Slack is simply email with a higher volume and an unreasonable expectation of instant replies. Pretty much all work-related conversations happen on Slack, and one might even say it is the only viable medium to do so for most companies.
At Jovian, we offer private chat support for participants of our Data Science & ML Bootcamp over Slack, where we receive hundreds of queries every day. We’re able to address over 90% of queries within 24 hours with a team of just five, and each of us gets to inbox zero every single day.
Here are some strategies for staying on top of Slack conversations:
Make your conversations asynchronous, not instant. Instant communication requires you to constantly break your attention from focusing on actual work for an extended period. Changing your operating model to “I’ll answer when I can/want to” can help you engage in deep work and have more thoughtful conversations.
Read and reply to messages in batches, 2–3 times a day. Processing messages in batches is several times faster than trying to process each message as it arrives. Block time on your calendar specifically to read and reply to messages on Slack. Putting it on your calendar will let you stop worrying about it and set clear expectations for coworkers regarding when they can expect to hear from you.
#nn-type-namewhile creating new channels (where
nn is generally a 2 digit number that helps sort channels in the sidebar,
type is a common prefix used by all channels of a specific type, and
name is the unique portion specific to the channel). This way, you’ll never lose track of important channels.
Use “Mark as Unread” and reminders to track open tasks. If there’s something you can’t resolve immediately during a batch processing session, just mark it unread and come back to it during the next session. If there’s something you need to follow up on or be reminded about, set a reminder and Slackbot will remind you. This will allow you to get open tasks out of your head and get back to them at the appropriate time.
Prefer communicating on channels over DMs. Smooth and clear communication between people and teams is important for making progress on a company’s goals, and DMs tend to silo conversations and divide context. When A talks to B, B talks to C, and C talks to A about the same project/task, nobody has the full context, yet the overall time spent in discussion is higher than what it would have been if the conversation happened on a channel where A, B, and C were all present.
Create channels as soon as you need them. Don’t hesitate to create new channels for a specific task/project/discussion/topic. In fact, default to creating new channels whenever you want to kick something off.
Archive channels as soon as you don’t need them. Don’t hesitate to archive a channel when you feel its purpose is served, or there hasn’t been much activity for some time (a week, maybe). You can always unarchive it if required.
Save and reuse important information and common questions. There’s a lot of important information shared on Slack that’s likely to be looked up many times. In such cases, pin the message to the channel (if it’s relevant for everyone), or add it to your “Saved Items” by clicking on the bookmark button.
Implement these strategies, and you’ll be surprised at how easily you’ll be able to get through your Slack backlog every day without constantly worrying about missing or forgetting to reply to something important.
Hope this helps!