Enter asynchronous communication
Companies and individuals are embracing asynchronous communication to take control of their day, concentrate better, get more done and avoid being booked solidly at the expense of real work. Asynchronous communication takes the form of email, text, letters or voice notes; any form of communication that doesn’t take place in real time. In some ways, it’s like going back in time, but it’s needed.
Negating the need for real-time contact means less perceived urgency, fewer distractions, and more uninterrupted chunks of time for producing and creating. Like life was before notifications, before we were expected to be so responsive. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs, artists and inventors locked themselves away for long periods of time, seeking solitude and space for uninterrupted thinking.
Benefits of asynchronous communication
Especially for companies with a global workforce, choosing async over sync means no aligning of schedules or intrusive, attention-grabbing requests to “jump on a call.” Professionals can work at their own pace and according to their personal working patterns, whilst also better managing time zone discrepancies.
Making asynchronous communication the norm means work is always on your terms. Knowing that no messages will require an immediate response, and colleagues won’t expect one, clears the way for uninterrupted periods of flow. We know that low level distractions are costing deep work, but communicating only asynchronously unless absolutely necessary means responses can be batched at a professional’s discretion.
Not needing to wait until someone is available to speak means projects can progress, conversations can take place and challenges can be solved without the need for Zoom calls. Finding a chunk of time, a quiet place and preparing for the conversation need not happen for everyday matters.
If you don’t book meetings or have slots in your diary reserved, your schedule cannot be turned upside down should someone cancel. If an issue crops up, sickness or childcare, nothing needs to be cancelled and the response simply arrives later. Last-minute cancellations are a huge annoyance for professionals who might have planned their day around that one booking.
Modern workplaces operate on the assumption that diary space needs to be allocated. Calendly links make it easy to book straight into someone’s schedule. Mobile phones make it easy to ask a quick question that could have been a quick Google. Time is being stolen and attention is being zapped when it could be spent working on creating, producing, and making a company grow.
Meetings, Slack and “always on” culture is now so normal that it’s not questioned. A team member turning down a meeting and asking for an email summary is seen as rude. Purchasers of software products expect an in-person demo and feel “fobbed-off” having to watch a YouTube video. We want so much of other people’s time and we give away our own. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Asynch operating can be an effective and efficient way of getting things done whilst keeping communication within a team productive. Whilst there is a place for synchronous communication, and it holds benefits, it’s likely that overall it costs more than it brings.
How to make asynch the norm
Make asynchronous communication your new norm by being more unavailable and saying no to meetings and bookings unless absolutely necessary. Don’t answer your phone when it rings and train your colleagues to not need an immediate response. Guard your schedule fiercely and ask more questions before letting someone book a slot. Ask the purpose of the meeting, ask the start and end time, ask the agenda and ask the required follow up. You might find out it can be done via email. If blank space in your calendar seems daunting, block out every day with “real work” as the title.
Shifting from synchronous to asynchronous communication doesn’t just require a culture shift, it requires a huge level of trust and it relies on individuals to spend their days well and not succumb to procrastination. Self-discipline and self-awareness in tow, having autonomy, mastery, purpose and no expectation to “jump on a call” will ensure team members flourish and organisations do in return.