Slack Overload, Big Rocks, And Making Time For What Matters

Alright. If you’re into personal productivity (and getting more stuff done at work) then this episode of Seeking Wisdom is for you. DC and DG talk about Slack and a recent shift in how we’re communicating internally at Drift, plus lessons from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and a new book Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day.

You can get Seeking Wisdom on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudSpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Or listen to the full audio version below ?

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with DC and DG on Twitter @dcancel @davegerhardt.

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In This Episode

0:52 – Sunday night email from David Cancel: changing the way we communicate
1:18 – Being busy shouldn’t be confused with being effective.
2:42 – DC is infamous for so many messaging channels.
3:15 – DC’s new way of communication
3:50 – Real time vs. non-real time (asynchronous) communication
5:02 – Dunbar’s number
5:15 – Using slack for everything…so many channels!
7:04 – On the use of email
7:30 – Benefits of Slack
7:54 – An evolving company means evolving communication.
8:34 – Give people the power of now.
9:19 – DC is moving to using three channels.
9:59 – The use of real conversation
11:11 – Make Time and the Time Dorks newsletter
11:41 – DC’s homescreen
12:35 – Stephen Covey and “The Big Rocks”
12:53 – The ONE Thing
13:25 – “Big Rocks” and true effectiveness
15:18 – Use the day’s energy wisely.
15:10 – Leave a review for G2!

Books and other resources mentioned in this episode:

Full Transcript

David Cancel: And we’re back.

Dave Gerhardt: I’m not touching anything.

DC: Don’t touch anything.

DG: I’m not touching anything.

DC: Don’t fidget.

DG: I’m not fidgeting.

DC: Don’t look weird.

DG: I got some feedback that I’m a fidgeter.

DC: That’s true.

DG: Which I said is fine, I replaced that. I don’t say the word, um, anymore.

DC: You do say, um.

DG: That’s not true. Alright, so-

DC: No, you don’t say, um.

DG: Yeah, you’re right. Thank you. I don’t say, um. Dammit.

DC: Yeah. You said it.

DG: See, I love when I just walk into a Seeking Wisdom episode. I don’t have to do any of the prep work because I just have your email.

DC: Yep.

DG: So, you send us email.

DC: Just to be clear, D.G. does all the work.

DG: Just to be clear.

DC: I did no preparation.

DG: Which is great. No. “Cause you send me all the ideas. I just have to wrangle them and then make them happen. All of my ideas come from you, so-

DC: And what are these? What’s this idea you have here?

DG: This is pen and paper.

DC: Artifact.

DG: So you sent out this email Sunday night, which I’ll ask you about in a second, cause you do this weekly Sunday night email now, TSNS. Here’s the subject line, Changing the Way We Communicate. David Cancel to team: Being busy, bold letters. Being busy, if you’re watching on YouTube-

DC: Don’t share that part of the email.

DG: Sorry, I can’t share the whole thing. You’re right, you’re right.

DC: Save that for the insiders.

DG: Okay. Oh.

DC: Just insiders.

DG: You said being busy, wow that’s a playbook in a half right there.

DC: Yeah, yeah.

DG: You’ll know more about that later. You said being busy, bold letters, being busy should never be confused with being effective. It finally hit me, slack overload. Amazing.

DC: I was in the kitchen today-

DG: And I want to do this,


DG: -because the reason I want to do this episode is because when you said that, collectively people, Drift people, outside Drift people, people in America, people in other countries, people who don’t even have access to the internet said, yes somebody finally said what we’ve all been thinking.

DC: Yeah we broke ’em. I was in the kitchen today, and a couple people talked to me separately. One of them was my boy Ham over there.

DC: He said,

DG: People call him Ham?

DC: I don’t know, I call him Ham. Is that not okay?

DG: Are you talking about Hambisa?

DC: Yeah, Hambisa.

DG: I think his nickname is Bisa.

DC: Is it Bisa?

DG: You gave him a new nickname.

DC: Yeah I never heard Ham Bisa before.

DG: Ham. I like Ham, no I like that.

DC: He’s going ham all the time.

DG: Alright, okay, so you’re talking to Ham.

DC: I’m talking to Ham.

DG: Talking to Ham.

