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A Manager’s Guide to Asynchronous Collaboration (and Focus Time)

A Manager’s Guide to Asynchronous Collaboration (and Focus Time)

A Tango-branded illustration depicting how it feels to context-switch, with criss-crossing lines between existing tasks and new interruptions.
💡 What is asynchronous collaboration?

Asynchronous collaboration makes it possible for people to work together, separately. It also makes a strong case for minimizing meetings, taking advantage of knowledge sharing tools, and expanding our understanding of how/when we exchange ideas and information.

If you’re managing a team (and a calendar with enough 1:1s to make your head spin), you probably don’t need a definition of asynchronous collaboration. You need a way to make it happen, STAT.

Staying in-sync (without all the syncs) is Part I of the dream. 

Helping people stay in flow (with fewer interruptions) is Part II.

And making asynchronous work the norm—not the exception—is Part III.

In this post, we’ll zip through what’s been covered ad nauseam since COVID-19 flipped the way we work on its head. We needed and need that stuff—but only insofar as it informs an efficient, actionable, and long-term playbook for working async.  

Asynchronous vs synchronous collaboration

It doesn’t matter whether your team is ten feet or ten hours apart. If you value helping everyone do their best work, getting sh*t done, and making an impact, very little should happen in a vacuum. (👋, information silos!) 

Collaboration isn’t only key to building institutional knowledge, increasing productivity, and deepening relationships. It also makes it possible to:

  • Make more informed decisions
  • Deliver creative solutions to complex problems
  • Leverage diverse perspectives, experiences, and skills

Information/idea sharing usually happens in one of two ways. Use the asynchronous vs. synchronous collaboration chart below with your team to confirm you’re on the same page about when, how, and where work should get done.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Collaboration

Asynchronous Collaboration Synchronous Collaboration
When it happens At different times, over time Usually at a designated time (within a defined time frame), but can also be impromptu
How it happens Through email, text, video recordings, documentation, comments, company wikis and workspaces, and within software applications In a face-to-face or virtual meeting, over instant message, or on the phone
Where it happens In tools like Tango, Gmail, Outlook, Loom, Asana, Monday.com, Trello, Notion, Confluence, Google Workspace, Tettra, and more In person, over Zoom, on Slack or Microsoft Teams, or in an office or other location
What it’s great for Projects that aren’t urgent, combatting meeting fatigue, providing context in advance, creating reference points for future Sensitive topics, lots of dialogue, immediate consensus, fast decision making, building rapport, and getting energy from co-workers
Norms around response times Weigh in when you can, when it fits your schedule Contribute on the fly, in the moment, ASAP
Flexibility (or lack thereof) Very—great for team members in different time zones Not very—challenging for global teams
Effects on deep work Minimizes interruptions; allows for focused work Perpetuates interruptions/distractions; pulls people out of the flow of work
Effects on documentation Positive—async collaboration *relies* on strong documentation Neutral or negative—it’s common for little to nothing to be captured and circulated (👋, knowledge gaps)

In case your team needs more incentives to default to asynchronous vs synchronous communication, don’t miss the six advantages covered in more detail below.👇

Asynchronous collaboration benefits 

If everyone already wants to minimize interruptions and maximize focus time, asynchronous collaboration probably won’t be a hard sell. 

But if you’re surrounded by extroverts who *love* a quick huddle and are always game to hop on a call, you may have your work cut out for you. Here are a few benefits to make getting buy-in—and changing people’s habits—a little easier.

A summary graphic of the seven biggest advantages of asynchronous collaboration.

1. Less context switching 🙅‍♂️

If you want to start with a heavy hitter, start here. 

Going all in on asynchronous collaboration means less jumping back and forth between:

  • Tasks
  • Topics
  • Types of work
  • Open tabs 🫠

Which means it’s easier for everyone—introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between—to take a proactive approach to batching similar tasks, eating the frog, and contributing to collaborative projects when it makes the most sense.

2. Fewer meetings 📆

Another day, another stat about how much time we waste in meetings. 😅

What’s the latest (vote for asynchronous communication)?

The better your team gets at working together, separately, the fewer meetings you’ll need. And when you do meet, it’ll be for the right reasons. To build trust and relationships with others, have freeform, live conversations, and feel the energy of your teammates.

