In the age of all-day Zoom calls conducted from your living room, asynchronous communication (“async”) can feel like a dream. No more hiding your food or pretending to be listening while actually figuring out where that random noise in your house is coming from. What’s interesting to me as the founder of an async voice messaging tool, though, is that many leaders talk about async communication like it’s some totally new foreign thing. The reality is you’re probably already communicating asynchronously in your normal work life - here are a few of the most common ways it’s already happening.
Staying connected to your team throughout the day on Slack may not feel async. Pressure from constant notifications can be distracting and disruptive; it’s proven to lead to reduced productivity, as you switch from one context to the other and drop out of the flow of work.
But Slack at its core is an async tool. When you send a message - without the expectation of an immediate response - you’re hitting the heart of async.
The key is to be sure you clearly communicate the level of urgency and response demands in all messages (which you likely do most of the time anyway). From there… congrats, you’re communicating asynchronously.
2. Texts and DMs
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve sent more than a few texts already today. Without question, it’s the most popular method of async communication. And with people sending billions of text and direct messages back and forth each month, it’s hardly reasonable to expect that all of that messaging needs a response right away (barring any unexpected emergencies, of course, but in those cases you usually call someone).
The beauty of texting and DMing is that rarely do we expect that every note we send - to a family member, a coworker, or even a new friend - is an urgent one. We already text and DM so much in our regular lives, it’s something you don’t even think of with a specific term. It’s just something you do. And that thing you do is also known as communicating async.
3. Social media
Similar to texts and direct messaging, posting across social media platforms is async by nature. And given all the increasingly unique and different ways we share on social media, there’s perhaps no better example of async communication.
Jotting down a tweet looking for people to weigh in with their opinions or sharing a poll on your Instagram Stories? Crowdsourcing information takes time. That thought leadership post on LinkedIn? You may get some valuable recognition from your network, but you wouldn’t expect it to happen immediately (much as you might want recognition to come immediately). Even though it seems that people are capable of responding faster than ever, these conversations are connecting all at different times and on many different schedules.
The other thing about social media is even when it’s immediate, it’s still async. The reason it’s immediate is by coincidence - someone happens to be online at just the right time to see your tweet or LinkedIn post. It doesn’t mean you sent it out with the explicit expectation that someone would respond immediately, which is the real difference between async and synchronous (“sync”) communication.
Sending a letter through the post to a friend or family member is perhaps the oldest example of async communication on earth. Small wonder that the digital version - email - is another common way we communicate asynchronously every day.
If you’re using email effectively, you’ll probably be snoozing and responding to things as they are needed, not the moment they drop into your inbox. There are even tools to help you make this easier with Gmail’s auto-reminders, MixMax’s bounce back, Boomerang for Gmail, and more. Or you may not even check email consistently, instead blocking 1-2 times per day for a quick email blast. All of this is truly async at its best.
5. Voice messaging
We’re in the midst of an audio- and voice-tech revolution, and millions of people are already sending voice messages to communicate. Tools like Yac create ways for us all to connect via voice apps and short voice notes, reducing the need for responding in real-time. When you factor in things like sharing screen recordings, automatic transcription, and simple integrations so voice messages can flow throughout all of your business systems, it’s even easier for async communication to work across the organization.
The quiet shift towards async communications
Without even realizing it, connecting async has become a necessary part of our work lives. Even if you’re just telling someone that you can’t answer their inquiries immediately and need a moment to think or need time to complete a task you’re focused on - that’s asynchronous communication.
Remember, humans simply aren’t capable of communicating in person and syncing up live all of the time. So the next time your colleague suggests that you connect this way more often, remember that it’s something you’re already doing anyway. Chances are that you’re more familiar with this concept than you think.