DC: Hambisa to the rest of you. He just looked at me. He’s a quiet guy. For a sales guy he’s a quiet, thoughtful guy.

DG: Yeah.

DC: No stereotype on salespeople.

DG: Sure.

DC: He just turned to me slowly and he said, “Thank you.”

DG: Wow.

DC: But I didn’t know what he was talking about. He was just like, “Thanks.” And I was like, “What?” He’s like, “That email Sunday, yes.”

DG: It’s amazing. Because I think you gave people permission to get back to what we’re all here to do, which is deep work, which is real work.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The context that people don’t have though is that I’m the known, and I say that in the next paragraph there-

DG: Yes.

DC: -infamous for being able to be on 1,000 channels at once inside the building, outside the building, all these things. The most popular question I get is how do you keep up with all these different messaging channels?

DG: That’s why I, I think that’s why it was powerful, because coming from you, you’ve always been able to keep up. And you said, “I’m overloaded with the number of channels we communicate with at work. It might be a shock to some of you because I’m infamous for being able to keep up across a large number of channels and people. We have a certain number of people at Drift, a certain number of Slack channels, a certain number of different teammates. It’s finally hit some tipping point, but I’m changing the way I communicate.”

DC: Ohhh.

DG: Not bad.

DC: Finally people are like, yes.

DG: So tell me, so I think Slack overload.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: There’s just information overload.

DC: Information overload.

DG: Just constant real time communication.

DC: Yep.

DG: I actually recently read, it’s called, the latest book from your friends at base camp,

DC: I don’t read their books.

DG: About changing the way you work. I disagreed with about 99.9% of it. I don’t understand how they have a company.

DC: Yeah.

DG: With those rules, but apparently it works for them.

DC: Only them.

DG: But the one piece I did agree with-

DC: And screw manufacturers and other examples.

DG: It doesn’t work, it doesn’t make sense. But, there’s one point I did agree with. And this is what got me thinking about this, which is the real time vs. non real time communication.

DC: Yes.

DG: And the right and wrong way to use them. And personally, I felt like I haven’t been doing a great job with the marketing team as one example, where all I do is feedback in Slack, respond to this, hey can you read this, can you check this out, can I get feedback on this? And that either has to happen in real time, when if you really want thoughtful feedback-

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: – I want to have time to watch your thing.

DC: Reflect.

DG: Or read your thing.

DC: Yep.

DG: And reflect, and have time to do it. And I think that’s where this started to break down.

DC: Yeah that was my realization, which is like, and I talk about it there, and Ham, my boy Ham again-

DG: Ham.

DC: -was saying like, “I’m gonna start using that word, what was that word that you wrote in there?”

DG: Asynchronous.

DC: Asynchronous. And I forgot not everyone’s a geek like me.

DG: No, that’s why I use the words real time and non real time-

DC: Okay that’s more human.

DG: -cause I’m not sure, I’m not sure if asynchronous means real time or not real time.

DC: Yeah, asynchronous is not real time.

DG: Okay.

DC: Asynch.

DG: We need more asynch communication.

DC: Yeah, so that’s the way I kinda clung it in there, right? DG’s the word man so he says it better, but I said Slack is a synchronous channel. Synchronous means real time, right? It means not only real time, but real time multiple people doing, or multiple actors doing something in real time. And there was a point where this team was small enough here at Drift, where you could keep up. And this probably goes back to Dunbar’s number, right? Of the 150 connections that you can have, 150 relationships that you can have because if you multiply that out it’s like 10,000 relationships. Probably us cross the Dunbar number at some point and us using Slack for everything, right? Things that are, we need real time conversation on, stuff that’s just an FYI, stuff that we need an opinion on someday maybe later, right? Just using this fire hose as everything. And I think a lot of people were, I had heard from new people starting that it was overwhelming, you know, the number of channels. And I was like, ah, you’ll get used to it.

DG: You’ll figure it out.

DC: Yeah, you’ll figure it out, until I hit this breaking point last week and said I gotta start changing the way I communicate. I need more asynchronous channels.

DG: Yeah.

