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Let’s get back to sending emails

Recently we took a look at all the different ways in which the team is getting distracted every day. We have HipChat alerts, direct messages, Basecamp posts, Hackpad notifications, meeting requests and the list goes on. The volume has increased a lot in the last few months, partly because our team has grown, but also because we have a lot of process changes happening that need to be shared. Most of the time, the content is important and valid. But that doesn’t matter when you’re taking away from someone’s time to focus and work.

Inspired by a comment from someone on our team about feeling unproductive with all the noise, we took a closer look. Communication is important, but it has to closely respect everyone’s time. Every individual should be allowed to control their day. As more eloquently described in an essay by Mike Monteiro, we should make time for the work we have to do, instead of trying to find time to work around all of the distractions. Which made me think about how some of the best collaboration happens around me.

Here we have a bunch of HipChat rooms, the main one being a water cooler for our team. With half remote, it’s so important for us to stay in touch. We mostly just post gifs and silly videos. It’s part of our culture and so critical. But at the same time, it’s horribly distracting. I’m not sure yet of how we’ll solve it, but for now we recommended just muting alerts and opening it when you have time for break.

We also use HipChat for one-to-one messaging. And as with the main chat rooms, we mostly use them unsparingly. Have a quick question? Just ping someone. Want to meet about something, ping them. Distraction, distraction, distraction. Instead, we need to be using more email. And that’s what I suggested to the team today.

If we are to respect each other’s time, we need to allow our friends to select when they want to be distracted. Email gives us that freedom. Britt, our office manager and I work very closely together, and there are often dozens of decisions or questions that she needs me to answer. Instead of sending me an individual message for each, she puts them into one succinct email. When I come up for air and go to my email, on my terms and my time, I can just quickly reply in-line and move on. She didn’t interrupt me writing this post.

It’s no secret Wildbit cares a lot about allowing our team to focus (like our private offices). We want to keep the hours short (40 hours) but useful and meaningful. But how can we expect our team to be productive in 40 hours if they spend half of it being distracted. We, as a culture, spend decades creating processes to stay productive (let’s be Agile!) and then kill it all with group chat and IM and daily meetings. Headphones are some people’s only way to protect their time, because there’s no culture for allowing us all to choose our distraction time. @ messaging someone is the equivalent of barging into someone’s office.

We avoid email like the plague. Why? We’re getting so much junk mail, we’ve punished email, instead of using it as an effective, respectful means of collaborating.

So please, send me more email, so I can have more time in the zone.