Jeroen van Baarsen

April 2, 2018
Three months with almost no Slack

At the start of this year, I decided to stop using Slack. We are now three months into this experiment and a perfect time to look back at the three months!

A big reason for not using Slack anymore was due to the fact of a constant fear of missing out. I was afraid that if I disabled Slack for half a day I either would miss important information, or people would become stuck without my help.

It turns out none of this things happened. Let’s get the “People become stuck if I’m not available” out of the way. Since I’m a developer at Firmhouse my main job is to be productive in writing code and creating value in technical things, my job is not to be available to everyone in the company. Since we work with very skilled people the chance that they get stuck because I’m not around is very slim. It turned out this fear was mostly my ego speaking.

Then we have the fear of missing out; How did I deal with that? Well, it turns out if you let people know that Slack is not the way to reach you anymore, they will invent new (and in my case better) ways of communicating with you. A lot more information inside the company was shared in an async way, for example through Basecamp. If people needed my attention 1-1 they would use the “Ping” feature in Basecamp. This is basically a chat feature, but since it is housed inside of Basecamp it doesn’t give the idea of synchronous communication, so I didn’t feel obliged to answer them right away.

Another big reason for me to quit Slack was to gain more focus time. In the last month of 2017, I was noticing that I had a harder time to focus on tasks. I will not blame Slack for this since it was not really the fault of Slack, but it didn’t help either. Since the lack of focus was bothering me more and more I was starting to look for ways to gain more focus time.

I did a couple of things to get into that focus mode:

Now that I removed almost all my distractions I was able to focus way better. Once I get 20 minutes of undisrupted time, the flow will come. Without knowing it I’ll be in focus mode for 2 hours. That’s a great feeling!

After the first week, I posted a Basecamp post asking my colleagues how they experienced the week, mostly to get a good sense if it was blocking them, and how we could improve on async communication further. Their response was super positive. In fact, some of them felt empowered to close Slack in longer blocks of time as well.

And now the big question: Am I never opening Slack anymore? Nah, Slack is still the way to have some social time with my colleagues, so I do open it once or twice a day, but I make sure to mark all channels “as read” and only engage with colleagues in the General channel. Another reason to open Slack is that it is our main tool for having calls. So every time I have a call with colleagues I need to open Slack.

So how do I feel after these three months? Great! I don’t think I’ll use Slack as my main communication tool any time in the future. I think Slack is a great tool for social bonding with your team, but not so much to get work done.