DC: And I was using some asynchronous channels. Mostly with a small set of people on the management team where I was doing asynchronous videos and asynchronous audio, and those are the things I was sending to reflect on. And I thought we need to use asynchronous more, or non real time channels more to communicate at Drift, and outside of Drift in order to have more time to make and reflect.

DG: I think the other challenge is, it became a lot of what broke with email, right?

DC: Yep.

DG: And calendar, which is like your inbox and Slack all the sudden become everybody else’s to do list.

DC: Totally.

DG: Hey can you find this thing? I have some, people would ping me, hey a couple weeks ago you shared a link to blank in this channel, where is that?

DC: Yeah.

DG: And I just said, “I don’t know, go find it.”

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: Cause the ask is then me to then go find it.

DC: Yeah, yeah.

DG: So it’s the same thing. I think just kinda makes bad behavior. And the other thing about email, there’s just a certain thing about like, if I’m going to write you an email, I’m emailing the CEO right now, I gotta actually have some thoughts.

DC: Yeah.

DG: And clean this up.

DC: Yeah.

DG: A lot of it goes back to some of the stuff that we like out of Amazon, which it’s not to this level, but, you have to write a six page thing if you’re going to present something, right?

DC:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

DG:             I like the concept of like, and I have done this with you for a while, which is like, I know that you are a thinker and I can’t drop some big thing in Slack to you and say, “What do you think about this?”

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative) gonna need time to reflect.

DG: That’s the wrong way. You need time to reflect, so I have always kinda picked and choose what I give you in Slack vs. like DC, I got some thoughts on the team, I wanna change this, I wanna that, that’s gonna go to email-

DC: Yeah.

DG: -because I want you to be sitting down reading that and have to reflect on it.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: Vs. just like standing waiting for an elevator looking at it in Slack.

DC: Yeah one of the things I saw somewhere, I think it was on the Twitterverse, was that someone said, you know they were mocking and saying Slack is great and so productive, I’ve replaced one email inbox with 44 or 45 inboxes.

DG: Yeah.

DC: Cause each chat is now an inbox.

DG: Yeah.

DC: And it’s funny, that’s a little mock, but I do love Slack.

DG: Yeah.

DC: I do love the real time nature-

DG: For sure.

DC: – of conversations. Obviously Drift is in this world of conversations, but what I appreciate that we need to do is, we need to have both real time and non real time, to use your terms, ways of communicating. It’s important that we build that in the product that we’re doing, and us find ways to make our internal communication work with Slack and email and other forms.

DG: It’s not about Slack, it’s not about the channel, I think it’s about understanding the ways you have to communicate as a company-

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: -have to evolve as the company changes.

DC: Yep.

DG: Right? I’m sure there was a time when there was three people at Drift-

DC: Yep.

DG: -and you probably didn’t even need to use Slack.

DC: No.

DG: What are you going to Slack Alias for? You’re sitting right next to him.

DC: We’re sitting next to each other.

DG: I think it’s just the evolution. I don’t want this to be a rant about why Slack is broken.

DC: No, no.

DG: I think it’s more about the evolution of growth as a company.

DC: Yeah.

DG: We talk a lot about mindset.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: On this podcast.

DC: Lots about mindset.

DG: I think it’s changing the mindset to be like, oh well let’s shift and let’s make this a better thing.

DC: Yeah.

DG: Let’s change how we think about it as opposed to…

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: Nobody’s out there looking for a Slack replacement.

DC: No.

DG: Right?

DC: Yeah.

DG: We’re just changing how we use it and how we think about it.

DC: Totally. And you know, for us, we’ve always said what we’re trying to do is basically give everyone the power of now at Drift, all of our customers. But the power of now is not to be confused as everything needs to be done now. The power of now is giving you the opportunity to be reflective and be able to focus on the thing that you want to focus on now, right? So now can me misconstrued to make you think that it’s about make it happen right now. It’s not always about making it happen right now, it’s about giving you the choice to decide what you want to do right now. Whether it’s this, whether it’s something else, whether it’s go for a run or go for a walk. That’s the power or now.

DG: I think it’s just different also, like Slack is an internal communication tool.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: What we’re powering is you to have an amazing customer experience.

DC: Yep.

DG: Right? And customers want answers now.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: It doesn’t mean that you need to solve it now. They want something now, that’s the difference.

