There’s a maxim I love about email that goes something like this…
Your email inbox is other peoples’ todo list for you.
If you’re not careful, Slack can turn into that on steroids! With a growing team of 40 across 5 continents, it can be a challenge to keep things under control in our business’s Slack workspace. We like to say, “The sun never sets on Tier 11,” because there’s always someone working somewhere. Which means Slack is always buzzing.
So how do you strike a balance between maintaining great communication with your team and never getting anything done?
In this episode I share six tips you can implement in 15 minutes or less to end Slack overwhelm!
Deacon Bradley 0:00
So I'd read the messages and then I'd switch to the next channel and I read all of those messages, switch to next channel read all of those messages. And before I know it, I'd read everything that I needed to read. But still, I'm just staring at slack waiting for new messages to come in waiting for this tool to tell me what I should do with my time.
Hello, and welcome to the Virtual Business podcast. I'm your host Deacon Bradley, and today, I'm flying solo. I've got one big thing on my mind. My goal today is to end the tyranny of slack overwhelmed and underwhelmed. So people, they get themselves in these slack holes where you're just trying to dig yourself out of the hole. There's too much work to do. There's too many notifications. There's too much going on and you think I need a bigger shovel. I need to work longer hours do more digging. It doesn't work. So today, I want to bring you five strategies to end the slack overwhelm, take back your work, and end on under work once and for all. So without intentional practice, slack will ruthlessly steal your time like this is a fact, if you don't have a strategy to cope, then you really fall prey to what author Charles who Mel likes to call the tyranny of the urgent. That's a super classic book. And I think slack just brings that to light so much. And I hear this all the time from business leaders about why they don't like slack. It's the tyranny of the urgent and no business leader wants that no business leader needs that you can't grow your business under those circumstances. So let's talk about some strategies. I'm going to break this down really simple here and give you some very actionable very quick things that you can do today to take back slack from the overwhelm and get back to business. First strategy, you got to accept that you're not going to be able to get everything done as a business leader, you've probably already come to terms with that. So let's get strategic about doing things the right way. But the first strategy is just organizing your channels by the priorities in your business. So this is a really cool feature that slack released recently, it's called sections, they get came out sometime around the time we launched this podcast, maybe late March. And when sections came out, this was, it was a along with a whole redesign of the desktop client, the desktop, so we use like slack installed on our computers, not in the web browser. And with this redesign, you get a lot of cool features, several of which we'll touch on today, but one of the biggest ones is making a really big impact on me is sections. And sections allow you to actually group channels in a way that makes sense to you. And my first question when seeing sections was, Hey, is are these sections just for me? Or is it for Everybody has everybody seeing these sections. And it's really just for you. So that's really cool because now you can organize your channels in a way that makes sense for your workflow. And I've got mine in a few basic sections right now. And this is where I would suggest to start, I've got a section labeled important. It says our leadership channel in it, it's got finance in it, it's got the stuff that if something goes in that channel, I need to read it really soon right away, like, it's usually low volume channels, but there's not a ton of messages in there. So the stuff that does go in there, like I read that stuff, because it's highly, highly important. The next section that I have would be daily. So as a business leader at Tier 11, I am in Gosh, I don't even know how many channels over 30 Okay, and it's been more than that in the past. And so with over 30 channels and, and our team of Gosh, over 40 people just posting in these channels all the time. There is no way to keep up So I like to have a section called daily. And there's a few channels of like key important channels that I, it's either my team, or I'm responsible for the project, things like that these are things that I need to make sure every day, I read every single message and at least this group of channels, and it's a small subset of channels. So it's not daunting, it's something I can do, between important and daily. The number of slack channels that I need to focus on regularly is about a 10th of what it was before. And this is great feeling as a leader because now I can read these things. Now I can keep up with what's in these channels, and the channels that are not in those two groups. Somebody please come up with a better name for this right now. It's just in the default section named channels. So I didn't know if I should name it, other or others. I didn't want to diminish their importance. So right now it's just named channels. And those are channels that I definitely do. I probably get to them all within a week, but I do not read them every single day. As a leader, I accept that I cannot read them all every day if I'm actually doing my job. So that's the first thing that I recommend, take back slack in slack overwhelm, take back your workday, organize your channels by priority, using sections. This is a great new feature. Tip number two, seems obvious,