3. Increased productivity 🙏

You’ve got your noise canceling headphones, your second cup of coffee/tea, Inbox Zero, a prioritized to-do list, and all the energy you need to get sh*t done. And then the interruptions start. 

A Slack message turns into a quick huddle. An email turns into a calendar invite. A quick sidebar turns into a 30-minute digression. Before you know it, all the focus you’d stored up is long gone. 🪫

By agreeing to default to asynchronous collaboration whenever possible, you can help your team:

  • Avoid feeling drained faster than usual
  • Focus with fewer distractions
  • Set boundaries to take care of business
  • Become more operationally excellent

4. Better work/life balance ⚖️

What makes boundaries hard to stick to? An overreliance on synchronous work—especially when paired with always-on tools. 📱

Asynchronous collaboration normalizes less instantaneous responses, and benefits anyone who:

  • Works with people in different time zones
  • Wants to plan their workday based on their most productive hours
  • Needs time to fill their creative well 

5. A level playing field 🫶🏿

The loudest person on your team may be in their element when they’re thinking out loud, but what about the deep thinker who needs a minute to prepare their thoughts? 

They might never get that minute, in a conversation dominated by big personalities. Asynchronous collaboration makes it possible to level the playing field—especially for introverts and anyone who isn’t in a position of power. 

If you lean into working asynchronously, the quieter people on your team can:

  • Share their winning ideas and be heard 
  • Minimize any anxiety in social situations
  • Avert the fear of being talked over
  • Avoid the frustration of being overshadowed

6. More transparency and fewer knowledge gaps ✅

Even in the most inclusive synchronous meetings, communication is inherently less open—leading to a higher risk of knowledge gaps. 👀

"Meetings can be a black hole for knowledge. When people don't attend or aren't included, valuable information gets lost, leading to knowledge gaps that could have been prevented."

Richard Branson

Founder of Virgin Group

What else is avoidable? All the time spent tracking down information stored in people’s heads and getting new stakeholders up to speed, as goals and initiatives inevitably evolve.

7. Stronger documentation culture 👊

What’s an ideal forcing function for prioritizing documentation? Asynchronous collaboration. 👯

Without a strong culture of documentation, it’s tempting to get lazy about knowledge sharing. Which means the resources and insights people need to do their best work aren’t readily available. Which makes continuous learning (something we should all be doing!) much harder than it needs to be.

Documenting key policies and procedures will help you and your team:

  • Default to low-context, to proactively help each other avoid blockers 
  • Minimize repetitive questions 
  • Stay aligned and in flow, even and especially during rapid change
💡 Tango Tip

To reframe documentation as an ongoing practice (vs. a dreaded, bi-annual project), look into tools that make it fast, easy, and fun.

If you're looking for fast, easy, fun, and FREE— we've got you covered.

The async playbook: 7 ways to empower teams and increase focus

In theory—the more time your team can spend in get sh*t done mode, the more you will too. And the more time everyone will have to:

  • Get deep work done
  • Feel accomplished every day
  • Hit their goals and get noticed 

To go from “in theory” to “in practice,” here are some suggestions from people who believe conversation is king and asynchronous collaboration is queen. 👑

A summary of the seven ways to make asynchronous collaboration your default and free up time for deep work.

1. Make it easy for people to decide between sync vs. async 

What slows everyone down? Lack of clarity.

To empower everyone to use their best judgment—no matter what time it is or where they are in the world—tweak the criteria below to suit your company culture and collective needs.

We should work asynchronously if:

  • The topic isn’t urgent, and meeting isn’t the best use of anyone’s time 
  • The project can be divided into smaller parts that can be worked on independently
  • Documentation and async communication can effectively capture and convey information
  • It’d be beneficial to have materials people can go back and reference 
  • There are systems in place to support asynchronous collaboration 
  • Coordinating calendars is a nightmare, with teammates in multiple time zones  

We should meet if: 

  • Our #1 goal is to connect and build rapport
  • Critical feedback and/or sensitive topics are on the agenda, and there’s a high risk of misinterpretation
  • We want to brainstorm and feed off each other’s energy and ideas 
  • We need immediate input and real-time decisions from multiple people to move forward 
  • Interactive engagement is more important than concentrated, individual work
  • There’s a crisis

2. Default to async—internally and externally 

Knowing whether to work asynchronously vs. synchronously is half the battle. Getting your team to default to Option A is the other half.

