Work and workers are growing more fragmented. We’re scattered to the hinterlands, demanding when, where, and how we want to work. So, the way we work needs to change too. Two ways we can change the way we work is to slow down and asynchronize our communication. Here’s what I mean.
In a recent briefing from The Generalist, the author profiles a young company called Levels. Investors have been “mesmerized” by their ”insane shipping speed,” fully remote culture, and asynchronous communication. They deride employees who want synchronous communication, as you can see below.
“This,” of course, “isn’t to say that Levels has no meetings. There are occasions in which tight communication loops are desirable. But, by and large, Levels sees them as time-sucks that do not push the company forward.” This also isn’t to suggest that we have to work at “insane” speeds, and we do need to shoot the breeze with each other from time to time, which I’ll get to in a sec.
So, how does the team at Levels get by?
Write it down.
Much of our communication doesn’t have to be face-to-face. It also doesn’t usually require an immediate response. You can probably get across what you need to say via a well-crafted email or a brief. Hell, write a blog like this one.
Levels uses Notion religiously. We don’t have to do that. Google docs, Trello (or whatever), and email will suffice. For what it’s worth, I’ve been using Superhuman for email the last few weeks, the so-called “fastest email experience ever made,” and it’s dope af.
But the great thing about writing it down is that you can schedule it for later so the reader can receive it and respond to it at their leisure.
Of course, some of our communication does need to be communicated more verbosely than through the written word. Thankfully, there’s an app for that.
Simply record a video of yourself and, again, schedule it for later.
The team at Levels uses Loom, also religiously. Levels says they may be Loom’s biggest paying customer. I’ve started using Loom in recent weeks, after which I schedule an email with the video link to my recipients first thing the following morning (or whenever) so they can review and get back to me when it’s convenient for them.
Remember, a lot of what we have to say doesn’t require immediate feedback.
Slow it down.
I’ve often argued that we tend to communicate really quickly because, well, everything is done quickly these days. We read, write, and talk fast because we have things to do, right? You’re probably skimming this blog while thinking of something else. None taken.
Yet there’s a US Navy SEAL expression I’ve been fond of lately: “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
That is, if we just slow down and communicate clearly up front, we’ll save loads of time for everyone else later. A few minutes spent clarifying, punctuating, and explaining an extra detail can really help.
Slowing down also helps us think better and produce higher-quality work, an argument made recently by Cal Newport in The New Yorker. He calls it “Slow Productivity,” and I’m here for it.
Also, don’t forget to use the Snooze feature in Gmail and the Focus feature on your Mac.
No doubt, I’m the chief of all sinners when it comes to the above, but I want to find more deliberate ways of communicating this year, especially as we enter into new ways of working.
So, as we’re thinking about decentralizing our work, let’s remember to write more, use video, and slow down to create better processes — and better work — for ourselves and our clients.
Oh, and don’t forget to build in time to catch up with people about their personal lives. We’re all humans after all, and we need to keep caring about each other, fostering serendipitous innovation and creativity, and just plain resting. La dolce far niente.