DC: You know, for me, I’m moving, what I wrote was I’m moving to using three channels more. One of them is email.

DG: Yep.

DC: Can you believe that? I’ve been email bankrupt for years.

DG: Listen to this. I’ve been email bankrupt for years, but I finally got an inbox zero and have maintained that for about two months now.

DC: Yep.

DG: I use email when communicating important announcements, stuff that requires the recipient to digest, and other content that doesn’t need a real time conversation that might get lost in the sea of Slack.

DC: Yep. So I’m going back to email on those important things.

DG: Yeah.

DC: Right? That need time. And two, I’m starting to use more of what I was using with a smaller group. Asynchronous video and asynchronous audio. And the case is those are just faster sometimes to consume. They’re faster to produce and so I’ll create those when writing an email would be too long or too hard to communicate.

DG: Third I’m dealing with important issues face-to-face or over the phone when I can instead of an endless back and forth trying to get my point across. I’m going to have a real conversation. Which is like actually fundamentally why Drift exists in the first place.

DC: Totally.

DG: Because we believe that you can’t sell anything unless you have a conversation with them.

DC: Yeah.

DG: It’s the same thing for running a business.

DC: Exactly, so I’m going more to person to person communication, not to be confused with a meeting. And one of the things I was talking to Carey about, who’s on our team, she brought up last week, it was one of the days before Thanksgiving and there were less people here. So things that came up that day, they just had a conversation immediately as it came up and they just dealt with it and moved forward. And she was like, “This is like the old days.”

DG: Yeah.

DC: Right? This is like, she didn’t say old days, this is like Drift. This is Drift. And she was saying what we shouldn’t do, which is too easy to do, is just say, “Well let’s schedule a meeting for that. Let’s meet next Tuesday about that.” It’s like, no let’s just have the conversation now.

DG: Yeah.

DC: Right? The cognitive load of put it on the schedule, meet next Tuesday, what were we talking about right now? When it’s a five minute decision that we can have right now.

DG: Yeah.

DC: That’s the way to do it.

DG: I think it forces you to make it a five minute decision.

DC: Yes.

DG: I like that. Not gonna have a meeting about this.

DC: No.

DG: Let’s talk about the social media calendar now.

DC: Yeah.

DG: We don’t need to have a thirty minute meeting about it.

DC: Yeah.

DG: Here’s the decision.

DC: And put it on the to do list and put it on the calendar and then check it off.

DG: Yeah.

DC: It’s crazy, right? And so, one of the things that made me reflect on this is I’m reading a book, free promo for these guys, Make Time.

DG: Make Time.

DC: Like the book cause I have been a subscriber to the Time Dork newsletter for awhile and two of those guys worked at Google in the past and wrote a book called Sprint, which is about design sprints. We had worked with them at our last company which was a Google Venture’s backed company. So we had them come in to do the design sprint. So I’ve been following them ever since, kept up with this Time Dork. They have this Make Time thing and one of the things that they lead me to do was re- I showed this to DG…

DG: This is why we’re on the video.

DC: Yeah, if you’re not on video you’re missing out on this. This is the home screen. My phone home screen. So if you were on video, you’d see it’s a black screen on my iPhone and it’s got two icons.

DG: And a big picture of DG.

DC: Yeah.

DG: On the wallpaper.

DC: No, it doesn’t. It has messages and phone. Nothing else on this screen.

DG: Mmmm

DC: And I deleted Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. Didn’t have Facebook on here, but I woulda deleted that too.

DG: Wow.

DC: All off.

So no more what they call infinite pools, infinite time wasters. And I’ve noticed a difference since I did that a few days ago where I’m not just picking up my phone just going to check something.

DG: To check something.

DC: Cause there’s nothing to check, right?

DG: Yeah.

DC: And I have my email buried somewhere in here, but I’m at as I said, inbox zero, so not much to check there. So I find myself waking up now and doing nothing but pick up my phone, there’s nothing there, look at my calendar, put it down.

DG: I love this because, the reason why I love this topic is cause it all comes full circle to something we talked about a lot in the early days of this podcast, which is Stephen Covey and the Big Rocks.

DC: Mmmm.

