Why 2022 Is All About Asynchronous Communication
Seven ways to incorporate more asynchronous work into your life.
In 2020, with the first coronavirus variants spreading, most of the world went remote. Digital tools like Zoom, Meet and Teams exploded overnight, with both corporations and schools adopting them out of necessity.
2021 was tumultuous due to "The Great Resignation," with employees burning out and shifting gears, the lack of job safety and uncertainty about how long it would take to revert to "the new normal."
What about 2022? We're heading into the year of asynchronous communication — and here's why.
Extreme measures require calibration
As a former advocate of remote work (even authoring a workbook on "cofficing" in early 2015), I'm well-aware of running toward extremes when an option is missing. Just a decade ago, remote options were almost non-existent, and pushing toward a more balanced environment was a natural aspiration for an innovative, more collaborative world. But switching to a fully remote environment in 2020 introduced a new reality.
My personal RescueTime report for 2021 outlined just over 1,000 hours of time spent in Slack, 300 hours in on-site or phone meetings, 125 hours on Zoom calls and another 110 hours on other forms of IM or voice messages. This adds to nine months of full-time work over the year for the average worker putting in eight-hour workdays.
As Kevin O'Leary, a Shark Tank veteran, often says, "Stop the madness!"
So, what's the solution?
The promised land of asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication is one of the most efficient solutions to what seems an insurmountable loss of productivity. Many asynchronous video-messaging softwares exist solely to support a better-organized, streamlined way to communicate. The premise of "We need to hop on a call" is oftentimes flawed, or at the very least, not scalable. Appreciating other people's boundaries and preferences is important, especially accounting for global anxiety issues, different communication styles and the time required for adequate preparation.
Meetings or calls are not always suitable in today's world. The majority of my own time outside of inevitable meetings is spent at the office with colleagues (i.e. I need to jump in and out to take calls), with my daughter, at the gym or commuting. There's seldom any time besides a late Saturday night when I'm physically around, alone and possibly able to coordinate a call well outside business hours.
As a vocal advocate of asynchronous communication for a couple of years now, here are several practical examples of how I use my toolset to get more done on weekends or late at night.
1. Training demos
There are plenty of work-related yes/no questions that show the lack of in-depth understanding of a problem. Instead of solving the problem itself, I prefer to provide in-depth explanations whenever possible — but I also like to have them documented, not lost after a single meeting.
Recording a screencast or a video overview going through my thinking process provides more value to multiple people, allows for consuming the same guide multiple times, is easy to record and does not require on-site presence. Even if you have someone's complete attention during a meeting, it's not always the best time for the person to absorb the information. Instead, watching a demo when he or she is most perceptive results in a greater positive impact.
2. Sales pitches
I have closed several six-figure deals through video review early in the process.
First, busy executives are not thrilled to "hop on yet another sales call" for obvious reasons. Neither am I. Second, recording a quick discovery session may actually serve as review material for more decision-makers who don't attend this meeting. I've heard back from investors and board members checking my sales calls sent to CMOs or founders.
And best of all, it's far more impressive when your second email response includes a review of the current business model and what the next steps are.
Back when my agency was fully remote in the early 2010s, I adopted interviewing techniques from Automattic and Basecamp (pioneers at the time), including conducting text-only interviews. Matt Mullenweg, a co-founder of the WordPress platform, had promoted this practice considering that day-to-day work (both internal and with external stakeholders) is almost 100% via chat systems, product tasks or asynchronous tools anyway.
As a result, I used to conduct several interviews in parallel or while commuting. Several successfully hired applicants through this process are still with me four-plus years later.
My latest "addition" to this process is an asynchronous process via tools like ZipMessage, allowing multiple communication channels (video, screen recording, audio, text, attachments) and conducting interviews over time. This reduces the amount of stress, allows for starting the process immediately and creates a safe environment (often flawed by on-site interviews asking the type of questions you can't truthfully answer right away).
4. Project kick-offs
Similar to the training calls, project kick-offs are often challenging to set up. With larger teams, you may need to coordinate a dozen people from different teams and time zones. If some of them are sick or on paid leave, this process may be dragging for weeks.
Instead, whenever possible, I would record a 20-minute intro screencast going through my notes, the project, specific details to be kept into account, time frames, first assignments and a general outline of the workflow. Project managers can further break this down into actionable tasks and only escalate the ones pending clarification while the rest of the process is in motion as early as the next morning.
It's also viable right after clients and partnership meetings. As some of these are ad-hoc or while I commute, it's easier to hop off the call and immediately record a recap video with steps and share it with my team to review when they get to it.
5. High-level planning
Conversations around revenue objectives, employee feedback, hiring cycles and reviews take time to streamline. Instead of spending several days in half-time meetings until these get refined (and block everything else as a result), I love tools like Threads — or even emails — for comprehensive in-depth conversations about the bigger picture. Combined with slide decks or strategy documents, an annual plan can be developed asynchronously in under two weeks with limited friction or mistakes on the go.
6. Consultancy reports
Consulting is often charged "by the hour," and some consulting models revolve heavily around meetings or time spent on calls.
Instead, I often mix these in with tactical screencasts and video reviews (more personalized than raw text too) or even livestream deep dives and share the recordings after.
7. Video testimonials
Text testimonials can be faked (and oftentimes are), but videos are a lot more trustworthy. Even though they are still harder to obtain, they work really well — and asynchronous tools are the best instrument to use for them.
Record a quick ask and share with your client accordingly. Most tools are versatile enough and allow for a quick video recorded with a smartphone even on the go. It often works faster than a traditional written review.
Asynchronous communication is picking up. What efforts have you made to adopt a more efficient working style and spend more time on work you actually enjoy?
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