Cultivate more conscious communication with better inbox etiquette 

By George Easton

In 1993, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized that humans can effectively manage only 150 relationships at a time. Later known as Dunbar’s number, this figure is one to bear in mind next time you open your inbox.

If you’re looking at 1,000 emails the minute you open that window, there’s a good chance some of them are within your 150 relationships. Miss those messages amid the mess and those important connections could very well wither away.

We live in an attention-seeking world. Everything out there is vying for your attention, which makes it the most valuable currency you own. It also means you have to be extremely selective about who and what gets your focus.  

Inbox zero

We all want to keep our inboxes pristine so we don’t miss a message and let things fall through the cracks. I like to think of my inbox as a ‘to do’ list, keeping it as near as possible to inbox zero, and I’ve found that one of the best ways to do that is to kill your notifications. 

If you use a number of different apps during the work day, chances are each of them are constantly sending alerts to your inbox nagging you with incessant reminders. This deluge creates amplification of noise in a place that should be as clean as possible. So stop spamming yourself.

If you’re overcome with a bunch of notifications, you’re going to miss a bunch of things. And if you’re a person who already struggles to be present, the last thing you need is a plethora of notifications tugging at your time.

The war on notifications

Whether they’re laying siege to your inbox or popping up on the desktop, notifications only show you so much. That’s what makes them even more draining. 

An alert pops up. You glance at it and see a snippet of information that instantly draws you in. You click to find out more and, bam, you’re sucked down the rabbit hole. A few minutes to check out your notification has now become 30 minutes of time you can ill afford.

That’s why it’s so important to streamline your alerts from the outset. Instead of having 50 different apps, each producing their own notifications, you can simply turn them off and use a single platform like Slack to structure those notifications. 

Slack is one of the most integrative platforms I’ve ever used. It supports multiple integrations from multiple vendors and is easy to customize where necessary. Put all your apps into Slack and everything’s there in front of you. No more jumping around bookmarking sites, opening endless applications, or diving back and forth between them. Everything goes through Slack so you can cut off all those disparate alerts and divert them through a central hub. 

Say, for example, that your company works primarily in Google Drive. On a busy day all your employees are in there, updating documents, adding comments, asking for feedback. You then get a deluge of notifications to your Gmail, every one of them urgently demanding your attention.

Set up Slack to manage your alerts and all you have to do is log in to view a complete chronology of everything that’s happening across the Google drive. 

As an added bonus, Slack allows you to escape from your notifications by setting yourself to ‘Do Not Disturb’ or notifying everyone that you’re in a meeting. Wall off chunks of time in Calendly and Google Calendar, and Slack will make you unreachable so you can focus and get on with your work. 

Finding your focus

Done right, technology should enable more gainful use of our attention span, not shred it via death by a thousand notifications. 

We need to be more discerning about which tools we use, and how we use them. In an ideal world, our systems should free up our attention so we can focus more on the things that matter, whether that’s your employees, your clients, your family or even just yourself.

We talk a lot in the industry about ‘transformative tech’ but often overlook the transformative impact these tools can have on our relationships – building rich connections that serve us both inside and out of the office. 

Our brains may be limited by Dunbar’s number, but there’s no limit to how meaningful those 150 connections can be with a little technological help.

George Easton is ion8’s CEO. He’s a master of making digital technologies work for business by streamlining operations, improving online presences, creating and reinforcing brands, and selling products and services effectively online. George is a certified Google AdWords & Analytics professional, a certified Google Educator and a cloud communication technology guru. Additional skill sets include: Clio Certified Consultant and Certified Zoho CRM Consultant.