DG: Right?

DC: Yeah.

DG: That has not changed.

DC: No.

DG: But I think everything else gets in the way of the big rocks.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: And if you can block two hours of your day and get the one big thing done-

DC: Yep.

DG: -then you can go do all that stuff.

DC: Yeah. And that’s an important concept from that book, and the book that we talk about and we give out here of the one thing.

DG: Yes.

DC: Is derived from that book. And this book that I just mentioned, Make Time, is derived from that book as well, right? The Big Rocks, they call ’em highlights in the book. They have a system for organizing highlights. And this is not a dig on any of these authors. This is actually what we should be doing. All stems back to Stephen Covey’s work. And I’m sure Stephen Covey’s work stems back to something else, right? It’s all derivative.

DG: Yes.

DC: And so these concepts that are in here are important in Evergreen, and we’ve been talking about them since back in the day with Stephen Covey’s book.

DG: Before you sign off, just explain the big rocks thing for a second.

DC: Okay, so.

DG: Before you go.

DC: So the big rocks is Stephen Covey.

DG: I love the analogy.

DC: And the seven habits of highly effective people, and effective is an important thing, which they also talk about in this book, right? Another thing from Stephen Covey’s book. It’s effective, it’s about being effective, not about being productive.

DG: Being busy should never be confused with being effective.

DC: Exactly. Boom. That’s why I said that sentence. Because you can be productive by just being busy, by just having a long to do list, checking things off that to do list, and saying boy am I productive, I did all my to do list today. Right? But in reality, you weren’t effective, you didn’t get anything done. Effectiveness goes back to the concept of big rocks.

And what Stephen Covey says is that if you look at all the energy, the glycogen, the load, the everything, the energy that you have in a given day, mind power energy, if you thought about that as a big jar and so it’s a finite amount of energy in there. You can fill that jar in lots of different ways, right? Meaning you can use up that energy in lots of different ways. You can fill it up with this jar with a bunch of tiny little rocks and then you’ll fill it up to the top, right? So you use all the capacity that you have with a bunch of tiny little things that are inconsequential, and then you’ll notice once you fill it up, you can’t fit any big things in there, right? Cause all the rooms taken up. Or you can empty that jar and say I’m gonna fill it with a huge rock and then I’m gonna fill in around with any excess energy that I have. Load with smaller rocks. And when you have that big rock, you’ve made progress, you’ve done what they call a highlight in this book. Other people have called it lots of different things. In the One Thing they call it the one thing to focus on. It’s all the same thing.

You have a fixed amount of energy every day, mental energy, that’s why I don’t love to do lists too much and things like that, because you don’t want to use up your energy with that kinda stuff. Pick a big rock. Today’s big rock, I hope for G2 is filming this podcast.

I think this one of the big rocks.

DG: Where are you, you’re late, we gotta go.

DC: Yeah, yeah, we gotta go. He stays on me I love him.

DG: He keeps us on track.

DC: Yeah.

DG: By us I mean me.

DC: He’s got a pager. Yeah, he means me.

DG: Yeah.

DC: A pager. And so, you want to use that energy wisely.

DG: Amen.

DC: Alright,

DG: We got some more reviews.

DC: We got some reviews. They’re starting, they’re trickling in. They’re trickling in, but no one in our reviews yet has saluted the Venezuelan.

DG: Yeah, and if you’re confused on how to spell it, it’s the letter G, and the number 2.

DC: Yeah, it’s easy.

DG: So don’t over think it. Just put it in there.

DC: Yeah. The mustache bandit, the king of Venezuela. The video, the most famous video person from Venezuela I’m pretty sure, G2. Please give him a little shout out. Leave him a little 6 star rating. We have a bunch of interesting stuff that we’re working on.

DG: Look at that.

DC: In the crates. I suggested today an author to our co-host Maggie and she said, oh you should get this author, she’s really good, and she said I’m interviewing her tonight.

DG: Wow.

DC: And I said-

DG: You had no idea?

DC: I had no idea.

DG: Pretty good.

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DG: Alright.

DC: That’s what happens when you have [inaudible 00:16:07].

DG: We’re outta here.

DC: Alright see ya later.

DG: See ya.