Life Hacking & Slacking

Imagine if you could decrease your email volume by more than 70%. I did. You can too.

For years, I’ve lost sleep over my email inbox, thanks to a phobia that developed from letting my bucket of emails get larger (actually longer) than my computer screen. You know what I’m talking about — the no scroll factor. When your entire inbox is not visible without a scroll.

I use an 11” MacBook Air so the real-estate available for a visible, no scroll email inbox is already limited. The ‘no scroll goal’ has been unrealistic and impossible for years.

Then one day last September, my life changed.

Enter Slack. A life and time saver. Over the past six months, my email volume has decreased by more than 70%.

My company, Digital Royalty, embraced the Slack platform in effort to achieve Ultimate Efficiency and Communication Utopia. We have tried many project management tools, private social media groups and even swapping desk locations on a regular basis in order to improve and organize our communication.

So what exactly is Slack? Here’s a link to how Slack answers that question. It’s basically the combination of a private Facebook group, the Container Store for communication, an office watercolor and a greenhouse for collaboration.

Slack has changed my life. Sounds dramatic and it is — my life has improved dramatically.

Quick timeout and disclaimer: I have no connection to Slack other than being an innocent, avid fan. I have not invested in Slack although I wish I had and I don’t personally know anyone who works at Slack (although I wish I did so I could give them a jump high-five and bear hug).

Ok. Enough with the Slack pep rally. What is it and what are the tangible benefits?

Decreased Email Exchange

Internal email communication has decreased substantially for Digital Royalty. That for most people is enough to stop reading here. With Slack, we share heavy files, integrate with other third party apps and tools, like IFTTT, and communicate in a way that simply makes more sense. Slack provides layers, relevance, transparency and organized documentation that email does not.

Organization

Slack channels are the email and computer folders relevant to 2015. How much time do you spend trying to find something we’ve filed away? With Slack, the labeling and organization is done intentionally on the front end vs. after the communication begins and data builds up.

For example, each brand Digital Royalty works with has a dedicated Slack channel, so does every platform, project and campaign. Here’s a breakdown: each channel is connected to a specific list of people who are related to that business. Let’s say that brand is launching a new product, then we’ll create another channel for that specific product team and group of relevant people. Then, let’s say that product has a specific campaign. Yep, if the volume is there, we’ll create a channel for that too. We can micro-organize categories, brands, subject matter, events, topics, etc. Then if appropriate, we archive channels when a campaign or event has ended. This keeps us uber-organized and able to reflect back on communication exchange and files that we’ve archived. Additionally, there are many other channels that don’t have anything to do with brands/clients, things like industry news, internal marketing, books, random, etc.

Culture

Digital Royalty has team members on many different countries and in many time zones. Slack allows the team to communicate seamlessly without feeling like your spamming someone’s email inbox. I’ve witnessed an increase in colleague recognition, jokes, folks sharing more about themselves than they would via a formal email exchange. Slack allows for separate channels (for the sake of description, let’s call them ‘chatrooms’ as a throwback nod to the AOL days). For example, we have a ‘random’ channel at Digital Royalty full of funny GIFs and we have a ‘books’ channel for people to share what they’re reading. It’s not likely that someone in Dubai and someone in Las Vegas are going to be emailing about a recent book they’ve read or movie they’ve seen. Slack allows them to share, learn and engage in an informal way. Our Slack setup is also a place where internal pranks are played and where they thrive.

In general, the vibe is very positive. The platform encourages transparency. When people feel they are being watched they tend to be on their best behavior.

Outside Collaboration

A few months ago, a few people on my team at Digital Royalty decided to invite a client partner into our little efficient playground as a test. So far so good. This has broken down perceived barriers that email can bring and allowed for more efficient, fluid, conversation. We’ve also added other agencies (gasp!) to the party. This can be done via dedicated channels, established for a specific set of people to communicate in private channels. Why not spread the efficiency love?

Beneficial Eavesdropping

Whether we realize it or not, we learn and retain information by overhearing conversations and this is a main reason why corporate entities are breaking down cubical walls and opening up their environment. The same type of knowledge share occurs with Slack. Public channels within a Slack team allow for anyone who is relevant to the conversation to listen and observe communication being exchanged even if it doesn’t directly apply to them. When people overhear conversations they’re able to catalog insights and apply them in many beneficial ways.

When we’re exposed to conversations we learn without realizing we’re even listening. For those private conversations that aren’t appropriate for everyone to see, Slack has a Private Group setting or Direct Message function.

Slack with Benefits

Slack isn’t just for companies. For example, I’m on separate Slack ‘teams’ dedicated to communication with people from my community with specific channels for things like ‘women and leadership’, ‘neighborhood announcements’, ‘local marathons’ and ‘volunteering’. Additionally, I’m in another Slack team that revolves around fellow entrepreneurs within the same Tech Fund.

I can’t imagine why any CEO would not want to implement Slack. However, if your CEO isn’t into efficiency, your huge or small company doesn’t have to embrace it collectively; you could go renegade style and set up a stealth department-wide or intimate Slack team for a select group. Nobody will ever know until they see your productivity increase because you have more time on your hands.

Happy Slacking Off.