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Kenneth Fisher discusses synchronous versus asynchronous in programming terms:

Synchronous – Code that runs one one line at a time. Each line of code is completed before the next one starts. If an external call is made then it is completed before the next line of code runs.

Asynchronous – Code that is launched and runs separately from the initial code. If a SQL job is launched from inside a batch of code (using sp_start_job for example) then the job is running in parallel (at the same time as) to the remainder of the batch of code.

Understanding which operations are synchronous versus asynchronous, and which operations are blocking versus non-blocking versus semi-blocking, will do wonders for improving application performance.