This post was inspired by an internal tip from our Design extraordinaire @Craig Stubblefield. And of course, my Tidying Up binge fest of 2019. Kudos Marie, kudos.

Occasionally we hear folks wrestling to find flow and balance with our various software apps. It’s easy to be inundated with pings and to feel ‘behind’ all the activity because we are an asynchronous, remote organization. We work almost exclusively as a distributed company, and thus we need different web tools for… well, everything.

It’s hard to feel any joy, or even a spark for that matter, when you’re subconsciously hoarding notifications. And those stacked up notifications are often replacements for the types of conversations you’d have passing by desks in an office (le sigh). Also, who is guilty of leaving things unread or remarking as unread as a sudo “to-do” list. Moi? Oui 🤦🏻‍♀️

It makes it easy to miss the pings you’re looking for, with nothing classifying them as more important than any others. If I didn’t Marie Kondo the s**t out of the tools I use most, I don’t think joy would stand a chance in my day-to-day. Until I did this “Ping Cleaning” it was pretty hard to prioritize things that needed my attention most! 🧽

Here are a few ways to minimize the hoardy feeling and keep the flow flowin’ 🌊🌊🌊

Mute slack channels that are not critical ⏸

Slack offers a way to mute a channel unless you are @mentioned (or similar). Go for it! Not everything in every channel needs to be read by everyone – it’s a time and energy suck. I have a minimum of 10 slack channels muted at a given time depending on what teams or projects I’m working on. This keeps the red dot from glowing as often and helps me stay in joyful flow.

It also creates accountability for people who really need answers from you, they have to ping you properly to get your eyes. Otherwise, if it’s lost in the chronological Slack abyss, it hopefully wasn’t all that important.

The joy in Slack statuses ✨

Since we dogfood our own internal video conferencing tools, we don’t rely on Slack for calls. If I’m on a VC I will not only pause notifications I will also set a status emoji as :slack_call: to alert others for duration of the call. I’ve become a fan of setting :cartwheel: and other fun emojis as my status because… joy!

Enable healthy Do Not Disturb Hours on Slack ❌

With a somone’s-always-on remote organization we need to protect our own personal time. Make sure you have some healthy preset DND that will telegraph to others you are not around and also give you peace of mind to not be bothers by pings when you should be living your life.

Don’t forget to update this to a more aggressive schedule when you go on vacation.

Consider turning off Slack sounds/ badges 🔇

I turn off sounds, badges and visual notification for slack during periods of time when I need to be focused and productive. Only coming up to check every so often when I’m at a mental break from my task or a natural stopping point.

Slack settings has lots of controls for this

Managing collaboration tools effectively 🤹‍♀️

We use Clubhouse for agile project management; other organizations I’ve worked in use Trello or Jira. It provides great structure to our work and collaboration around our work. But I find the built-in activity feeds can be extremely noisy and unmanageable.

Personally, I rely heavily on emails from all notifications in Clubhouse. I like the inbox ping because I don’t keep Clubhouse always–on like I do with Slack (ahemm Clubhouse, we’d like a Mac app). Many of the notifications are “read only for me…” where I’m tagged in the convo in order to be informed. I read those and archive the email.

For actionable ones, I might read it and keep it Unread in my inbox until I can take action. Or I open the card in my browser to action on. Once I’ve taken action on the card itself, I’ll archive the email notification.

iOS ScreenTime → Downtime schedule ⏰

Proactively schedule downtime for after work hours and weekends. For those times you just can’t help yourself.

Using joy as the indicator to physically remove yourself from distractions at your desk 🆙

I used to use different web browsers and devices for personal versus work but last year I committed to standing up and walking out of my home office for anything personal. The physical anchoring effect of “only work happens here” at my desk was game-changing. If I get a text, and feel enough joy and am compelled to open it, I physically get up and walk to the living room to view. The clear physical distinction between environments keeps my productivity up. The less blurry lines between office and home, the better.

Mac tips 💻

heyfocus.com allows you to schedule automatic blocks on distracting websites while working

mailplane.app gifts Gmail as a native Mac app with proper Mac notification settings. The combo of Mac and Chrome Gmail notifications can be pretty duplicative and distracting if left unattended!

Unfortunately cleaning (of all types) doesn’t just happen in Spring – it’s iterative! Check back for updates and please drop me a line if you have any tips to add: diana@lookback.io