How to increase the ratio of async to sync collaboration internally:

  • Lead by example. 😎 To start—cut unnecessary meetings and double down on documentation.
  • Implement a meeting-free day. 🤩 Designate a day each week with no “quick sync” requests. Give everyone the opportunity to experience the upsides of uninterrupted work—so they can be more thoughtful about their next request to work synchronously.
  • Define urgent. ⏲️ Self-explanatory on the surface; illuminating underneath. 
  • Empower people to push back. 💪🏿 “Any chance we can work async on this?” is a great question to ask.
  • Host a mini-retrospective for every meeting for a month. 🔍 At the end of each one, ask your team if the meeting could have been handled asynchronously (and if so, how).

How to encourage asynchronous collaboration with your external partners:

  • Share your goals to work async as much as possible. 🤞🏽 Once you’ve had a kickoff call to get to know a contractor, freelancer, or agency, explain why you have a bias for async collaboration.
  • Set systems up that will make it easy to work asynchronously. ⚙️ Technology is your friend, here. More on this below! 

3. Build an asynchronous collaboration tech stack

Using the right tool for the right task is a good rule of thumb in general—but it’s especially important if you want to operationalize asynchronous communication and collaboration.

Here are five of our favorites.


Explain anything to anyone, without jumping on another screen share. 🎉

Use Tango to:

  • Document any process in seconds
  • Automatically create beautiful how-tos guide with screenshots 
  • Deliver interactive walkthroughs showing people see exactly what to do and where to click
  • Guide your team to success, right on their screen (without tab switching!) 
  • Break the interruption cycle, stay in flow, and get more sh*t done, faster 


To manage team projects and individual tasks. 🫶

Use Asana to:

  • Create and organize tasks into projects, assign them to team members, set due dates, and track progress without (another) status update meeting 
  • Comment on tasks, share files, and have discussions within task threads so communication is contextual, and there’s no need for scattered email threads
  • Keep team members in the loop about task assignments, due dates, and changes with notifications and reminders 
  • Increase visibility into individual and shared goals, as well as project schedules, dependencies, and milestones


The digital workspace of our dreams. 🌟

Use Notion to:

  • Create an organized repository of information to cut down on FAQs about company policies, project documentation, and best practices
  • Leverage a wide range of customizable templates for meeting notes, project plans, goal tracking, etc. to save time on document creation
  • Share pages, databases, and projects with others, allowing for asynchronous collaboration, comments, and discussions


To design, prototype, and gather feedback all in one place. 🎯

Use Figma to:

  • Create visually appealing interfaces for websites, web applications, mobile apps, and more
  • Collaborate with multiple people on the same design file at the same time
  • Create wireframes and interactive prototypes to design and test user experiences
  • Create reusable components, define style guides, and ensure design consistency across projects
  • Simplify the handoff process between designers and developers


A collaborative online whiteboard platform. 💭

Use Miro to:

  • Bring ideas together with freeform drawings, sticky notes, mind maps, and more
  • Create design boards, conduct design critiques, and gather feedback asynchronously 
  • Iterate on designs, diagrams, flowcharts, and wireframes simultaneously
  • Create Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and timelines to visualize tasks, set priorities, assign responsibilities, and track progress
  • Connect your tools and close your tabs


Everything you love about video, without the calendar invite.

Use Loom to: 

  • Explain anything clearly and effortlessly—and skip the meeting
  • Share video updates, project summaries, or feedback on your own schedule
  • Interact with emoji reactions, time-stamped comments, and more interactive features
  • Share knowledge without walls of text 

4. Trust your team

It’s going to be hard to do #1, #2, and #3 without #4.

Leaning into asynchronous collaboration may mean letting go of the ways you’ve assessed people’s productivity in the past. What’s out? Looking exclusively at hours worked and meetings attended, for sure. But also—looking for the little green dot announcing people’s (active) presence on Slack, and other common traps that make it easy to mistake busyness for effectiveness.  

