Time As A Resource
Of all the axioms in business, there is one that holds true above all the rest: time is our most precious resource. It’s also the resource that is most often squandered. We waste it on commutes, on small talk, and ironically on coordinating time to meet.
Time is non-refundable. When it’s gone, it’s gone for good. So how can we extract the most value out of this ever-fleeting resource? I believe the answer lies in utilizing Asynchronous Communication.
A Leadership Perspective
As a CEO, I’m often asking myself how I can manage my time and energy to ensure that I am a successful leader. It is important that the company has a clear vision and strategy, with goals, and a clear working structure to get us to those goals.
It is also important that I have the pertinent information that will allow me to make critical decisions in a timely manner.
In a leadership role, my time is valuable not only to myself, but to my employees and the wellbeing of my organization as a whole. To ensure that I am using my energy on the most important things, I must protect my calendar, which is just a proxy for my time. That involves eliminating the biggest time sink of them all.
A day full of meetings, or even meetings scattered haphazardly around the day, can lead to a day of deep work lost. As CEO, I give as much as I can in every meeting I attend. Putting all of myself into a day of non-stop interactions does not leave me energized or strengthen my ability to work creatively.
If I have too many superfluous meetings, I won’t be an effective leader and our team and company will suffer.
When I consider my calendar to be a proxy for my time, I am more selective about what can and can’t become a meeting on my calendar. I cannot be everywhere all at once, and especially as a company grows, there’s no way I’ll be able to spend time with all of my team, customers, and investors. It’s just not possible.
Fighting Executive FOMO
Even with the understanding that too many meetings is a strain on my time resource, as CEO, I also feel a deep desire to know the details, outputs, and successes or failures of my organization as soon as they happen.
For me, absorbing such information often leads to inspiration, and it helps me to make decisions in the best interest of my company.
I feel a pull to just “jump on a call” or a fear that I might miss something important if I am too ruthless with my time resource. As a result, I have had to come up with a mental model for how to commit my time in the most useful ways possible.
That’s where Async comes in.
The Case for Async
How can members of leadership balance the need to save their time without missing out on important bits of information and feedback that occur in otherwise superfluous meetings?
In order for this strategy to work, leaders must challenge the traditional approach to both our workday and our overall schedules.
When I think about my calendar and what I need to be successful, it’s usually bucketed into these 3 areas:
- I need information: I need to receive a status update, or I need to share an update.
- I need resolution: I may need to clear something up, make a decision, or solve a problem.
- I need to be social: I want to celebrate something, explore something new, or build rapport with a customer, teammate, or potential new hire.
Those three areas cover a lot of ground and still have the potential to generate a bevy of unnecessary meetings. In order to preserve my time resource, I need to be strategic about how I can best acquire the necessary information while cutting meetings I don’t need.
This is where the style of communication can become incredibly important. And by style I mean, whether it’s asynchronous or synchronous communication.
What’s The Difference?
Synchronous communication uses tools like a phone call, video call, or in-person meeting to communicate with other people at an agreed upon scheduled time. It happens in real-time without delay.
Asynchronous Communication uses tools like an email, Slack, text, or a CloudApp video message to communicate, on your own schedule, without needing to coordinate with others. It happens on each individual’s terms and there is a delay.
To protect our time resource, we know that we must be selective about what we commit to our calendars to ensure we are able to create high quality outputs while still getting the information we need to be successful.
So what’s the solution? Just avoiding meetings?
A better question to ask is: how can I avoid some meetings while still making time for the important ones?
Prioritize Async In Your Workday
Let’s talk about examples of when it makes sense to shift away from synchronous communication to asynchronous communication.
At a previous company, we had ‘status’ update meetings. In a room full of twenty Harvard MBA’s and me, a BYU grad, maybe one person would speak. We were all sitting quietly in a room, listening to the same phone call.
A meeting like this one is the perfect opportunity to utilize Async. A Slack message, an email, a Google Doc, a slide deck, or a CloudApp video could all deliver the same amount of information in a leaner, more time-saving fashion.
An additional benefit of Async is that each person can consider the information on their own time, for as long as they need. Even a follow-up in this scenario can be an async message.
On the other side of the coin, there are times in which it makes sense to use synchronous communication.
A customer is likely going to cancel in the next 1-2 days unless you resolve a bug, or adjust something in their redlined contract. This needs to be handled now, decisions need to be made now.
Time-sensitive emergencies are almost always best handled with synchronous communication, but with proper utilization of Async such emergencies will be a rare occurrence.
The benefits of Async don’t just apply to those of us in leadership. Whether it’s your energy or your time, most jobs require focus on doing deep work.
Deep work activities are what make a company run. In sales, deep work would include things like cold calls and pitches. In design, it would be new mock-ups or exploration. Engineering? It’s resolving bugs or creating new features.
No matter what the role, hours of deep work are necessary to see significant progress. Async is key in freeing-up those hours for deep work.
Rearrange Your Life For the Better
A recent study from The Mayo Clinic found that spending just 20% of the workday doing something enjoyable reduces the risk of burnout. This relates directly back to Async.
For example, I previously struggled to find time between my blocks of meetings, my commute, and my deep work hours to exercise. Something as critical as my health and wellbeing was crammed into my schedule at odd hours.
With Async, I have time to wake up and work out at a reasonable hour. Getting that time back to do something I enjoy helps me to stay enthusiastic about my work and results in a more productive output across the board.
Async Saves Your Time, And Your Mental Health
Async is a “no waste” system that inherently drives productivity. When your time is no longer occupied by coordinating conversations or sitting through lengthy introductions in meetings that could have been a video, you can focus on the deep work that matters and you can save that most precious resource, time, for cultivating a life that you love.