used Simpplr, an employee communication and engagement platform, to help employees find information more quickly. When they tested the platform on new hires, they found a 50% increase in efficiency when those individuals searched for onboarding materials. Such time savings can quickly add up across your entire team.

3. Don’t Just Move Unnecessary Meetings Online — Reduce Them

Doodle’s State of Meetings 2019 report revealed 100% of respondents agreed that poorly organized meetings waste time or money. Haphazardly scheduled meetings always disrupt employee workflows. Make sure meetings are worth the price of that lost productivity.

“We diagnosed a major issue that was slowing us down: We were having too many ineffective — and often unnecessary — meetings,” recalls Ben Johnson, who runs content at Proof, which provides social proof and personalization software. “Over the past few months, we implemented several rules and best practices to have fewer meetings and make the meetings we do have more productive…we’ve saved hundreds of person-hours.”

Not all meetings are bad, but they should be scheduled thoughtfully, with clear goals. The best meetings — even virtual ones — include only the people who have to be present. Technology makes it easy to set up a videoconference at the drop of a link, but resist the temptation. If it can be accomplished via email or chat, skip the meeting.

Time management is something almost everyone struggles with, at least occasionally. To stay competitive, make sure everyone on your team sees time for what it is: a valuable and finite resource that must be put to best use.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.