but I don't see very many people do this. Leave channels you don't need to be in. Now if you're at the leadership level of your business, you probably need to be in way more channels, then it feels like you could comfortably consume. And that's where the channels sections come in, that we just talked about. So for example, I'm in every single account channel that we run within our agency. That's way more information than I could ever read. But I do need to be in those. There are when I look at the channel list of like who's in a channel sometimes I'm shocked at how many people are in there it might be Hey, you know we chatted for about a campaign for a week. Six months ago and like you're still in the channel, still getting all the notifications, like that's not a good way to, to spend your time like dealing with these messages that don't directly affect you. So what I like to say is that it should be okay. It should be part of your business culture, that you leave channels when you're not doing them. Like build that into your culture, that you are an organization that is so disciplined and so effective, that if you don't need to be in a meeting, you don't go, if you don't need to be in a Slack channel, you leave and that's okay. Because you know what, you can come back to the Slack channel if you need to be in it. I think what I've seen a lot, especially with, with people, more junior on the team, or people who are new to the team that don't know what the culture is, oftentimes what can happen is, everybody knows when you leave a channel, slack says, Deacon just left the channel. You're Oh, I really don't want to put that message in there. So you stay and it just becomes another unread channel in your list, and seeing unread channels in your list it, whether you acknowledge it or not, it does lead leaves some level of overwhelm in your brain, it's making that little notation. Hey, there's something to read over here. Maybe we should go check it out. So please build into your, your team, your culture, your business, that you leave channels, that's just part of it. Now, My third tip here, too, in Slack, overwhelm, is probably going to be met with some controversy. But this is how I've run things for over a year now. And I'm doing great. You're ready, here it is. Turn off your notifications. Seriously, I do this for every single program on my computer. I don't have any programs that actually send me the notifications like the little pop up box that, you know, shows up and interrupts your work. Those things are death to productivity. And in slack as your team grows, it will just Be like raining notifications over there on the side of your screen just incessant, just constantly coming in. So turn them off. Now when I suggest this to people, there's usually like a little bit of like a clinching panic. Like my notifications, like, I need those I need to go and see what was said. What if it was important? That was a little bit of my fear at first was, you know, what if it's important, what if I'm missing something? How am I going to know? Well, good news. The work that I do is not so important that it can't usually wait a little while and when it is so important that I'm needed immediately. It's either coming through in that important channel or I will see it right away. Or people will find me by other means. text message, for example. So be okay with turning off your notifications. Now, there is a one caveat to this. Once they're all off. I will go back and turn them on intention. Only four key channels only our leadership channel, I have gone in and I've said, Hey, if somebody types in this channel, I want it to ping me. So the notification pops up. But guess what, we get very little traffic in there. And when something is in our leadership channel, it's important, I need to read it. I want to be completely up to date with anything that goes in there. So there are a couple of channels where I say, Now that all notifications are off. I'm going to go back in and say this one I want to know about right away. And you know what, here's another cool benefit of slack. You can tune your notifications on your phone and on your desktop differently. So some things I say, hey, ping me on my desktop. Don't bother me. If I'm on my phone, leadership channel. ping me
on my phone. I need to know if Ralph or Angela put something in that channel like I need to be in the know about that. So that allows me to turn off notifications and Feel confident that I can be reached that I'll be there for my team if I need to. And in the meantime, it completely eliminates so much overwhelm of this incessant raining down of messages and things to do. So at this point, we've got slack into a really good spot. We've organized our channels by priority, we've left channels that we didn't need to be in, we've turned off our notifications. Come on, I know you're going to do it. And now we're ready to actually get some slack work done. And this is something that I've seen go horribly wrong, but I think it can be fixed. Alright. Here's my system to two part system. I'm going to talk about it in two parts. Part One, batch process your messages. Okay. slack has this awesome view on the desktop. So like upper left hand corner as high up as you can go in that sidebar there. It says all unread. It's all unread messages and even being in third Plus channels, I can click in all unread. And I can process those channels one at a time. And as you go through each one, you can respond to threads that are there right there, you can add emoji reactions to indicate, hey, I've read this, hey, this is cool. Check this off. It's like you can kind of process these at a low level, like simple processing. And then you know, mark them as read mark them as read. And this is a huge tool for leaders because you can get through dozen, a dozen channels and probably five or 10 minutes. And you're doing that because you've set aside time and you're all Alright, I'm going to batch process my slack. Now, when I like to do this in my daily workflow, I sit down for the day, I decide the big three that I'm going to do for that day. So I'm, I'm intentionally planning my day out before I get into slack. And then once I've kind of set the stage for how I'm going to work that day, then I get into slack and I'll back Process important messages. So at that point, I plan my day. And I've read everything that I needed to, which we kind of call this virtually walking around. And we'll do a whole episode on this because there's so much to it. But as a leader, if you can just read all of the messages that your team is writing, you will gain so much in insight about how things are going in