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 disabling 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 conversation 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.

Posted in Time Management | Tagged , | Comments Off on Slack is the New Email

2017 Week 11 in Review

We finally got a break in the rainy weather this weekend. I took the opportunity to finish up the deck phase of the playhouse. I had to re-do the front-most deck board in order to properly install the rim joist across the front. It’s not a perfect job, but I’m pretty proud of it regardless.

I finished up by adding permanent 2×4 knee braces to the four corners along the length of the deck. There’s something oddly satisfying about ratcheting lag screws and carriage bolts into wood in order to bring stability to an otherwise semi-wobbly deck.

This week was also Spring Break. We stayed in town this year, and I took off Monday to spend time with the family and get some work done around the house. The time change for Daylight saving time was as disorienting as usual. I wish Texas would just adopt a system where the sun sets at 8pm all year.

As March rolls on, we’re getting closer to GalaxZ 17 at work. I won’t have a speaking spot this year, as nearly all of those are filled by customers. This year, I’d like to take a structured approach to the conference, and make an explicit effort to make a personal connection with a subset of our customer base.

As I sit here at my office desk, I am filled with gratitude. I’m blessed to have the opportunities that I have in family, work and life. The first quarter of 2017 has been a good one so far, and I am optimistic about the coming days and weeks.

Posted in Family, Fatherhood, Gratitude | Tagged , | Comments Off on 2017 Week 11 in Review

2017 Week 9 in Review

The team worked late this week to get our next platform release ready for final QA. The software biz is a schedule of give and take, and it was more on the take this week. The upshot is that we head into next week in decent shape.

This weekend was nearly a washout. I made zero progress on the playhouse due to rain both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Instead, I came into work for a couple of hours to clean and rearrange the office. In the process, I loaded up two large bags with books that I really need to get rid of. I have a hard time getting rid of physical books, but I just don’t have the room at work or at home to store them. It’s also unlikely I’ll re-read 90% of them. So, off they go.

The weather turned decent Sunday afternoon, so Grey and I spent the afternoon together at a couple of parks. We played zombie tag and hide-and-seek.

I’m in the market for a new Kindle. I have the 3rd Gen Kindle Keyboard, and while it’s a great reader, I have to think technology has significantly improved in the last 7 years. I have an aversion to an e-reader with a touchscreen, so that will either limit my options or I will have to get over it.

Next week I start another rotation as overflow escalation manager at work. I have mixed feelings about this, but they’re mostly good. It’s enriching to gain fresh perspective from the customer, and it helps clarify what’s really important in our day-to-day-work.

Posted in Family, Fatherhood | Tagged , | Comments Off on 2017 Week 9 in Review

2017 Week 8 in Review

I started laying decking on my son’s playhouse this weekend. Before that though, I installed blocking to help strengthen the frame and reduce joist wobble. I used scrap 5/4 for the blocking, which was adequate for stiffening up the frame.

Using the impact driver has been satisfying. It drove in the decking screws smoothly, with no board splitting or cam-outs. It’s just a little on the loud side. The decking install will be straightforward, except for the installation of a trap door near the edge of the floor.

I’m starting to get an urge to introduce some healthy disruption into my routine. I’m not sure if it’s a new hobby, a new habit, a new schedule or even a new job. I don’t quite feel like I am in a rut; it’s just that I feel like I’m at an inflection point on the continuous improvement curve.

Posted in Family, Fatherhood, Home Improvement | Tagged | Comments Off on 2017 Week 8 in Review

2017 Week 7 in Review

Hanging joists on my son’s playhouse has been the most enjoyable step in the saga. In hindsight, should have made the width of the playhouse 96″ edge to edge, instead of having the center of the posts be 96″. The extra 5-6 inches has thrown off the design a little. I’ll also have to spend a little more money on longer decking, only to discard roughly 18″ on each board.

We had nice weather for most of the extended Presidents’ Day weekend. A large band of storms came through last night, soaking the playhouse site and some of my tools got wet in the process. Fortunately, the framing of the deck is basically complete, so I’m out of lumber. Need to make another Home Depot run soon.

Grey and I took a “walk to the water tower” on Saturday. The back of our neighborhood is fenced off as a large nature preserve, since the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler calls that area its breeding ground for 6 months out of the year. It was a great day to get some sun and fresh air.

This coming week will mark the begin of re-organized teams at work. Our engineering teams have been on the large side, and there was a disproportionately high amount of matrixing across managers and teams. I’m hopeful that uncrossing these wires will further our team productivity. It will also be an opportunity to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones.

Posted in Family, Fatherhood, Software | Tagged , | Comments Off on 2017 Week 7 in Review