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Jeroen van Baarsen

January 3, 2018
A week without Slack

The last week of 2017 I read an interesting article written by Jason Fried: The presence prison, reading this article made me realize that I also was trapped by the “Presence Prison”.

I was putting a value to the green dot on how productive my colleagues were, even though it was none of my concern if they were even working.

One of the major benefits of remote work to me is that all the work can be done in an async format, so there is no need to know if your colleague is actually on their computer. The best flow should be like this:

  1. I have a question
  2. I determine if it is a code or general question (This determines the platform where I’m going to ask the question)
  3. If code question, I’ll post it on an issue on GitHub; If general question I’ll post it on Basecamp
  4. I’ll continue with my work, or if I’m stuck I find other work until I got an answer from my colleague.

The above sounds simple, but with the addition of Slack in your company more often then not you’re tempted to ask the question “quickly” on Slack, especially when you see the green dot next to someone’s name.

It becomes even worse if you actually mention the person, it is the equivalent of tapping on someone’s shoulder to ask a question that you selfishly deemed as very important.

The article really opened my eyes to this behavior and also the value you put on the stupid green dot, so I decided to do the following experiment: “No slack for a week”.

Yesterday was the first day that I tried this, and it felt liberating! The fact that I could focus on my work the entire day without having distractions from Slack, and not feel the urge to ping people for things that I could either find out myself or that I could post in an async way and just wait for the answer.

A couple of things that I was afraid of that would happen is that I get stuck because people are not answering. It turns out people are really good in determining the priority of questions and if they need to answer right away or if it can wait for half a day. So there was no being stuck, there was no feeling of missing out if I didn’t look at Slack and there was a great feeling of relief and a good feeling of freedom (how weird that might sound).

At the end of the week, I’ll post again to let you know how the week went. So far, it really feels good!

If you have questions about this, ping me on Twitter :-)