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When to email, when to Slack

You walk out of your fifth meeting of the day. You look at your phone. You see the unread badge on the Slack icon. 18. Fuck. You open the app. You read a DM from Sarah: "Hey, I think we should change up the entire roadmap for the end of the year? What do you think?". Sarah might not be getting a response today. And then you forget. 17 to go.

Is this really the peak of 21st century work communication?

At a newly founded startup, there are more important things to do than think through which communication tool is right for which scenario. However, as soon as you start growing, your default choices can quickly become untenable.

A simple framework

A good start to restoring sanity is having a simple framework for when to Slack and when to email. Slack excels for shared priorities. It's live, realtime, easy. However, the same qualities that cause Slack to excel for shared priorities make it terrible for mostly everything else: it's interruptive, it's hard to return to later, and it doesn't respect others' time.

Before you Slack anybody, ask:

  1. Is this a shared priority for all the recipients of this message?
  2. If not, is this important enough to warrant an interruption?

If the answer to both questions is no, send an email instead.

Instill this framework in your team and you won't regret restoring a little sanity and respect to your work communication.