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How to Thrive Using Asynchronous Communication

The future of work has propelled remote work, shifting it from being a temporary measure to a more normalized one.  Asynchronous communication and remote work are harmonious pairings, and the two can work together to facilitate your most effective communication yet. 

According to Owl Labs, asynchronous communication refers to “any type of communication where one person provides information, and there is a time lag before the recipients take in the information and offer their responses.”  Let the daunting thoughts flood in: “What good is communication if it’s delayed? Isn’t the whole point of communication a swift response? Doesn’t it mean you’re too busy to prioritize communication?” While these questions are valid, asynchronous communication just requires a slight learning curve and can help better you as a communicator and employee.  Here are three tips on how to thrive with asynchronous communication as an employee:

  1. Reprioritize tasks and responses efficiently

We’ve all experienced the scenario where you’re working on a project with a massive deadline and a message comes in. Everything comes to a halt as you drop everything you’re working on to reply to that message, not realizing your thought process is interrupted. You quickly respond to the message and shift gears back to your task, struggling to latch on to that previous train of thought. 

That’s not to say multitasking should ever be discounted, but asynchronous communication requires true reprioritization. It’s about reshuffling and looking at what messages and tasks are urgent and working from there. Asking your coworkers to write ‘URGENT’ if it’s truly urgent can be the difference between taking 5 minutes to complete your urgent crucial task vs. taking an hour because you were distracted.

When it comes to communication, we have been taught to be reactive. Instant gratification has been embedded into our society, so much so, that when a notification sound dings, we are conditioned to respond to it as soon as possible. It takes time to shed yourself off the guilt of not replying within a microsecond, but sometimes we need to slow down to gain speed again.

  1. Communicate more

While asynchronous communication IS about communication that doesn’t happen at the same time, it actually may require more communication than necessary. Be sure to communicate when you need something and be clear about any instructions, processes, or concerns you may have about a project. Since there may be a delay between responses, it’s important to account for any factors or questions that may arise so that this time is better spent. 

A crucial aspect of asynchronous communication means that there needs to be more contextualizing. Since both parties may respond at different times, there may be a lapse in time that has a way of blurring or complicating things. Don’t be afraid to give your coworkers context via message, a quick call, or a short video. 

If you’re looking for ways to communicate more, hopping on a quick Slack Huddle or making a quick video can help clarify things for your coworker while still being considerate of their time. 

  1. Have more effective meetings

When it does come time for that face-to-face meeting, be sure to be ready in order to make it a fruitful one. Preparing questions beforehand or writing down an agenda can help keep the meeting on track and add structure, in case things go tangential. 

It’s important to note that asynchronous communication does not necessarily exist to replace meetings altogether. In fact, it’s about using the power of asynchronous communication to be more mindful of everyone’s time and different tasks. All of this, in turn, redefines the meeting as a place and space of discussion into a space of intentional discussion.

Asynchronous communication isn’t about “lazy communication” or being able to respond when you want to *just because*, it’s about intentional communication that is considerate of everyone’s time and their time zones. Go forth with this in mind and you’ll notice a difference in perception of what communication is and how work gets done.

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