How I started to look forward to Zoom calls again
We've all been there at 9 in the morning, staring at our calendar and counting up the total hours we will be in front of our camera today. Two, three, even four hours have become a norm for managers and even worse, for makers who also need to find time to do deep work. That subsequent feeling in our stomach is described as "usch" here in Stockholm, which is Swedish for "yuck I just got slushy snow in my boot." We can do much better - but it calls for rethinking and leading your team to a better existence.
Debugging my meetings
I did the horrible exercise of classifying my meetings from a year into four buckets. These buckets are defined by what is actually expected of me in the meeting:
- FYI (Just for me to stay informed)
- Feedback or review is requested
- A decision needs to be made but not that moment
- A decision needs to be made in real time
Here's the results in hours per year:
- 47% Decision needs to be made but not in that moment ~ 176 hours
- 24% Feedback is requested ~ 165 hours
- 15% FYI ~ 56 hours
- 14% Decision needs to be made in real time ~ 52 hours
I was stunned. I thought I had done a good job at batching and clustering my meetings into specific days and blocks of time. What I didn't realize is that at least 70-80% of my meetings could in fact be done entirely async with the right tools. By async, I mean that information could be presented via a recorded video or document, and discussion on it could be all through comment threads and follow up videos.
Going on a synchronous Zoom call diet
The next step I took in getting my meetings under control was to introduce async discussions onto the team. Similar to Amazon's strategy for meetings, we as a team pushed most of our ideas and thoughts into Notion documents and Supernormal Videos. I even went a full month of only doing async meetings with these tools and here's what I found:
- I genuinely started to look forward to seeing teammates on a sync call.
- Async meetings (Notion docs, Supernormal posts) really helped the team stay in the loop if they couldn't make the call.
- Deeper, more meaningful discussions happened when we had time to think about what to say.
Finding the balance between sync and async
In a few months time, I'll do another retrospective and calculate what percentage of meetings for me are sync vs. async. I have a feeling that 60-70% async will be my sweet spot for human connection and focused work. As an extrovert, I probably need more human connection than the next teammate.
If you'd like to start communicating more async, I'd be thrilled for you to join us on Supernormal - where focused work happens. If you'd like to learn more about how to communicate async, we've got a great guide here.