Slack doesn’t have to be ‘instant’

I sent this to some people on my team a bit ago. I bring the thought up every time someone new jumps onto our Product team. So far, it’s resonated every single time so sharing here for others in case it helps you too!

Hey team!

We will be communicating a lot within areas; across areas; areas <> tribe; areas <> specialists. That’s a lot that’ll go back and forth and, recognizing that the areas are all engineers, might seem a bit in conflict with the concept of a maker’s schedule. I personally sometimes feel bad pinging others on Slack with a worry that I’m snapping them out of the zone and causing them to switch contexts. To that end, wanted to share:

  • You can Slack me at anytime, 24/7. This works for me because I’m very diligent about using my Do not Disturb and offline statuses so you can be sure you are never pulling me out of the zone or pinging me when I’m ‘off’ or anything like that 😃. My hunch is that if we all can do this for our own Slack status, we can make everyone comfortable pinging everyone else as/when needed without feeling bad or apologizing for doing so!
  • I love our Buffer value of “Live smarter, not harder”. Practicing this for me means that I am most productive when I am single tasking my way through the day (I’m really, really bad at multitasking) which means that I will sometimes miss Slack messages for a bit. For others who also work this way, I want to just say that I don’t ever expect Slack to be an instant reply channel when I send a message to any of you. I like thinking of it as the good parts of async email with a super fluid UI and much lower mental overhead.
  • I found myself apologizing when I don’t get back to people right away and am realizing that might implicitly send a message that they should feel bad when they don’t instantly reply to me too! Will work on fixing this habit myself. I’m also going to try and err away from saying “This isn’t urgent but…”. The default assumption should be that it isn’t urgent so we don’t need to do this disclaimer every time!

My thoughts on single-tasking; learning about the importance of focus; and all that came to a head when I read Deep Work. That put me over the edge to recognize that the always-on, context-switching, Slack/command-tab to Trello/back to Slack was inevitably going to end with me being poor at my job.

Since sharing this with teammates, I’ve found that I, in fact, did not cause any crises by not being instantly responsive on Slack nor did we really slow anything down. What it did do for me was make me feel less stressed, less overwhelmed and feel like I had a sense of mental space again. Space I could use to think about product, design, customers, teams — you know, the reason Buffer has me around :)