If you’re running a business, building a creative project, or managing marketing clients, there’s one thing that’s certain: communication is key, but only as long as you can manage and understand all of it. Mountains of emails, phone messages and meeting requests can leave you feeling like you’re elbows deep in communication debt.
For many professionals, this is where Slack enters the picture. Slack is a communication and file sharing app that divides your company into channels (very much like IRC, if you’re ancient like I am). You also have the ability to direct message one to eight people, share files, and integrate app functionality. The whole goal of Slack is to improve your productivity and reduce the number of emails piling up in your inbox.
While Slack is pretty good at these things, it has taken a lot of heat recently due to the relatively, well, slack nature of communication that can occur. Many people are finding that their participation in too many channels is flooding them with notifications and distractions, ruining any chance at a productive work environment. Especially if one person starts sharing cat gifs, then it’s all over.
It’s easy to blame the app for tanking your productivity. After all, out of the box, Slack is really distracting. The notifications are turned up to maximum, with sounds, notification banners, and a lot of information flying your way.
Once I got the hang of Slack, I was a believer. I’m in four channels now, and three are professional while one is a friendly hangout to touch base with my online network. I have my notifications set by the importance of each channel for my work life.
Because I have a hard time settling back into work mode if my attention is pulled away from my screen, I am a Slack lover. A well-planned Slack integration can result in a much quieter work environment, and an email inbox that is far simpler to prioritize. Even if you’re only in one slack channel, these tips will help you make the most of Slack and the rest of your day.
Fine Tune Your Notifications
1. Do Not Disturb.
If you’re going into a meeting and using screen share, you can’t have slack interrupting your presentation. Clicking the bell beside your name initiates Do Not Disturb mode, silencing all notifications until you change your status back. You can choose to snooze your notifications for a set amount of time.
The Do Not Disturb schedule option toward the bottom of that menu allows you to set off-work hours that Slack will never notify you. This is especially useful if you have server or error bots that may send alerts in the middle of the night!
Next, let’s dive into your preferences. In the channel menu (remember: these settings can be unique for all channels you are in), select Preferences and click on Notification Settings. All of the next items will be in Preferences.
What do you want to get notifications for? Everything, direct messages, specific topics, or none at all? For my “Friends” channel, this is set to none at all. For the “ATAK” channel, I’m notified about my name, some key trigger words, and direct messages.
If you change your notification sound from the standard Knock Brush, you’ll be able to know when it’s your Slack notifying you instead of a coworker’s going off, which will help to reduce daily distractions.
4. Notification Display
Message text in your notifications can pull you off task quickly, even if it’s something you don’t need to be part of throughout the day. Keeping message text out of the fly out banners means that you can moderate what parts of your Slack discussions you devote your time to, allowing you to focus on your to-do list without the interruption of unnecessary notifications.
5. Dock App Icon
This is a big one for me. If I can see a notification in my Mac dock, I can’t resist checking in on it. The ATAK Slack is the only channel allowed to show the red dot notification in the top corner of the app, so I don’t waste time checking messages that aren’t relevant to work.
6. Highlight Words
Highlight words make it easy to turn off your notifications without missing updates about topics you’re working on. Project names, client names, and department titles important to your day and productivity are great highlight words that let you minimize interruption without worrying you’ll miss something important.
7. Put Slackbot to Work!
Slackbot is your company’s very own robot pal, who is there to help with anything you program it to respond to. One of Slackbot’s built in features is Reminders. Typing /remind me to [message] in [time] (or /remind me to [message] at [time] ) will program Slackbot to send you a private message with your reminder when you’ve specified.
Slack is just like any tool. Without the right customizations and mindset, you’re going to make do with it rather than make the most of it. Set up your Slack so it works best for the way you work.