In a society obsessed with instant gratification, we’re all looking for conversations to take place “right now.”
Twitter conversations happen in the now – if you don’t follow along, you’ll miss out. Facebook conversations 1 take place right now and fly by if you’re not paying attention.
During project sprints, it’s remarkably easy to experience “death by meetings” as every product detail needs to be planned in an all-hands meeting, in-person or otherwise.
Even news media emphasized breaking news over long-running stories. Often, you miss the entire picture if you aren’t tuned in synchronously with the presentation.
In the context of the above, it’s a bit foreign to discuss the nature of asynchronous communications.
Email is the best example.
Unless someone prompts me on Twitter, a company chat, or by throwing a shoe at my head I only check my email twice a day. I find it difficult to fight the I-must-respond-to-this-issue-right-now instinct that would otherwise consume my day with achieving “inbox zero” before lunch.
Instead, I treat email conversations as asynchronous conversations.
An asynchronous conversation is one “[that occurs at] any time… all parties involved in the conversation have access to the conversation but are not communicating instantaneously.” 2 It’s a conversation that is persistent, but which can happen in the background and doesn’t require right-now attention.
If you email me, I will get back to you. It just won’t be immediate – our conversation could take a few hours to resolve, or a few days. If the issue we’re discussing is more important, we can jump on a live chat to resolve things more quickly. If it’s an OMGBBQ level issue, we can hop on the phone.
All of my work conversations are important, but few are so important they require my immediate attention whenever an involved party responds. It’s hard to remember this, but working remotely means a large portion of my job is performed asynchronously – team members are in other time zones, so while collaborating on projects it’s occasionally impossible for us to have a synchronous conversation.
How often do you draw the line between synchronous and asynchronous conversations in your business? If more conversations are classified as time-insensitive, would that allow you to be more or less productive with the rest of your day?