Slack is the New Email

Last week, I tweeted that corporate instant messengers like Slack should be treated just like email from a time management perspective.

One of the fundamentals of time management is to minimize disruptions, so that you can focus on one thing at a time. In email-land, this involves turning off pop-ups, sounds and tray icons so that you can read and respond to email on your own schedule.

If you’re a Slack user, the steps to success are similar. Selectively disablingĀ notifications on your smartphone is a big first step. You can accomplish this by globally turning off notifications in the Slack app, and then re-enable them for specific channels and/or keywords you want to trigger notifications. The goal is to eliminate as much of the noise as possible without neglecting urgent messages.

Once you have notifications under control, you can adopt a message-checking schedule that balances responsiveness with your own personal productivity: getting the right things done in the right sequence. Much like getting to “inbox zero,” you can set up a plan such as this to keep up with Slack:

  • 10 minutes first thing in the morning
  • 10 minutes at lunch
  • 30 minutes at the end of the day

Slack lets you set reminders to deal with less important messages later, and with plugins you can integrate with task management tools such as Asana. The goal here is to move tasks out of Slack and into your personal prioritized backlog of work as effortlessly as possible.

If you’re lucky enough to be collocated with your team, keep an eye on how much time you spend IMing. You’d be surprised how much more effectively you can get through the same conversationĀ in person instead of typing your thoughts and leaving them open to interpretation.

I’m a believer in the “right tool for the job.” Corporate instant messaging is a tool that can be abused just like the telephone or email. When used properly, it can be an equally powerful productivity boost.

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