I have a big problem with email.
In an experiment, I decided not to check my work email for seven days while I was on vacation. When I returned, I had 1,511 unread messages waiting for me in my inbox. Fewer than 3% were worth reading. Only 0.3% required a response.
Most of those emails came from outside Business Insider. PR pitches. Newsletters I never subscribed to. More PR pitches.
Of the 44 emails that needed a read during my experiment, fewer than 10 came from non-coworkers.
Based on my experiment, I’ve figured out a good way to drastically reduce how often you (assuming most of your important emails also come from colleagues) check email each day: Convince your coworkers to switch entirely to Slack for intra-office communication.
I’m serious. If you need to talk to a coworker, pretend email doesn’t exist.
Slack is one of the buzziest startups at the moment. It makes a communications app of the same name that’s designed to make sharing with your coworkers easier than Outlook, Yammer, HipChat, and all the other rivals. The company is growing like crazy and its investors already value it at over $US1 billion.
There’s a free version that’s more than enough for office communication. It’s a cloud service, so you don’t need your tech team to install anything. It’s ridiculously easy to sign up and start using.
At Business Insider, we started using Slack last summer, and it changed our workflow for the better within a few weeks. Instead of blasting the entire newsroom with an email every time a story breaks, we’re able to coordinate in real time with the relevant reporters in Slack.
At its core, Slack is like a traditional online chat room. You can create groups for different teams, send direct messages to individuals, and swap files. But its much easier to use and stay up to date than traditional messaging and email.
The mobile app is my favourite part. When I’m not at work, I’d much rather get a Slack notification from a colleague on my phone instead of yet another email. I’m more likely to see the message and respond, and I know the message will be relevant. (I have to guess if I get a new email.)
Still, some of my colleagues are stuck in the old ways, and emails from coworkers tend to sneak through. But I think if everyone starts using Slack instead, I’d only have to check my email three times a day at most for the occasional pressing email that slips through.
Most of the messages I need to read come from colleagues. Just about everything else is garbage.