It seems that the latest fad is to pick on Slack. First, there was this tweet:
Slack is amazing it totally replaced my e-mail inbox!!!! *secretly now has 95 separate inboxes*
— Cabel Sasser (@cabel) February 27, 2016
Then Samuel Hulick wrote his Dear John letter. And more recently, @dharmesh painted a target on Slack’s multiple accounts practice, which he believably argues probably had its genesis in expediency (but which might actually be more of a feature than a bug).
Picking on Slack Shifts Responsibility
How many inboxes do I have today? Too many to count.
There’s the original one: my email inbox. Then there are Facebook notifications, Facebook messenger, Twitter @ mentions, Twitter DMs… the list goes on and on. Every messaging or communications app on my smartphone that has a notifications icon creates another “inbox” of sorts, as does every social network or other such experiment. Let’s not even mention the various forums, blogs, wikis and other sites I’m either involved with or run.
And yes, I have Slack inboxes too. Every team I’m on, every channel I’ve joined pings me with notifications.
Inbox overload, whether from one hopelessly inefficient one like email, or from multiple others, can certainly be overwhelming.
And when we’re overwhelmed and our productivity is suffering, it’s easy to look for someone to blame.
But blaming the latest inbox du jour isn’t the solution.
Slack’s Biggest Single Advantage
Inbox overload was the primary reason I signed up for Slack and converted to a paid account for my team early on. But it wasn’t just the volume of incoming messages I needed to control, it was the fact that they were nearly impossible to sort, filter, and prioritize, despite trying every inbox management trick in the book.
So for my team and me, Slack solved an enormous problem that many of our team members couldn’t even describe until we had the solution: threaded (or at least topical) discussions and stored knowledge.
As a business owner hoping to empower teams to work autonomously, Slack creates an easy way to do so while still allowing me to keep my thumb on the pulse of what’s going on.
Reducing the ridiculous inefficiencies of email chains which cover multiple topics and have no record for people who weren’t cc:d (inadvertently or otherwise), Slack helps.
Need to bring someone new to the project up to speed quickly? Add them to the Slack channel.
And this stuff is all great. Sure, there are more “inboxes,” but I instantly know how critical each one is for me to review, and can respond (or not) appropriately.
When it comes to stuff that screams for our valuable attention, we all need to separate out the stuff we’re responsible for (e.g. the places where we serve clients, deliver value, and contribute to the critical business functions of the teams we work with) from the stuff we’re interested in. Sure, they overlap, but moving projects forward and responding to some things is far more important than staying up on others.
Why I Didn’t Join Every Slack Team That Came Along
“Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time” — Tim Ferriss
I’m working hard to ruthlessly manage my attention. We have critical business objectives to reach, and communication is the single most difficult and time-consuming task I deal with on a daily basis. My team and, sadly, our clients will tell you that some days I fail completely at communicating effectively.
Slack gave me the hope that I could understand precisely where to find the critical communications from my team — the ones that provide the most leverage to propel us forward in serving our clients more effectively. No other tool has given me that.
But aside from that team, I’ve only joined two others. One is for the podcast that I’m responsible for contributing to each week, and one was an ad hoc team for an event we recently participated in.
But… I sat on the precipice of joining several others. Made it to the signup page, entered my email address, and sat there staring at the big button wondering if I should hit it.
Would it have been interesting? Fun, even? Sure.
But then I’d have more inboxes.
Also published on Medium.