Tips on how to start async work

and an inconvenient truth

Before we start to talk about practicing async work, let's look first at this overview chart and discover what asynchronous work exactly is and how it differs from synchronous work. 
As you can see, it is not a question of "either-or". There will always be the need for meetings and real-time interactions, especially for social gatherings and 1:1s. Some companies find it helpful to go async by default and move the lever far to the right. Other adapt only a few asynchronous methods to become more flexible and productive.

Async work is not just the one thing or the one hack

It consists of 3 different topics that together establish a new and better working culture. 

Usage of new tools or existing tools differently

Methods and skills to work differently

Change of behavior
and of rules

Problems with synchronous work

1. Meeting Mania

2. Dependencies

3. Bad Quality

4. Feeling Guilty

The currently observable meeting mania comes in these four flavors

  1. Back-to-back meetings - with no time to breath in between
  2. Fragmented schedules - with no time to get things done the entire day
  3. Spontaneous meeting requests - which often disturbs the other person
  4. Wrong kind of topics in meetings - which make meetings awful and could be communicated otherwise with higher efficiency

There are too many dependencies on other co-workers 

  1. Constant dependence on the communication needs of others
  2. Dependence on other's full-packed schedules 

That causes stress, costs productivity, slows us down and takes control of our time.

Prioritizing synchronous work over asynchronous work,
produces often bad quality due to

  1. No chance to enter a deep work state to create meaningful or new value
  2. Incomplete, non-inclusive, and inefficient information sharing  

We often feel guilty in our work life because 

  1. we don't get the tasks done, we want and often find ourselves working overtime
  2. we think, in meetings, there is no time and room for relating with people, having fun and socializing   

The exact opposite is true. Meetings should be for socializing and deep discussions. Information sharing, researching, creation and thinking can all be done better asynchronously without distraction.
The above is just a short summary. 

Advantages of asynchronous work

If we ask big companies and single teams that have already adopted asynchronous ways of working, they say the following.

For the team

For every individual

For the management

  • Less time spent on tasks and higher quality output
  • More transparency on responsibilities, tasks and status
  • Better alignment and knowledge sharing
  • Easier onboarding of new people and re-onboarding of people having been on vacation
  • Deeper, more intentional and meaningful conversations
  • Easier inclusion of people that need a flexible schedule (e.g. parents) or that work in different time zones
  • More time for socializing, fun and team bonding

  • More team productivity and efficiency
  • Better quality of output
  • Better transparency on task status and responsibilities
  • Higher job satisfaction and retention of team members
  • Healthier employees with a lower rate of disease
  • Return on invest of switching costs in typically less than two months expected if you use a structured process (see the habit change course below for more details)
  • More time flexibility at work and in life
  • More autonomy at work and control over the own time
  • More chance to get things done and create impactful output
  • More chance to get the knowledge you need 
  • Less stress and better mental health

Tips on how to start on your own

Here are the three areas in which you can start on your own to adopt async work styles 

1. Check your information-sharing behavior in meetings

One misuse of synchronous time in meetings is often information sharing. Much information is better shared in front of or perhaps afterward. This must not be true for every piece of information.
So here is the advice:
After every coming meeting observe whether the information was shared and if it might better be shared before or afterward. Put yourself a marker in your calendar or a reminder in your notebook to remind it after *every* meeting.
 Analyze your own behavior
At which of the meetings did you share information, that could perhaps be documented and shared otherwise? 
 Try to change
Take one opportunity to try out new information sharing. Take the time to write something down and send it over to the participants beforehand. Yes, this seems to be more work. But it might be worth it because, 
  • You prepare the information much clearer and concise 
  • As often people are missed in meetings, you can reach them effectively and efficiently.
  • Questions are much better, and discussions about your topic are deeper because everyone could think it through already. The chance to reach your goal is higher.
One good way not to write down the information is to take videos or screencasts. This is what the next tip is about.

