We get tons of messages and notifications every day. Social media, instant messaging apps, and advertisers fight for our attention all the time. Will we lose this battle? Not necessarily. We can apply some changes to our default patterns and redirect attention to what matters.
Creating a habit of putting all the distraction sources aside helps us focus and get better work results. Cultivating asynchronous communication is one of the simplest solutions to try if you’d like to help your team be more productive.
Actively fighting off the false sense of urgency in your company will bring more benefits than you’d ever expect. In today’s distracted world, practicing deep focus is priceless. And does wonders for our productivity.
Multitasking is overrated. There is a hidden cost of switching between tasks. Our ability to focus gets depleted. Single-tasking is a more productive way to work. What’s better – getting average results in 10 tasks or completing one important task that we’re proud of?
Improve communication and cultivate deep focus in your company
What can we do to sign off from the ASAP culture and improve our productivity? Fortunately, we’re not doomed to be distracted all the time. Cultivating deep focus takes practice. Let’s start by trying out asynchronous communication.
Try the tips below to make it easier to achieve the “deep focus” mode.
1. Rethink your communication rules and style
Here’s an easy one. Simply tell people in your company that it’s OK not to respond instantly. No one expects you to jump in and rush into responding to every “hi there” message. Take a second to check if your company communication style creates the ASAP atmosphere. If you think it might, just try a different approach and see what happens.
2. Set up “no meeting” days or “silent hours”
Another idea is to schedule one day per week to focus on projects, not meetings. If your company needs to meet every day or you can’t imagine a full day like that, start with some specific hours to dedicate for deep focus. For example, from 9-12, we’re working on our tasks, and meetings should happen only in the afternoon.
During these “silent hours”, set up a timer and work on one specific task. When the time is over, check your notifications, emails, or do whatever you want to do with the feeling of pride that you’ve just finished something important.
3. Batch respond to messages
Emails, Slack messages, or phone calls. Find time in your calendar to jump into the “responding” mode. It’s more efficient than responding to every message separately. If you work on some projects where you add comments on a design or copy, batch-respond to them as well.
4. Celebrate emails
Good old emails got a second chance nowadays. We’re starting to appreciate this form of communication again. Email is asynchronous by design. It’s easier to disconnect from your mailbox than it is to disconnect from an instant messaging app.
Make sure your emails have a clear structure and, ideally, one call to action or question. An alternative is to create a numbered list of questions or topics that you need some advice on. Keep your inbox tidy with filters and tags. Make sure all the newsletters or update emails don’t distract you from reading emails that you should respond to.
Practice asynchronous communication with customers too. Not everyone expects the answer immediately. The best way to manage the email channel professionally is to use a smart ticketing system.
5. Redefine deadlines and improve planning
The ASAP culture wrecked up our planning. We tend to set up deadlines that are too short, just to appear “productive”.
Get used to setting up deadlines that are comfortable for everyone involved. Don’t use them to rush your teammates – encourage everyone to learn how to estimate their work together and manage their tasks better.
What is the best way to fight the false sense of urgency? Communicating openly about the project status updates. If you’re not able to meet the deadline: say it. Say it honestly and as early as possible. This way, everyone can react or help you with the task that takes more time than you estimated.
6. Get better at writing
Make some effort to learn how to communicate more efficiently in writing. With the rise of asynchronous communication, remote work, and people working in different timezones, it’s necessary to master the skill of business writing.
Being clear and concise will be well appreciated in the company, as the person on the other end won’t have to spend 30 min of trying to decipher what you wanted to say. Get used to preparing meeting summaries with action points. Prepare materials for people that may join the project later or people who were not present at the meeting.
Try asynchronous communication
If we want to improve our focus, we need to find a way to limit distractions and create an environment where we can do our best work.
Asynchronous communication is worth trying not only in remote teams but also in the office environment. Try these tips and let us know how it goes. Or maybe you prefer more dynamic conversations with coworkers? Let us know in the comments section below!
Guest post contributed by Aneta Szotek
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