your team. And it's huge. You can, again, mark them as read emotionally react, respond to things in threads. The big fear, the big reason where I see people mess this up or choose to not do it out of fear of messing it up, is that you will inevitably, as you're going through these messages, there will be things that you'll need to do. And at that point, you're gonna have to make a decision. And I'll tell you what the right decision is. The decision is, do I do this thing now do I stop and you know, take care of this 510 minute task, or sometimes it's a much bigger task to Do this thing now in stop batch processing, or do I come back to it later? The right answer is you come back to it later. But here's where people break this a lot. I often see balls dropped, trying to implement this system trying to just read things. And you know, I'll I'll do it later. And there's no mechanism to actually come back to it. Here's the mechanism. slack has it built in. Okay, this is so awesome. Saved messages. So this came out recently in the new redesign. And it used to be I think they they took over the stars functionality and made it more explicit about how to use it. So now it's called saved. It used to be like a little star. So if you're used to storing messages, you know what I'm talking about. Now, it's like a save bookmark. you hover over a message, there's a thing right there, you can click Save. And you can do this while you're in any view. So if you're batch processing messages, you're going through all unread You can just when you come to something that you need to circle back on, click on that Save icon. Okay? Now, at the end of this, once you've kind of done everything, there is just under unread. There'll be another thing that says saved items. Okay? And this is where you can open this and go through each and every single one of these things. And at this point, you're kind of like,
in your How do you manage tasks for all? Okay, so I personally, I use Michael Hyatt full focus planner. I've been using it for two years now. And so I actually use paper and a pen, believe it or not to capture these things. And this has worked incredibly well for me. So I can go through my saved items, make sure everything's accounted for. And that's how I do it. Angela has a really cool system where when she marked something is saved, I can't remember if she's using Zapier or something else, but it will actually pull that task out of slack, so to speak, it actually stays in slack. It'll Take that task from Slack, and it will pop it into her to do to her Task Manager, her digital Task Manager. So it'll make an Asana task for her. Or if you use Trello, for example, it could pop a Trello task in there or, gosh, there's dozens of task managers that implement that integrate with Zapier. And that is a way that you can kind of automate this process of building your task list while you're batch processing things. But the key is, for both Angela and myself is we're batch processing messages. We have a system to come back to this work and do it later. And that lets us comfortably batch process the messages. And when you're doing that, I can't tell you what a relief It is to be able to get through dozens or hundreds of messages, and just focus on what you need to do and know that things will be organized and ready for you later. My last tip to avoid slack overwhelm seems obvious, but again, Don't use slack on your phone. Why? Well, first, I mean, it's really hard to do this workflow that I was talking through on your phone, like, it just doesn't have the same views. It's It's too much swiping and I can't get it to work, okay. But the more important point is this. Looking at work when you're not equipped to act on the work is a recipe for dropped balls. And this is something I've worked with my my direct reports and my team with individually one on one and a number of occasions. And oftentimes what happens is, it manifests itself as somebody dropping balls, they're forgetting things they you know, they put the eyeball emoji on it or the okay emoji, like hey, I see this, it's gonna get done. You can count on me. And then a few days go by and you're like, Where's that thing? Oh, I forgot sorry. When this keeps happening, it's usually a symptom that there's not a using slack on Your phone or you're not using it with this with this process to capture two dues and circle back to them. So saved messages that we were just talking about. That's usually the symptom. Because what happens is, you read it on your phone, it gets marked as red. And it's kind of floated off into the ether, right, you're not gonna see that message, again, not gonna worry about it. So do not use slack on your phone. The rare exception to this again, is I do do it for my important channels. So my leadership channel, it will ping me on my phone, and I'll open it on my phone and we'll have conversations there. But again, I know the type of work that's going to be coming in there. I know that's a channel that I read and consume all the time. So nothing is going to get past me in that channel, even if I read something on my phone and it got marked as red. So there are caveats to all these things. But as a general rule, I don't use slack on my phone because I know that's where messages go to be forgotten. Nobody wants their messages to be forgotten.
That wraps up six power user tips to end the tyranny of slack overwhelmed. And if you ever limit these tips, which you can do, honestly, in probably 15 to 20 minutes, your slack life will get so much better. And that's a promise from from us to you. So thank you for joining us today. If you liked this episode, please subscribe to the show. And leave us a review. It helps more people find the show. And really it just makes us feel good. I was actually sent in Angela and Ralph a few screenshots of some of my favorite reviews over the weekend. So shout out to those of you who helped us out so far. We appreciate you. For links and resources from this show. Click the link in the show notes. You can actually download our slack power user guide deployed in your business with your team. Just head on over to the virtual business podcast calm Click on insider access link at the top. We'll see you on the inside.