Slack has quickly become one of the most widely used communication tools available. It's support of seamless, company wide collaboration has made it invaluable to many workplaces, allowing team members to share their thoughts and ideas at any time, from anywhere.
Here at Yeti we use Slack on a regular basis, and we love it! It allows us to communicate with team members working remotely as well as with clients on the opposite end of the the country, and much more! But we've found that, when left unmanaged, Slack notifications, DM's and active channels can become overwhelming distractions, easily leading to loss of focus throughout the day.
To help ensure that Slack doesn't become a hindrance to your team's productivity, we've compiled this list of Strong Recommendations and Suggested Recommendations for you to follow. Ultimately, you may have specific preferences, but this list of best practices sourced from around the interwebs will help ensure that your Slack chatting doesn't get out of control.
Minimize the Sidebar
In Preferences → Sidebar, set your Appearance to "Unreads and starred conversations". This will make it so that your sidebar only shows channels or conversations that have unread messages. This helps remove the noise and distraction of potentially seeing 15+ channels to only the ones you may need to read.
To find a channel after you've done this, use the command + K shortcut to bring up a window where you can start to type a person's name or channel's name to quickly get back to that conversation window.
Cut Out Notifications
In Prefences → Notifications, set Notify me about... to Direct messages, mentions & keywords. This is the minimum you should set and no one should be getting a notification for every single new message slack . I think this setting is a bit more obvious, but we only want a notification to interrupt us when someone is specifically sending a message directly to us.
What this also means, is that people should respect others and only use
@username appropriately. Using one of these during the day means everyone will be getting a notification and potentially disturbing their focus. Please only use this when you have a message people need to read in a timely manner.
In Preferences → Notifications, set Do Not Disturb to the appropriate times based on your working hours and how early or late you'd like to receive notifications. This means during these Do Not Disturb hours you will not receive notifications on your laptop or on your phone when someone @ mentions you.
Many teams work with clients and teammates across time zones as well as having team members in the same time zones working at various hours. Slack is meant for people to be able to communicate messages at any time needed but does not mean that people need to respond to those messages immediately.
Having everyone with the appropriate Do Not Disturb status means people can write messages whenever they want without the worry that someone will feel the need to respond right away. This is an agreed upon contract that everyone at the company needs to have to work effectively across different working hours and different time zones.
Do Not Disturb My Flow
During the course of a work day, depending on your specific role you will enter Flow at various times of the day. When you know you're about to spend a chunk of time, whether that be 20 minutes or 2 hours, in a focused, productive state, you should set Do Not Disturb on slack. This will keep any notifications from being sent to you while you have Do Not Disturb on.
For other team members, when they see you have Do Not Disturb on, they can still send you messages or @ mention you in a channel and they'll know you'll get the message when you take a break and get out of flow. When you send a message to someone with Do Not Disturb on, whether it be during the day or outside of their set working hours, Slack will prompt you with a "should I notify this person even though their away" type message. If it is really urgent, you can force Slack to send a notification. If that doesn't work and you're physically in the same building as that person go interrupt them or if not, call their phone.
Turn off Sounds & Animations
In Preferences → Notifications, check Mute all sounds from Slack and uncheck Bounce Slack's icon when receiving a notification. These are two extra ways for Slack to disrupt and steal your attention whereas the one notification it is already going to send you is plenty enough.
Say No to DMs
Slack was not intended to be a instant messenger platform for businesses. It's core function is group conversations on shared topics, projects, etc. It can be easy to slide into DMs when talking with someone but you should always default to public channels for conversation. What
you might be talking about with someone could be beneficial or useful for someone else in the team to read now or even later through the search functionality.
Are you telling someone about where to find a certain file or document? Put it in the public channel! Are you helping someone get a project setup on their computer? Put it in the public channel! Are you talking with a client in our slack about their project? Put it in the public channel! Are you gossiping or talking about personal matters? Of course don't put it in the public channel, but should you possibly be having that conversation not in slack but in person instead?
