How often do you just sit down at a meeting and think it could have been an email? Chances are you did it more than once. All of us share a contempt for meetings, especially unproductive ones. However, we still spend a lot of time in them. According to estimates, we waste up to 31 hours per month in unnecessary meetings. And even worse, the number of meetings in which the average person takes part during the pandemic has climbed by 12.9%.
Working effectively with a remote team across several time zones is very critical. You simply do not have the luxury of pointless meetings with less overlap between working hours.
So how do you make sure you don’t waste time? The answer is simple: Asynchronous Meetings.
Whether they are multi-hour monologues, quiet brainstorming sessions, or planning sessions that fail to produce any concrete plans, unproductive meetings lead to improbable solutions. Give yourself and your colleagues time to work by changing these seven synchronous meetings into asynchronous meetings.
Table of contents
- How do we know these meetings can be async? 3 Factors to consider
- 7 Meetings That Should Be Async
- 4 Meetings That Shouldn’t Be Async
How do we know these meetings can be async? 3 Factors to consider
Meetings are not, by definition, unpleasant. Real-time meetings help prevent misunderstandings, sometimes running rampant with the written word. According to communication expert Nick Morgan, up to 50% of our written messages are misconstrued.
While meetings have their advantages, asynchronous communication (communication that does not require participants to be present at the same time) has several advantages as well. It is sometimes more efficient to allow individuals time to ponder before they answer, and this leads to well-documented discussions and choices.
There is no tried and true formula for determining whether a particular meeting should be held asynchronously or in real-time. However, here are a few questions worth asking yourself. If your response is ‘yes’ to these questions, then it is better to have a live meeting.
- Is this anything that needs discussion or deliberation?
- While effective conversation can take place asynchronously, topics that require frequent in-the-moment feedback and adjustment are typically best handled in person.
- Is this a potentially sensitive subject?
- Nerve-wracking or difficult-to-hear news is best conveyed in real-time to avoid misconceptions and misinterpretation.
- Will the topic get easily misrepresented or misunderstood?
- Complex topics frequently need a live conversation. Not only does this remove the need for lengthy context and explanations, but it also allows for immediate questioning and response.
7 Meetings That Should Be Async
Rather than making your coworkers sit through hour-long information dumps where the majority of issues aren’t immediately related to everyone, make announcements available for them to read on their own time.
You can swiftly change one-way information sharing within a firm, department, or team into well-designed communication that can be browsed for big-picture insights or analyzed for the nitty-gritty details. With async announcements, your coworkers can select what they want to learn more about and read the thread when they are most able to digest it.
Status Updates 🔄
Keeping your team informed about your workload and you informed about theirs is simple when done in writing. Here at TimeTackle, we utilize spreadsheets to keep track of what everyone will do for the week and to ensure that projects stay on track.
These check-ins are beneficial not just for the team, but also for accountability purposes. By reflecting on the week that has passed and anticipating the week ahead, we can ensure that we are using our time wisely and honoring our commitments to ourselves and our teammates.
Recurring meetings that routinely finish early 📅
That weekly cross-functional meeting that has turned into a glorified catch-up session that is always completed in less than half the time allocated? That can probably be transferred to an email or Slack thread—or even removed totally off everyone’s plate.
Traditional brainstorming meetings generate fewer good ideas than other methods, but they remain the norm for many companies. You might be startled to learn that they can also be significantly less inclusive than we would like to believe in practice.
In general, just a few people contribute the lion’s share of ideas during brainstorming sessions because certain individuals are more dominant than others. However, with a thread, everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute, as no one can speak over you or interrupt you. We get a greater degree of equilibrium in our ideas. “
One thing to remember is that, under a time crunch, this method is not very practical. Because async brainstorming can take two days or even two weeks, it demands sufficient time.
Kickoffs and planning meetings 🚀
There is a reason why the expression “get it in writing” is frequently used. While this term is frequently used when discussing legal contracts and corporate transactions, it also applies to initiating projects as a team.
