My week without email and Slack

Here at RadReads we take vacation very seriously. Our employee handbook states:

After 3 months of full-time employment, RadReads has an unlimited vacation policy

A few bullets down it adds:

We want all vacation days to be off the grid, which means that thereโ€™s zero expectation to check Slack, Email or other in-app notifications.

TBH, the “off-the-grid” part has always freaked me out. Having been self-employed for over 6 years, there’s been very little separation between my “work” and my “non-work.” (I don’t have email on my phone, but trust me that doesn’t stop me from non-stop checking.)

Now, with a team of five it feels even harder to disconnect. Many of the team’s activities and outputs show up on my desk, requiring review or feedback. And as the de facto COO/CFO, I approve payments, negotiate partnerships and execute contracts on a daily basis.

How could I trust that everything would get done? How could I let go – both physically and emotionally? Would I truly be able to disconnect?

With some rallying and encouragement from my team, here’s what I came up with:

(My team also made it crystal clear that during my absence, I was setting an example. How could they take an off-the-grid vacation if the CEO abides by a different set of rules?)

So on Sunday the Hy family packed the car and headed to a small mountain cabin in Lake Arrowhead.

Would I be able to commit to this digital disconnection? Or would I fall back into my old habits?

A brief recap of our digital workspace

As a fully-remote company we are very precise about our values and how we use our tools. We use these following principles:

And we have an entire document (titled How we Work) that documents (in 5,000 words, which are updated quarterly) our expectations:

And we have 30 hour work weeks (which I’ve been slowly paring down from 40). Here’s a recent Time Audit:

So right out of the gates, the transparency of expectations has always created clear boundaries. And as I began my vacation, I deleted Slack from my phone, left my laptop at home (in favor of iPad, which is not conducive to productivity) and turned off all my Notion notifications.

Bye bye Slack, hello Twitter

The French philosopher, Blaise Pascal wrote:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

And with my commitment to stay off of all our digital channels, guess what I did?

I opened another one.

Yup, with two subtle moves, I was back online – firing away.

First, I unblocked Twitter from my iPhone. (I use adult controls, to block all social sites and news sites.)

My thinking: “It’s vacation, Twitter is not work, it’s play. Let’s bring it back.”

(What I really was thinking: “Let’s try to find a way to make this time productive and grow our audience.)

As if adding Twitter wasn’t enough, I bought an annual subscription to Typefully. It’s one of those tools that lets you create those annoying Tweetstorms, so I figured, why not?

Adding insult to injury, one of my tweets went viral (by my standards) and so I found myself responding all day Monday:

It didn’t help that we were snowed in, so while I could’ve been playing Sorry with my wife and daughters, I was responding to comments about eating the frog, podcasts on 2x speed and Inbox Zero.

One of my colleagues even called out these addictive tendencies:

Put down the phone, lay off the tweets

Within 24 hours, Twitter became easy to ditch. The tragic invasion of Ukraine made tweeting about productivity inconsequential (not to mention tone deaf).

I reinstated the adult controls setting to prevent the doom-scrolling.

But I still had books. And podcasts.

I had queued up podcast episodes on pre-launching online courses and finding product-market fit. I had YouTube videos on user research. And physical copies of books on Traction and the 80/20 principle.

In short, I kept swapping one way of improving RadReads with another.

But what about email and Slack?

That part was actually quite easy.

I know that when it comes to facing my temptations (sugar, alcohol, social media), I’m either all-in or nothing.

And as I approached my daily 4 pm checking time, there were a few scheduling emails, some unexpected (positive) surprises and a few things that needed my approval.

The lack of communications was an absolute joy and it made me realize that even with our asynch policies, communications occupy a great deal of cognitive load.

Radical delegation is… rad

The most important realization was something that I already knew. We have a kick-ass team that is talented, autonomous and cares deeply about our business. We have workflows and systems that are effective. And our vision is clear.

Marian, Kate, Matthias, Jaen and Cole didn’t skip a beat in my absence. This team is moving me closer towards one of my $10K Questions:

What does RadReads look like without me?

To conclude, I’m still a workaholic

My week off taught me a lot about my tendencies and our business. And one thing still hasn’t changed. It’s a trait I had as a teenager, that propelled my Wall Street career and still lingers in spite of 30 hour workweeks.

It’s very hard for me to do things that don’t have outcomes.

(Yup, even with surfing – I want to get very good.)

And I’m sitting with that tension.

One one hand, there’s a fire in my belly to be the best at what I do.

But with age, I’ve come to realize that many of these activities (ahem, product management podcasts!) are pretty inconsequential to the things I value most: being present, loving others well… and being at peace.

PS – If your team is interested in incorporating these asynch philosophies that will make your colleagues smile, The Rad Studio is open for new client engagements.

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