The phone screen and distraction

One of the things I started to work on a bit last year was to reduce the number of notifications I get on my phone to checking the phone all the time.

The phone is something I use a lot for listening to music (Spotify), making payments and Twitter. I also use it to get around with Uber or Ola.

I use WhatsApp and Telegram. But also use Signal for checking my text messages. I use Todoist for dumping all the tasks into it.

I use Pocket and Kindle to read. My book reading is still very strongly paper based.

Last month I spent over 10 hours at an airport as part of a layover between flights. To kill sometime I spent organising my apps into folders and reducing the number of screens I had on my phone.

This is my first screen or rather home screen.

This is the second screen with all the apps setup in folders.

Two taps instead of one

I stopped opening some apps I often open as a default because of muscle memory.

Grouping all the apps also meant I need two taps instead of one to open an app. Which means one more mindful step.

I have removed the Facebook app from my phone.

This experiment is working out and I am going to have more tweaks to cut down even more of my time spent on the phone screen.

I want to at some stage get to the ultimate stage of not having Slack on my phone.


Tips for making Slack work for you


Slack is truly a wonderful tool. I find it a lot more engaging in building a community than say Facebook Groups or other web tools. One reason is the ability to add and have other apps interact with it.

I won’t go into the technical aspects of how Slack is built, why it works out great and if alternatives like Mattermost are better?

Slack is increasingly used by companies and open source communities. I discovered Slack thanks to the project using it.

Reference: List of some impressive Slack customers

I have worked using Slack at both companies I have worked at in the past couple of years.

I conducted a very unscientific poll of Slack users, on how they used Slack.

  • There were 9 respondents (so not really a big number).
  • 2 are developers, 2 write for a living, 1 in human resources, 2 from marketing background.
  • Almost all of them were and have been involved with the local WordPress community.

The Interesting Patterns*

How do you use Slack?

  • 8 out of 9 used Slack for work and also for non-profit work.
  • So not surprisingly 8 out of 9 use Slack on a Desktop app.

Fun: Only 1 out of 9 used Slack as part of a fan club.

How is Slack a distraction?

  • Slack was considered a distraction for 6 out of 9 when working in a physical office.
  • By comparison only 3 responded that it distracted them while working from home.
  • All 9 respondents have had the option of doing both.

The Slack Admins

  • 4 responded that the Slack channels in their teams were created by managers and bosses.
  • The other 4 responded there was no discussion before new channels were created.
  • Only one responded suggested there was some deliberations done before a new channel was created.

Again, 9 is not exactly a great way to find patterns.

Slack’s apparent anarchy

I have worked in a remote team for work using Slack and also worked in an office where Slack was used. I found that at a physical office, Slack is often used in the most irritating and distracting ways.

Managers use it to call people to their desks, people prioritize tasks based on their who is assigning them and chatting with them and worst offender is a simple message saying “Hello” with no further context.

Chat is realtime and decisions are taken often in realtime and often people feel left out. Sometimes people feel obliged to follow discussions incessantly which can lead to loads of distractions.

Slack advice for teams

  • Create a code of conduct for Slack. Yes, it applies to companies too.
  • Create specific channels with agendas and encourage people to discuss certain topics only in their related channels.
  • Don’t have bots update messages in channels where discussions are taking place. It happens a lot. And its irritating for people involved.
  • Create a channel preferably open to all – where everyone can discuss creating a new channel and it’s purpose. This means there is some though put to creating new channels and also is means people cannot simply create new or multiple channels doing more or less the same things.
  • At a physical office, use Slack only for meetings or for important messages so others who missed out can catch up. If you want to say hello, go upto the person physically. 😛
  • As a general rule – never give feedback or criticism in public, use DM. Especially when it is work related. Also always congratulate, thank and give credit in public.
  • Always speak out and point out bad behaviour and do that publicly.

The last two points are extremely important. It should discourage people from bossing around and projecting power and allow more transparent, valuable and ultimately productive communication.

Do you have some more advice or tips you want to share, I would love to hear from you.

Email me at or drop in a comment.


Taking down notes!

I came across an article about the famous and controversial billionaire Richard Branson. He apparently is one of the few powerful men from the corporate elite who take down notes during meetings.

No matter how big, small, simple or complex an idea is, get it in writing. But don’t just take notes for the sake of taking notes, go through your ideas and turn them into actionable and measurable goals. If you don’t write your ideas down, they could leave your head before you even leave the room.

Richard Branson’s blog post

Branson makes a good point about why men and women both should be taking notes – and certain activities at work should not be identified with gender.

But in addition to promoting gender equality at meetings, it is a really good habit to form. It seems like a waste of time when you go through a long interesting discussion and then forget about your ideas and reference points. Why keep this just about work?

We should be really writing down notes every time we discuss something interesting with even friends or family.


Was your food warm?

So almost three weeks ago WordCamp Mumbai 2015 finished. A lot of people spoke of many things geeky but also a lot about how to give support, how to deal with customers or users of products, how to decide who we are building products for?

You know the usual brilliant and insightful discussions that happen at conventions and conferences but are soon forgotten in a few weeks as the humdrum of everyday life and work returns.

But a great lesson was taught to me about extraordinary customer service (or support) in the last month by a very unlikely source. It was a small restaurant that opened just over a month ago.

Now I live very close to the railway station of the Goregaon suburb of Mumbai. In walking distance are several eating joints. Most are not fancy and a lot of them actually do a lot of business delivering lunches and dinners to offices and even residential areas in the neighbourhood. All of them offer free home delivery. Free home delivery is like a great USP but actually everyone is offering it now a days.

Our household is no exception to the neighbourhood habits and we often order food from outside on weekends. Let say our favourite place to order food from was “Restaurant A”. We have been ordering food from them many a weekends for a good part of the past decade. Let’s say this delivering dinners market is pretty much captive where I stay.

So a month ago “Restaurant X” opens. It’s nothing special. It had closed down a year or two ago. Probably someone revived it got some things fixed, fresh coat of paint and the works. But remember this is a neighbourhood that love home delivery. So Restaurant X was no exception. They offered free home delivery like everyone else.

We came to know about Restaurant X through the usual pamphlet being dropped door to door by the morning newspaper delivery guy. So it’s a new restaurant with very much the same menu that “Restaurant A” – our usual. But we want to try out what’s special. Maybe they have better quality. Usually new places have better quality in the beginning atleast. A call is made. An order is placed.

First impression was good. The person who took the order did something quite interesting. He repeated the order out again clearly and unhurriedly. This act speaking unhurriedly probably meant he had to speak for 10 seconds more. But chances are over the 10 phones he answers he was easily understood and hardly ever told to repeat what he said. This guy is probably saving time and leaving people on the other side less frustrated.

Nice start!

The packaging, the delivery time and the food itself was all pretty acceptable. It was as good or as bad as “Restaurant A” the one we were always going to compare it with.

But then a few minutes after dinner was delivered we get a call. Polite questions are asked. Did the delivery man have the correct change? Was the delivery was made in time? And the most important question “Was your food warm?”

Nice again!

So with such nice hassle free home delivery, we ordered a couple of more times. Each time the staff taking down the order and delivering the food were polite, nice and basically treating its customers as humans and not just customers.

Over the month I have now realised that we the loyal customers of “Restaurant A” have not ordered from them for over 5 weeks. We have exclusively ordered from “Restaurant X”. Loyalties have changed!

Both serve decent food, decent portions, decent delivery timings. Actually there have been other places we have tried too in the past. The product and the general service is the same.

But yes, only one of them bothers to ask every single time “Was your food warm?” 🙂

image credits