Once you’ve documented everything, it’s much easier to explain the scope, timelines, and responsibilities. Using a thread allows for easy reference to previous posts and for queries to be answered transparently for all to see.
Having said that, when there are several dependencies to resolve, work schedules to coordinate, or significant unknowns regarding the scope of the project, it may be easier, to begin with, a launch meeting. Simply ensure that outcomes are documented in writing so that everyone is on the same page.
Moving work forward ⏭️
Once you’ve begun a project, you can accomplish a great deal of work together when you’re away. Whether you’re attempting to modify specifications, solve problems, or iterate on new ideas, work can be accomplished effectively without assembling the team in one area or at the same time. However, this is only true when communication is well-written and arranged.
At TimeTackle, we create new, searchable threads for each issue that needs to be resolved, tag only the individuals directly involved, and work through difficulties via lengthy, well-thought-out comments. This way, unlike ad hoc interactions that get muddled into ongoing group chats or hidden in email chains, there is a record of what occurred for everyone to view.
Reviews, feedback requests, and approvals 👍
The most beneficial, coherent feedback occurs when individuals take their time to consider and express their comments carefully.
Allowing individuals to take their time with advertising graphics, sifting through code, or working through difficult communication plans regarding pricing adjustments enables them to identify any errors — all the more so because they may choose the time of day when their brain is at its most detail-oriented.
Allowing teammates to provide approval outside of meetings has another advantage: it can help avoid groupthink (a problem that arises when a group’s quest for consensus prevents open debate, critique, or expression of resistance). Without the immediate, face-to-face interaction of real-time meetings, stakeholders can not fully gather their thoughts and deliver candid appraisals.
4 Meetings That Shouldn’t Be Async
We still have occasional real-time meetings even with our remote team at TimeTackle. We found that some matters are performed best when they are done in synchronization with the team rather than put into some written format.
New team member welcomes 👋
Introducing a new team member is worth a team-wide video call or in-person meeting to allow everyone to officially “meet.” The same is true for other activities that foster bonding and cultural development. It’s difficult to replicate those in-the-moment relationships.
Timely decision-making ⏱️
By definition, asynchronous communication is slower. Therefore, when an emergency occurs, whether it’s a legalese blunder in a mailer ready to be published to the press or an urgent email to parents about a school data breach, you may need to gather all necessary parties in the same room or on a call.
Once the emergency has passed and you’ve had a chance to collect your wits, presenting a written debrief for the entire team can be beneficial. It’s an excellent method for publicly sharing information, reflecting as a team on what went well, and determining what could be better for the next time.
Very detailed or complex topics 🤔
While you can and should provide precise instructions and procedures in writing, if you anticipate a high number of interdependencies to resolve or areas where confusion or errors may emerge, it’s a good idea to convene a meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page. Simply remember to provide all pertinent information asynchronously prior to the meeting so that everyone arrives prepared to discuss, rather than catching up together.
Emotionally charged discussions ❤️
Humans communicate heavily through body language, tone, and facial emotions. Regrettably, we have not yet developed a viable solution to this problem in written communication although informally we use emoji and GIFs to conversate our emotions better.
Just like post-it notes are ineffective for candid heart-to-hearts following breakups, emails are ineffective for emotional workplace chats. Face-to-face communication is required for difficult conversations such as offering constructive criticism, discussing sensitive human resource topics, or terminating employees.
When it comes to the most frequently expressed complaints about meetings, the fact that they are absolutely unnecessary is near the top—just behind meetings that begin or end late.
There is a case that can be made for moving away from real-time communication and toward async communication. However, this does not always imply that it is the best alternative.
Rather than that, it’s important to note that communication is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Consider the substance, your objective, and the participants you need to involve when considering whether a topic merits a live conversation or can be handled in a less intrusive manner.
Do that, and you’ll discover the most appropriate method—not to mention avoid the annoyance (and under-the-breath mutterings 😒) associated with meetings that might have been handled via email.