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How to Manage Your Time While Working As A PM? 10 Ways How Slack Can Help You With Your Daily Work

Welcome back! I hope you got to implement at least some of the tips from the previous article. In case you have missed it, check out or calendar- and inbox-oriented advice here: How To Manage Your Time While Working As A PM? 10 Hands-On Tips on How to Make Your Calendar and Inbox Great Again.

This time I am writing about my absolute favorite communicator, Slack. Slack is awesome - Slack is like the best thing that can happen to a team (especially a remote team, something that characterises all of Netguru’s teams). If, for some strange reason, your company doesn’t have Slack - buy it, you’ll love it! (Believe it or not, but Slack is not paying me for that advertisement, it’s a heartfelt recommendation!)

There are a lot of benefits of using Slack, but let me focus on the ones that have are significant for time management and productivity:

1. Star messages that require your action

Great for important, but not urgent messages, e.g. when you cannot attend to them at the moment (requests from the team that are not urgent, forms to fill in later, articles to read once you have a minute). That way you’ll be able to access all of them from one place and go one by one to clear it out, just like a to-do list.

I try to review starred messages whenever I have some time and I clear out the whole list before I get off work every day. Okay, fine, I have to admit... I fail to do that on some days. Being consistent and devoting those last 10 minutes at the end of each day really makes my work the next day much easier!

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Source: Author’s Slack

2. Remind yourself about messages

Similar thing to starring, but the message will reappear on your Slackbot channel at a predefined time (e.g. after 1 hour, 3 hours, next day). It’s great when you have to do a task at a specific time, for example if you requested something from someone at that person responded “Sorry, I don’t have time today, maybe tomorrow”. Don’t assume you’ll remember about this tomorrow or that this person will reach out to you. You can mark a message, go to options, choose Remind me about this, select an appropriate time, and reach out to that person once again after the message pops up on the Slackbot channel. Then you have a chance to set up yet another reminder or resolve it right away and cross it out (much recommended, gives you the satisfaction of a job well done).

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Source: Slack

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Source: Author’s Slack

3. Use reminders on channels or in private conversations

This solution is awesome when you have a recurring event, like a daily call. In one of my projects I have a reminder for 10AM every day to remind people about the call. Since setting this I have never forgotten about the meeting.

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Source: Author’s Slack

I also use it every time there is a repetitive action, for example once a week or at the end of the month. In case of end-of-month summaries, 2 or 3 days before the last working day of the month I set up reminders for every channel. That way I am sure people will see it without me actually waiting for that particular time to send the message by myself. You can also strengthen the reminder by using the @here mention (which notifies every online member in this channel) - this will for sure get the attention of all the busy bees not currently focusing on the channel.

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4. Keep your profile and status updated

And remind your team to do the same! It will eventually help you save some time trying to reach people who are taking their lunch break or expecting a response from someone who is in a meeting.

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Source: Author’s Slack

For longer absences, go into your profile, change your display name and mention, and include the time when you are off. You can also set it up a couple of days in advance to let people know your holidays are coming so they can sort things out with you before you take off.

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Source: Author’s Slack

5. Pin messages to channels and direct messages

This way you can keep all the essential project attachments and information in one place. It will save you a lot of time when someone will ping you for a 100th time asking where is the link to the InVision project or API documentation. All the important stuff can be found in one place. For crucial and frequently needed information (shortened JIRA link, standup call time or person responsible for something) you can use the topic field in channels, but remember there is a limit: 250 characters max.

6. Use @here and @channel wisely

Don’t be the co-worker who cried @here! As for personal mentions, stick to this rule: if someone absolutely needs to know about something and needs to take action as soon as possible, mention them. Assume that everyone keeps track of essential communication on Slack, so distinguish only important messages. Being pinged to a trivial message that disturbs your current focus is undesirable at the same time, not noticing something important can result in bigger problems later on.

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Source: giphy.com

Use mentions with caution and consideration for different working hours as well (don’t ping the client who is in the USA in your morning hours). There are days that I have to focus on one thing and my availability is limited (like all-day client meetings) and I don’t check Slack that often. In such cases I inform my teams that I will only check mentions, so if they have something important that’s the right way to get my attention. This saves so much time, not needing to go through all the communication in short breaks between meetings.

7. Write full messages

Let’s compare these 2 messages:

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Source: Author’s Slack

And

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Source: Author’s Slack

The first one results in 10 mentions. In case I am AFK for a moment and come back to this, it seems like there is a huuuuge fire, the whole internet is down, nothing works, and in general it’s the end of the world.

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Source: giphy.com

This can give your workmate a little heart attack and we do not want to stress each other out unnecessarily. Sometimes people write the first “Hey” and wait for you to reply until they type the whole message. That’s very polite and I appreciate it, but I also expect a mutual respect of our time. Write your messages concisely if we are not chatting. Moreover, this would also help starring or reminding of this important info (see point #1 and #2).

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Source: giphy.com

Also, don’t inform someone about a meeting saying “We need to talk, I’ll schedule something for tomorrow morning” - that’s like breakup-level stressful. How does “There is one issue with task ABC-123 I want to discuss with you, I’ll schedule something for tomorrow morning” sound? A possible heart attack and restless sleep avoided! Include all necessary information in one message to avoid confusion and stressing someone out.

8. Draft your messages

My leader told me that if I absolutely have to work late and prepare something for the next day, I shouldn’t send messages to my team in the middle of the night. People might think it’s super urgent and this can unnecessarily stress them out. On Slack, you can prepare messages and hit send for all the messages marked with the pen icon in the morning.

 

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Source: Author’s Slack

9. Use threads to organise communication

One of the Slack features I love (once again - not sponsored!) are threads. Let’s imagine you have a channel to discuss all of a client’s business needs and there are several topics concerning different people every day. Start a message with some sort of a bolded header, write about the issue, mention people who should respond/know about it, and use threads for further discussion. This will minimise the chaos in the main channel and attract people’s attention to a particular topic.

10. Use emojis as quick reactions

Emojis are a fun way to express yourself and here at Netguru we are all fans of the custom emoji feature on Slack. But what is more important, emojis are the quickest way to react to a message. The simplest example: you are informing the team you need to leave work earlier that day and the team can give the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” emoji under it. Or you propose 2 alternatives and they can vote under the message with “1” or “2”. If no discussion is necessary, why complicate things?

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Source: Author’s Slack

You can even combine it with channel reminders. I used to have a project where there were 3 project managers at the same time. We didn’t all need to join the dailies, but one meeting facilitator and one scribe was required on each of the standups. We used to have reminders set up 30 minutes prior to the meeting to which we were expected to react with emoji - “notes” emoji if you wanted to be the scribe, “mouth” emoji for the meeting facilitator role and “rejected” emoji if you couldn’t attend. This narrowed the communication down to 3 emojis, a code we all understood. Quick and efficient, that’s how I like it!

I hope you take something for yourself from this post. I can guarantee that Slack does make communication (and life) easier. We are fans of transparent communication and we have to be smart about this. These improvements are great not only for PMs to organise their work, but also to help project teams to organise theirs.

Stay tuned! There is one last part of this series, where I will share with you some more tips about time management with a special focus on work-life balance.

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