Private direct messages are of course useful and appropriate a times, especially for example when dealing with talking to your manager, a direct report, or a team member about something sensitive, private, etc.
More Screen Real Estate
In Preferences → Messages & Media, update the Theme to be Compact. This will remove profile icons from people's messages. Removing people's avatars will allow many more messages to be available on a screen at once and are ultimately a distraction from communicating. You may miss seeing people's icons but you'll still know who the messages are from by their name.
Remove Unnecessary Images
In Preferences → Messages & Media, uncheck all options in Inline Media & Links. By default this means all files, images, and website previews will be minimized. When searching through a channel or trying to catch up on a slack conversation you will have to scroll a lot less and there will be less distractions.
At any point if someone has reacted with a giphy or uploaded an image you want to view, you can just click on it in the slack application. If you're in a channel you can also type
/expand to expand all images currently in that channel or
/collapse to minimize them all again.
Mute Appropriate Channels
Yeti has grown a collection of channels, some critical to day to day work and some just for chatting or fun. If you're in a chatty channel that you do want to read up on but would never be important enough for you to get a notification to bring you out of flow, you should Mute that channel. For example, the
#random channel is a good example of one that would be OK if you didn't see a message in for a whole day.
Muting the channel doesn't mean it won't show up on your sidebar when there's new messages. You will still be able to see it, but it won't allow any notifications to be sent to you from this channel.
Starred & Unread Messages
When following a lot of these best practices, you may end up reading a message that is essentially a TODO or something you need to follow up on. Once it's marked as read it will disappear and you may forget about it. There's a few different strategies based on your work flow on how to ensure you don't let these slip through the cracks:
Put the TODO / action item into your ticket management platform of choice (JIRA, Hubspot, Asana, etc)
Hover over the message and "star" it. You can later access all starred messages by clicking the star in the top right hand corner of slack.
Hover over the message, click ... and mark the message as unread. It will then show back up as an unread message for you to find later.
Hover the message, click ... and hover over Remind me about this then select an option. Slack will remind you about this message at the designated time.
If you're coming back to slack from a Do Not Disturb break you may see a whole bunch of channels with unread messages and @ mentions with your name. If you'd like to quickly catch up and not go through each channel at a time, the All Unreads menu option at the top of the sidebar will be your new best friend.
It's often overlooked, but the All Unreads tab will list every unread message you have across all conversations. It also has a button to easily mark all messages as read.
When a channel has multiple people conversing, especially about multiple topics team members can easily miss messages or have trouble understanding the disconnected conversation. When you foresee this happening, start a thread!
A good example of when to start a thread is if you're specifically responding to a message that is several messages back in a channel and unrelated to the most recent messages. This is a good way to keep messages within the same context and you'll be doing everyone else on your team a favor.
Consistent Channel Naming
Many companies have practices for naming channels. These naming conventions help people easily find channels and know what the purpose of them are. For example a few we've started at Yeti include
Favor Emoji Reactions Over More Messages
If you're about to say "Thanks", "Great!", "Talk to you later", "Okay" or other short message you should default to just reacting with an emoji. It will save others from notifications and reading unnecessary messages. It will get the same point across as if you typed out a few words.
Don't Send Just 👋
When messaging someone, try not to lead with a "hello", "hi", or "wave" and then work on typing your long message afterwards. This will inevitably pull this person out of flow have them see your "hello" message and then wait while you're typing your actual message. Just put a "wave" or "Hello!" on the same line as your full message.
Sometimes Just 📞
If you're slacking with someone who is not physically in the same location as you, sometimes a call might just be better than typing back and forth. Don't be afraid of just saying let's hop on a call when appropriate!
Use Slack Apps!
Polly - Create a poll
Zoom - Create a new zoom call quickly Giphy - Respond with a gif
Lunch Train - Recruit people to grab lunch with you
Doodlebot - Gather what day or time would best work for everyone for an event
We hope these Slack hacks and best practices are helpful in improving your teams focus and productivity! For more helpful resources, be sure to check out the Yeti Resource Page!