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How I Configure Slack for Productivity and Sanity

jess profile image Jess Lee (she/her) ・3 min read

While Slack is meant to make people's working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive...it can easily to do the exact opposite. I'm part of thirteen slack teams and I keep them open, all the time. If didn't go beyond slack's default settings, I wouldn't get any work done.

Here are three simple things I do to stay sane:

1. Limit notifications

I like being part of many channels but I definitely don't need to be notified about every correspondence. I can't help but read things, so if my eye is constantly drawn to the upper right hand corner of my screen, I'd be distracted all the time. My team knows to @mention or DM to get my full attention. Limiting notifications is a really great way of filtering out any noise and making sure you're looped in on important stuff.

2. Keep the sidebar simple

This is also about limiting noise! In the dev.to slack, I'm part of every single channel. But if you look, I only see the ones I've starred or the ones with any activity. These are the channels I'll know to check when I'm in-between tasks.

If I saw inactive channels listed in the sidebar, I'd have to scroll down and down just to see if I should be checking-in anywhere. Again, I can't help but read stuff so limiting what's visible helps preserve my mental energy.

Here's how to reduce the sidebar:

You can also turn on show all unreads but I personally don't like seeing my unreads in a feed-style because it reduces context. I also like being able to choose which unreads I'm reading first because I have different priority levels for each channel.

3. Know the shortcuts

My most-used shortcut is toggling between channels (⌘ + T) and toggling between teams ( ⌘ + [number]). Like any other shortcut, it helps me move faster and get to where I want to be. Here's a whole list of other shortcuts that could change the way you operate!

In addition to these three things, here are some personal things I've also done:

  • Pull in all my calendar events to get a snapshot of my day, which I'm notified about every morning at 8am. There are other ways to do this, but I chose slack.
  • DM myself constantly when I'm on the road as a way of fast note-taking.
  • I don't use reminders as much as Peter, who is also a productivity nerd (he wrote this article about leveling up your email game), but I'm happy it's there when I need it. I like using it to set channel reminders, like asking everyone to have a Rose, Thorn, Bud ready ten minutes before our weekly retro begins!

As a team, we also have lots of slack integrations. Here are some that come to mind: github, codeship, shopify, and most importantly, any abuse reports that get submitted (we got a spammer!) or any bugs that get reported.

There are so many ways to make slack a powerful communication and productivity tools. I'd love to learn how you use slack and if there are any integrations/tips/tricks that you swear by!

Discussion

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Great article, and I'm very proud to be shouted-out as another "productivity nerd."

I'll add two quick tips:

  • (⌘ + K) will do the same thing as (⌘ + T). For whatever reason, I find that hotkey combo slightly more "ergonomic."
  • As Jess mentioned, I set a ton of reminds, such as: /remind me to look at the attendee list for tonight at 530pm /remind me about Dev Discuss every Tuesday at 9pm
  • make use of the native "status" feature when going heads-down. When I toggle on the 👽 emoji, the team knows they'll have to DM me for a response

Definitely curious to see any other Slack tips that people use.

 

I know the reason you (and I) like CMD+K. K is on the home row.

 

Not just the home row, but one of the vim navigation keys!

 

Thank you for the tips about limiting what's visible in the sidebar. I agree about limiting what you see as a way to preserve mental energy - when we see something, we either waste energy reading through it or resisting the urge to read through it. Limiting what we see is the best way to avoid this.

It's also why I often use the "SelfControl" app at work to block distracting sites like Twitter and Youtube. Makes it impossible to view them, on the actual sites or even embedded, and there's no way to circumvent it (that I know of anyway).

 
 

I'm a big believer of Do Not Disturb. Slack and meetings make it quite tricky to be attentive and focused so I made this Workflow script to snooze Slack till my next meeting is over.

workflow.is/workflows/640eb1944b7b...

 

Speaking of Slack configuration - does anyone know how to disable notifications on direct messages from a bot?