Slack has become the number 1 tool for workplace communications. It is very rich in features, super easy to use and we can reach any teammate directly. But all the goodness comes with a cost. That cost is all the distractions we receive during the day. Sometimes we fail on finishing very simple tasks due to the mentions and direct messages we receive all day.

It does not have to be in that way. We can be more mindful of productivity for ourselves and others.

1. Firstly, ask questions to yourself before escalating them to others.

1. Do I need to ask that?

You might think this is a silly question/inquiry to ask. But remember how many times we get interrupted by things that can also be answered by the askers themselves. Be mindful and think before asking!

2. Are they relevant to this matter?

Before mentioning people or messaging them directly, ask yourself if they are relevant. You might think that it is a good idea to tag people to let them read and be notified about the situation. However, believe me, it is not a good idea. We have constant information flow during the day and we work hard on making sense to filter what is relevant and what is not. Just by being mindful before escalating issues, we can eliminate most of the distractions. Next time when you mention individuals or groups, think about if it is worth consuming their prefrontal cortex capacity. Is it worth making them switching context?

Book recommendation: "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock is a masterpiece about productivity.

2. Summarize your question.

Congratulations your question passed the mindfulness filters! Now you need to summarize your question. In contrast to Slack or Telegram, we summarize our thoughts in our emails. We make sure that we are understood well and our message is packed in a single sending. The problem with email is if a reply of an email starts a new conversation, it takes a lot of time to settle the conversation. Instant messaging communication tools like Slack don’t have this problem. We engage with our teammates in a near real-time communication style. I picked the phrase “near real-time” specifically. See the example conversation below to understand I mean:

Your teammate: Hi!

You: Hi!

(wait 10 seconds)

Your teammate: How are you doing?

You: I am doing well. And you?

(15 seconds)

Your teammate: Can I ask you a question?

You: Of course!

Your teammate: xxxx xxx xxx xxxx,

(5 seconds)

Your teammate: xxxx,

(2 seconds)

Your teammate: xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxxx?

Does it look familiar? We can solve that by bringing together of the best of emailing and instant messaging worlds. Consider summarizing your question into a single message. Start your conversation like an email in Slack.

Your teammate: Hi Melcolm! I have a question for you: xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxxx xxxx?

After the initial question, instant messaging may follow. That’s how we can bring the best of two worlds together.

3. Be clear!

Imagine a scenario that you worked on a task with your colleague from another team. She is doing her things and you are working on your thing on the next few days. When you ask a question like “Is there an update regarding the issue?”, you should know that would not make any sense for her. She cannot read your thoughts and cannot know about the context in your brain. What “the” issue? Try to be more explicit. Here are some examples:

Example 1:

Is there an update regarding -the issue-? Is there an update regarding +the issue with the copier we talked about on Monday+?

Example 2:

Did you talk to -her- about -it-? Did you talk to +Suzanne+ about +sending the laptop to repair+?

4. Finally, Read what you wrote before sending!

It is always wise to have a final check on what we wrote before sending it. Is is going to be understood? Did I overuse use pronouns or other noun replacements? Refine your writing before sending and voila! You limited your distraction fingerprint!

I wish you all more productive working days.