Place the Ping Pong: Go async to be more productive
In a world where everybody wants to send a zoom link in and have a meeting with you. I had no idea how much meetings were weighing on my mental wellbeing until doing this and seeing how life can be without 90% of them.
Ping pong communication
You can place a ping pong ball exactly where you want it to go on a board if you can walk around and take 15 seconds to put it there.
Pinging ponging back and forth of… one person says one thing, you decide, you give your input, they give their input, you give your input. It's really hard to have precision placement of that ping pong ball, of your thoughts and your input to something.
Doing the math
A meeting with three people is super expensive in its own right. If you view it that important to have that meeting and cut off nine hours (three buckets of three hour blocks of deeper work) just to have this 30 minute meeting, you ostensibly think it's important enough for people to be able to take enough time to really process what's being communicated and think through what their response is to those things would be. Asynchronous communication leads to higher integrity communication on all fronts.
I love Loom. Go check it out. It's my favorite communications tool in the last five years. It's a video walkie-talkie. Record yourself and/or your screen to go over a design, Excel spreadsheet, a legal doc– anything you want input on.
Record for 2.5 minutes your thoughts and send that to the three people that you're working with. So instead of 30 minutes we have to be together, locked in to this focused task. The asynchronous alternative would be: I send my thoughts and you reply 90 minutes later. You send your thoughts and I get back to you the next day. That has decreased the meetings on my calendar by 80%.
Say you have a 3 hour block and one meeting.
It takes 30 minutes to get into flow. When you have a meeting that's 30 minutes long, it is impossible to get into flow 30 minutes before and after that. You can only do light tasks.
That two to three hour block is shot from deep work because of that 30 minute meeting. When you use things like Loom and push to asynchronous work, those 30 minute meetings are only seven minutes of interaction. With Loom, you can even 2X the speed of the video you're watching, so you can just zoom through communication that is being sent your way.
Not a compromise
Asynchronous communication is not a compromise, it’s actually an improvement.
Async pushes people to write their thoughts down. Further, an email is not only better for them to convey their thoughts, but it also is better for you to think about it and be able to spend some time on what's being communicated.
You'll go over it two or three times a day, think about it, marinade on it for a few hours or a day, and then you get back to them. Isn’t that better than this idea that highly dynamic, back and forth communication is going to be better?
An exception to the rule
There are ~10% of the meetings that I do leave on the calendar. Just too much information that does need to be fed into channels like a river.
You need to gather 3-4 pieces of information in a dynamic way to then present your thoughts afterwards. So, I do a weekly synchronous meeting on the books. But 90% of the time, it really does benefit the entire team to make it asynchronous.
Example: founder intros
Instead of an introductory call for 30 minutes, I say, “To really respect your time, would it be easier to work by email and maybe you record a five minute loom with your pitch? You can do that on your own time and not have 30 minutes blocked on your calendar for this initial interaction.” I'll actually record a loom of me telling them that so it feels personal.
When I push against the grain, people are uncomfortable with it. They think it'll be more work for them. But within 24 hours, I will hear “wow, that was game changing”. As I've implemented this more and more, it's like a viral spread of people doing this more and more.
Warren Buffett famously blocks off four hours every day for thinking time. Investing is a game where you could have endless opportunities to make bets, yet he's blocking out four hours for thinking time.
I think everybody would benefit from creating these big blocks of deep work, creative, or thinking time. And the way to do that is to limit meetings by going asynchronous.