2. Use rich communication and collaboration tools.

Complex topics are challenging to explain by writing them down. Often, you want to show something, or telling is much faster and easier. That is why we usually prefer to schedule a meeting.
But wait. Isn't it possible to record you screen and your voice to accomplish the same goal? You would send it before the meeting and everyone would watch it at their preferred time. In the meeting, you can jump right into the topic and start the discussion, because everyone is already prepared. 
Why not to record a screencast?
There can be several reasons, why you might think, you cannot record a screencast on your own. Here are these, that we hear most often:
  • I don't have the hardware, software and technical skills
  • It's much effort to record a video
  • I don't think I can achieve professional results

In reality, you most probably have all the hardware and software on your computer if you ever participated in a video meeting, have Microsoft Powerpoint installed on your computer or have access to free software on the internet.
The effort to record a screencast is similar to explaining a topic to a co-worker in a meeting. At first, you are not used to it, but after the third or fourth try, it is getting easier. 
To adjust your expectation on professional results: The screencast will be as professional as your performance in every other meeting. Recording screencasts is not about producing high glossy results. You are just talking to your co-workers and explaining to them some facts. As soon as you realize this, it will become easy to record your first screencast.
So here is the advice: Try it out. The next time you want to share information in a meeting, think about taking a small screencast and sending it over to your colleagues. 

3. Establish distraction-free zones  

To get things done, it's important to have larger junks of distraction-free time.
Here is how you can start:
 Search for a time in your calendar that can be blocked.
At first, search for just one block of two or three hours in every of the next two weeks. Rearrange meetings if needed.
 You now have an important meeting at this time.
You don't need to tell others, that it's a meeting with yourself. Defend this important meeting against every other meeting request. Make clear beforehand that you cannot be disturbed in this meeting.
 Use this distraction-free time for an important task.
Don't set too large expectations on it. The first meeting with yourself might be free time to research something you ever wanted. Enjoy!

One inconvenient truth

Changing habits that have been established over years or even decades is hard. 
Think of your last try to go to the gym or eat less sweets in your personal life. A long lasting change is difficult to apply. At work, it is not different or even harder.
Even, if you would have changed your own work habits and are highly successful, your work depends on the behavior of your co-workers. When they don't change their habits, you most likely will fall back to old working styles. 
When following the tips to change your own work habits,
you will probably ask yourself...
"If I share information beforehand, will they look at it?" 
"If I take a screencast, do they think it's weird?"
"If I establish distraction-free zones, do I break unwritten team norms?"  
If you really want to change, your co-workers need to change, too. 
Long-established group habits are the most common reason why nothing changes in many companies, despite the well-known disadvantages.

What to do?

Try out the tips above for yourself, but be conscious that you will encounter obstacles that are hard to overcome.
At the same time, consider taking these actions:


Create awareness among your co-workers about asynchronous ways of working.


Reach out for a commitment to change your work habits in a joint effort


Go through a team habit change process step-by-step


Establish checkpoints and correct your direction


Be patient and celebrate small steps of success

This is how we may help you

  Raise awareness in your team

To raise awareness among your co-workers, send them a link to the async starter information, you already read and let them go through the process. It is always good to have allies!
Here is a template for your convenience:

did you hear about async ways of working yet? It might be a solution for some of the teamwork challenges, we face most of the time. 

Please take time to read this and let us talk about it afterward:

Best regards

  Assess your team's potential and create commitment

We have prepared a free team self-assessment, that will help to find out your team's potential. You and your co-worker can register for free. You will find some easy-to-answer questions and a guide on how to analyze and decide upon.

While your co-workers start to inform themselves, feel free to pre-register for this self-assessment yourself. It's fully free without any strings attached. In the self-assessment, you will find further instructions on how to onboard your team members and proceed.

  Start a habit change program in your team

We will offer a 9-week program for your whole team to take you through the change process and give you individual coaching. This program will be an effective and efficient way to establish long-lasting async work habits in your group. 

The course is still in development. Find some more information below. 
We will inform you as soon as the program is available!

Our habit change program being currently in development

Async your team work

Learn how to change your working habits
as a whole team using asynchronous methods
Assess your team potential with easy to answer questions
Get easy-to-apply tips and hacks for better team collaboration 
Go on a team journey with a step-by-step guidance to change your habits together
Become more productive together and get back your flexibility at work and in your life
Soon, You'll find more information about it.
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