“Love your [coworkers], but don’t tear down the fence”
As hybrid work becomes a standard, asynchronous communication - effective asynchronous communication becomes more important than ever. And we’ve seen massive positive results! Asynchronous work - done well - increases efficiency, decreases stress, makes work across time zones possible, and creates a paper trail which makes working easier to manage and easier to collaborate on. If you want to read more about this, feel free to check out Gitlab’s article on the benefits of asynchronous work.
Among others, platforms like Slack - the topic of today’s article - have become a lynchpin of asynchronous work. Slack has amassed over 10 million active users, and has become one of the favorite communication styles of tech companies all over the world. Beams is one of them!
But is Slack actually asynchronous?
If your boss left a little hot pink note on your desk saying “Hey! Just wanted to ask why all your receipts were missing :) get back to me when you can!” - that may technically be asynchronous, but you’ll still probably respond as soon as you can. If your boss left a post it note for each request, and then all your coworkers started leaving their questions too, and someone is leaving memes, and someone else is asking about lunch, sooner or later your desk becomes a mess of paper that you are constantly checking, because one of those letters might be your boss.
It doesn’t feel that much better when it’s online. All those little dots and chats that you have to flick through become a series of notes that can tap you on the shoulder. The visual equivalent of a little black mailbox stuffed to the brim, with letters littered on the sidewalk.
With an unmanaged Slack, you have to sit in front of this mess for 8 hours a day. We’ve talked to our community and gathered some tips, so let’s talk about how to fix that!
We built the classic mailbox outside of the house, and that’s at least partially because nobody wanted postmen to physically hunt them down to give them letters. You’ve put Slack in your computer so the important stuff could reach you, but now so can everybody else.
That doesn’t mean you’re obligated to respond. Do you check your mailbox once a day? Check your Slack three times a day. Turn off your notifications (except alerts) so people can’t hunt you down. If you’re worried about missing something specific - then make use of those Notification settings. Allow specific dms, mentions, or keywords. Use the Slack status, so people know you aren’t reachable, and don’t want to be reached.
Or schedule daily Focus time, through beams - it automatically snoozes your notifications and informs your colleagues that you’re focusing.
Finally, deal with that calling, beckoning little red light. Like Gatsby with the light across the shore, that constant reminder is not going to help you get anywhere productive. Turn it off.
In other words:
- Schedule Focus time
- Timebox your slack usage
- Turn off your notifications
- Use notification settings
- Turn off the red light
If every single piece of mail was in a blank white envelope, you wouldn’t be able to tell bank statements from your great aunt’s sister’s friend’s birthday card. How are you supposed to manage that?
The very first step in a fulfilling Slack inbox is to make sure that whatever gets sent to you can be filtered at a glance. That means organizing by priority and starring important channels. Your boss with the 5 pm deadline should be at the top, and your monthly movie night group can be at the bottom.
Make sure that only starred channels and unread conversations are highlighted in the sidebar. Declutter anyway you can. Boot those two week old lunch asks - in fact, leave the channel completely if it’s no longer relevant. Mute them, if you still need it.
- Arrange by priority
- Star channels you need to reference
- Mute group channels
- Leave old or irrelevant channels
If you don’t want to receive messages, don’t send messages! People take their cues from you. If you start sending memes on the group chat, so will your coworkers - don’t clutter up a good productive channel with unnecessary updates or messages.
You can also adjust your style of response. Don’t bang down the door if you can leave a post-it on the fridge. Tag and @ a person only if you actually need a response, or even try emoji reacting instead (no red dot!). Don’t send messages to your colleagues on weekends, and if you have to write it down or risk forgetting, you can use the scheduling property for your message.
- Keep messaging minimal
- Schedule your messages
- Avoid tagging/@
- Emoji react
It’s definitely tempting to be available. First and foremost, we appreciate it in others, and it’s natural to want to reciprocate. Then, on a less conscious level, it’s hard to ignore the idea that something is happening, and you don’t know what it is (that little red dot).
But it doesn’t actually make you happier, or more productive. Fielding every single message - especially when everybody DMs every time they do anything, or want anything, or have a thought - means that you are constantly responding to messages. It splits your focus, it stresses you out. On the other hand, being mindful with your Slack is something actionable you can do today to improve your life, and be more considerate towards your colleagues.
Many of us have been asynchronous for a while, and many of us are going to be dealing with asynchronous for years to come. That can be a good thing! But we should work to make it one too.
If you have thoughts or questions about this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out at [email protected].
And of course don’t forget to sign up to our waitlist here.