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Is LoopingBack Just Another Thing?
When I start talking about LoopingBack I often get asked, "is this just another thing?" so I've spent a great deal of time considering the answer. It's a valid question; using existing tools to accomplish everyday tasks is appealing. Considering the number of new technologies and software we've all had to learn in the past few years, hesitancy towards having to become proficient in yet another system is understandable.
We're all so overwhelmed with the amount of communication we receive that any additional platform just feels like 'another thing .' Let's dive into what causes some of these anxieties and how LoopingBack can be a valuable tool in alleviating them.
More Time in Meetings plus 24/7 Messaging= Increased Frustration
You'd be correct if you feel like you're enduring more meetings than ever. Since the pandemic began, the number of meetings an average employee attends has risen by over 13 percent, and the number of Slack messages and emails has increased by an incredible 20 percent. We now spend almost 22 hours per week in meetings (more than half of our working hours). When we finally escape, we are inundated with messages demanding our attention; this eats up an additional 11 hours per week on average. No wonder productivity is low while we're all exhausted and overwhelmed. We're spending more than ¾ of our time on the clock slogging through meetings and messages. Imagine what your team could accomplish if they recouped some of that time to focus on tasks and projects.
We have all experienced the frustration of sitting through back-to-back Zoom meetings while watching simultaneous Slack and email notifications flash over our screens, reminding us of the stresses that await us once we're 'free'.
The Invasive Nature of Messages and Email
Filtering through and answering our messages shouldn't be difficult, but most of us find ourselves drained by the time we've sorted through them.
Biology is one of the main reasons sorting through messages is so mentally taxing. Humans are social beings. Our brains are wired to seek out social belonging, and we experience real pain when we do not receive it. Remember the early days of the Covid-19 Pandemic? Isolation from our friends and family left us feeling alone and empty. Furthermore, our ability to mentally push through this pain is restricted, even when we know we're not harming our social connections.
Cal Newport, in his New Yorker article "Email Is Making Us Miserable" sums it up: When you skip a meal, telling your rumbling stomach that food is coming later in the day, and therefore that it has no reason to fear starvation, doesn't alleviate the powerful sensation of hunger. Similarly, explaining to your brain that the neglected interactions reflected by your overfilled inbox have little to do with the health of your relationships doesn't seem to prevent a corresponding sense of background anxiety.
It's tough to feel connected when most of our communication is through messages and email, mainly due to the unspoken expectation of an immediate reply and the invasive design of the platforms themselves.
Chances are, your communication platforms are on your computer and personal phone. No matter the time or place, if you have service, your day can be interrupted by notifications from work. And with the almost complete cultural dissolution of a healthy work/life balance, you're probably checking those platforms even if you've wisely turned off notifications.
It is human nature to feel compelled to respond as quickly as possible when you see someone has reached out to you. You don't want to be perceived as rude or undedicated to your job. Besides, if it takes only a minute to respond to a message or email, it's not that big a burden, right? But those minutes add up quickly; before you know it, hours have passed since you've looked up from your device.
Mailbox > Inbox
Let's compare our email inbox to our mailbox out on the curb. Our physical mailboxes don't follow us around the house, beeping and flashing with each new letter or bill. Whenever we want to check them, we go for a little stroll and inject some fresh air into our day.
I have rarely felt stressed about my mailbox. Besides my daily stroll, it's not really on my mind. Ironic, given that some of the most stressful messages we'll ever receive arrive in that box (e.g., bills, letters from the IRS). Most of us have an easy and mindless ritual with our physical mail: the walk there, the return trip, filtering whatever arrived that day, and then we throw the junk into the recycling. Tossing something into the trash is far more satisfying than just pressing 'mark as spam'.
There are at least three reasons why our physical mailbox is less stressful than its electronic counterpart;
- It is predictably delivered at the same time every day.
- It arrives in an efficient stack that can easily be filtered and sorted.
- There is no expectation of an immediate response.
Of course, most of us aren't receiving work messages through our physical mail. Still, there are ways to improve our digital inbox to make it a bit more like our analog correspondence experience. That's where LoopingBack comes in.
Remove the Stress From Work Communications
Experts recommend setting up your communication platforms to act more like your physical mailbox by using filters, rules, and other complex settings. They also recommend only checking your email at scheduled intervals throughout the day. How many of us will go through the trouble of perfectly calibrating our email settings? Even fewer will be able to resist the urge to check our inboxes off schedule, succumbing to the pressure of innumerable messages piling up.
We feel compelled to do the same when we know our co-workers are constantly checking their messages and emails. We reciprocate, feeling obligated to respond immediately, even when the other party expects no such action. It is an exhausting and unreasonable expectation we all play into.
LoopingBack Frees Us From the Expectation of Constant Communication
This is why we created LoopingBack. It's not about adding 'another thing'. Instead, we create a separate space for deliberate, thoughtful communication. If we remove strategic communication from email, Slack, and Teams, we can focus on the critical and deep work more effectively. We are saving time and increasing productivity. By better organizing our communication channels, we're lowering the stress on our teams, engaging productively, and building a more inclusive environment. LoopingBack is separating the time spent working IN the business from working ON the business.
When using LoopingBack, we recommend building a culture and setting expectations around response quality, not speed. It's important to communicate this in your initial loops and document these expectations in your handbook. Be sure to set a long enough response time to alleviate undue pressure on your team; ultimately, you should ask yourself how long you can wait until you review the responses.
So, is LoopingBack just another thing?
Well, yeah. We are a fundamentally different communication platform than Slack, Teams, or email, and we are advocating for a different kind of communication paradigm. We're advocating for taking a few breaths, taking things a little slower, and being a little more human. We're advocating for making your day simpler and setting aside time to focus on the humans that make everything possible.
Next time you walk to your mailbox, take a deep breath, enjoy that time, and be thankful for how asynchronous communication can free us from the burden of invasive platforms and immediate responses.