Schedule wisely, transitioning from real-time to async communication

Today I want to write about something near and dear to my heart: asynchronous communication.

As producers, effective communication is our master key to success. As we're well aware, miscommunication can be incredibly expensive and toxic when we're on a schedule coordinating a large team towards an uncertain outcome. The larger the project the more significant the negative ripple effects.

I’ll start by noting that meetings are a cluster for miscommunication and ineffectiveness:

  • A one hour meeting with five people is a five-hour meeting.
  • Meetings only benefit those that are present.
  • Meetings occupy our thoughts before and well after, they're extremely disruptive.
  • Communicating in real-time forces us into a reactive state where we say things as they pop into our head.
  • Meetings require schedule synchronization, our days are organised around meetings instead of the opposite.

Unfortunately producers are often responsible for scheduling most meetings, we schedule an abundance of unnecessary meetings and it's our responsibility to start picking them wisely.

Team calendars shouldn't continue to dictate our comms, tools like Loom have made async simpler than ever. Whether its for internal collaboration or client communication, async levels the playing field and helps everyone work smarter, not harder.

ASAP is Poison

This post is largely inspired by 37Signals' book, Rework. As the authors put it, "urgency is overrated, and ASAP is poison. Real-time is the wrong time most of the time."

It's time to embrace working remotely, not just locally apart. We've been replicating the office structure for remote work in an uncomfortable compromise between both that doesn't benefit anyone. Instead of trying to replicate in-person meetings on Zoom, let's have fewer meetings altogether and lean into asynchronous communication.

Async in production

A few reasons to find ways to increase asynchronous communication in your productions:

1: Increased focus and reduced distractions

Asynchronous communication allows teams to control when they receive and respond to messages or feedback. This leads to increased focus and less distractions, which means more quality work.

2: Reflective and thoughtful responses

Spontaneous thoughts in rushed circumstances might not always be worth sharing. When we give our thoughts time the truly valuable insights start to emerge. Async creates opportunity for insightful exchange, which leads to better decision-making.

3: Documentation and progress monitoring

Asynchronous communication requires documentation, making it simpler to track progress and reference past conversations. This proves more valuable on larger projects when we might have many different specialists coming at different phases.

4: Greater adaptability and anxiety mitigation

Embracing asynchronous communication provides flexibility, the team can communicate at the hours where they've allotted time for it. This alleviates stress and anxiety, creating a healthier work atmosphere with more positive work.

5: Reducing miscommunication

Communication can be easily distorted, particularly in verbal exchanges. Each additional relay of information adds noise and reduces fidelity to the original intent. Written communication is permanent and transparent, it reaches the intended recipients directly.

I'm not saying to dismiss real-time communication altogether, it's still essential - just not all the time.

Is it an urgent challenge that doesn't require deep thought but an efficient exchange of surface information? Do you need to deploy tomorrow? An email back and forth is definitely going to be frustrating and more time expensive than a 15 minute meeting.

Is the goal is to build rapport and connect, or to have fun and generate ideas? Then the email won't cut it, let's take the time to meet and have a conversation.

The key is to understand the specific situation and choose our meetings wisely, helping our teams live and work better!