"Productivity is not about being chained to a desk or attending endless meetings. It's about finding the most efficient and effective ways to accomplish our goals. Let's focus on results, not time spent."

Indra Nooyi

Former Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo

What matters most?

  • Quality of work, innovation, and collaboration
  • Solutions provided, impact made, and progress driven
  • Goals achieved and exceeded

5. Go beyond asynchronous communication to asynchronous learning 

Asynchronous communication tools are obviously central to asynchronous collaboration. 

But to make async work work for the long run, you’ll need to find a way to go beyond mostly one-way status updates and encourage two-way learning.

A Tango-branded image of the knowledge loop, showing how experts and learners work together to learn on the job.

Screen shares, live workshops, formal trainings, and classroom-style lectures have their time and place. But what’s the real unlock? 🔓 Making learning on the job asynchronously as easy as it should be.

Tools like Tango make it simple to:

  • Capture and share expertise, instantly
  • Proactively deliver microlearning moments (at scale!)
  • Leverage curated insights from the experts when and where you need them
  • Source process improvements from the bottom up
  • Level up shared knowledge (when something is out of date, doesn’t make sense, or there’s a better way to perform a task) 

6. Make information easily accessible

We touched on the importance of documentation before—but here’s a stat to hammer it home: 81% of employees feel frustrated when they can’t access the information they need to complete a task.

If you’re serious about wanting to unblock your team, centralizing your team’s know-how is just as important as choosing the right tech and setting up asynchronous workflows.

Effective documentation means people don’t need to be available—or even awake—at the same time to make progress. 👌

🙌 Right answers, right time, right place

Like the sounds of a single source of truth? Check out Guru, Confluence, or Tettra.

Like the sounds of curated insights, proactively delivered?

Try Tango for Free

7. Glorify deep work

Deep work has all sorts of benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Full immersion and deep engagement 
  • Improved learning and skill acquisition
  • Increase autonomy and sense of ownership 
  • Reduced stress and burnout
  • Higher quality outcomes

"Deep work is the cornerstone of productivity. It's the discipline that separates the average from the exceptional."

Robin Sharma

Motivational speaker, leadership expert, and bestselling author

The bottom line

Psyched about asynchronous collaboration? Don’t make the mistake many do and use the wrong tool, at the wrong time.

It used to be that you had to use your synchronous collaboration mindset and tools when you needed to get sh*t done. There was no other choice. We’re happy to report this is no longer the case. 🕺

Tools like Tango make it possible to stay in get sh*t done mode and get answers to questions in the flow of work. Without the hassle of searching for knowledge, context switching, sharing screens, or having a meeting. 

With clear boundaries about when to work asynchronously vs. synchronously, a bevy of benefits to working async, actionable ways to change people’s habits, and a free (!) tool to maximize knowledge sharing AND focus time, you can take asynchronous collaboration from the exception to the norm in no time.


Why is asynchronous collaboration important?

Asynchronous collaboration offers flexibility, increases productivity, enhances creativity, strengthens documentation, and promotes inclusivity, making it a valuable, modern way to work. By leveraging asynchronous communication tools effectively, teams can overcome time zone barriers, work more efficiently, and achieve better outcomes.

What is synchronous collaboration?

Synchronous collaboration refers to the act of individuals or teams working together in real-time, where communication and collaboration occur simultaneously. It involves immediate interaction and response between participants, typically through in-person meetings, impromptu screen sharing, video conferences, phone calls, and instant messaging/chat sessions.

What is an example of asynchronous collaboration?
  • Step 1: A manager documents a process in a how-to guide and shares it with her team.
  • Step 2: Team members access the documentation at their convenience and edit, comment, and react to step-by-step instructions according to their own expertise. Since the collaboration is asynchronous, team members can work on the document at their preferred time and pace. 
  • Step 3: As team members make their contributions, others can review and provide feedback on the process. They can leave comments directly on the document, highlighting areas for improvement, suggesting changes, or asking clarifying questions. This feedback loop can continue over an extended period, allowing team members to carefully consider and address each other's suggestions.
  • Step 4: Once all team members have made their contributions and the process has been perfected, the team can reach a consensus on the final version and ensure that it represents everyone’s collective input and expertise. 

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