3 Jun 2013

Asynchronous communication and relationships

A lot of us really prefer the way that email allows us to ask and respond to questions when we want, taking the time we want -- in contrast to the "strain" of meeting face-to-face or via teleconference on a one-size-fits-all schedule.

But it's not always a good idea to communicate asynchronously. I noticed, for example, that Cornelia and I have a hard time stopping work (or whatever) to spend time together.

It goes like this:
D: Wanna hang out?
C: Sure. Give me 5 minutes.
D: Ok, I'll just write this email.
C: [5 min later] Ready?
D: Oh, shoot. I'm doing something... 2 minutes.
C: Ok, I'll just do this...
D: Ok, ready?
C: Wait a sec...
[until one of us gets upset...]

So here's my solution: don't talk in minutes; talk in tasks, for example, "let me do 2 emails."

Then the person who asked in the first place can do whatever for the 2-20 minutes it takes the other to do the task(s), for as long as they take.

This (to me) is actually more relaxing for both sides, one who can get the discrete tasks done in the "right" amount of time, the other who doesn't feel ignored by passing some time (as if s/he's less important) because the time passed is always right (Don't do 3 emails!)



Bruce Borden said...

I agree with avoiding short times in async comms, but moving to tasks is not much help - how long do two emails take? Your struggle with Cornelia is getting commitments to do something at a fixed time and letting go of work at the end of the day.

Sending something like: "I'm ready to leave - ping me when you're done and we'll meet at...", but be prepared to wait a LONG time.

David Zetland said...

@Bruce -- we're not connecting here, as the indefiniteness of tasks is what relaxes the constraint on time, which is hard to track when you're on a task -- and not relevant when you want to stop on a particular point. Oh, and I never use "struggle" and "Cornelia" in the same sentence :)

BG said...

that is BRILLIANT about communications and relationships. your fix is spot on!!!!

Ben Casnocha said...

Talk in tasks, not minutes -- makes a lot of sense. Going to use this!

Killian said...

This is also useful when discussing how long until we leave this bar, I point to the amount remaining in my beer and say: this much time.

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