Sustained ocean time series are critical for characterizing marine ecosystem shifts in a time of accelerating, and at times unpredictable, changes. They represent the only means to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic forcings, and are the best tools to explore causal links and implications for human communities that depend on ocean resources. Since the inception of sustained ocean observations, ocean time series have withstood many challenges, most prominently availability of uninterrupted funding and retention of trained personnel. This OceanObs’19 review article provides an overarching vision for sustained ocean time series observations for the next decade, focusing on the growing challenges of maintaining sustained ocean time series, including ship-based and autonomous coastal and open-ocean platforms, as well as remote sensing. In addition to increased diversification of funding sources to include the private sector, NGOs, and other groups, more effective engagement of stakeholders and other end-users will be critical to ensure the sustainability of ocean time series programs. Building a cohesive international time series network will require dedicated capacity to coordinate across observing programs and leverage existing infrastructure and platforms of opportunity. This review article outlines near-term observing priorities and technology needs; explores potential mechanisms to broaden ocean time series data applications and end-user communities; and describes current tools and future requirements for managing increasingly complex multi-platform data streams and developing synthesis products that support science and society. The actionable recommendations outlined herein ultimately form the basis for a robust, sustainable, fit-for-purpose time series network that will foster a predictive understanding of changing ocean systems for the benefit of society.