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Every time I sit down to write this post, I’m distracted by a message from my colleague about this thing I need to hear, a notification about the package that came, or a bot scaring me about the debt on my food credit card. My food card debt. Who is responsible for all of this fuss? Slack, of course.
The salvation for all IT companies working remotely and big teams communicating on a daily basis. Or… the curse of productivity depending on how you use it.
People are lazy by nature, so if the distraction is a part of the job, they would go for it.
But frankly, Slack is just the tool. We’re the ones to blame for our own impossibility to distance ourselves from it. It takes a lot of motivation and self-awareness to not get involved in the distractions that are inevitable at the office, and just focus on getting things done. But you can do it.
Since Slack is here to stay, we have no other choice but to learn to work with it and use it to our advantage. If used right, it’s a big help in your work.
Are you ready to say goodbye to distractions? Take a look at Slack best practices.
We use Slack at LiveChat… all the time
Slack is the place where a lot of LiveChat’s life is happening. We work in an open space right now, and even use the scooters to go make some coffee or visit someone from the other team. We don’t have separate rooms, the office is a huge, long space. Because of the long distance, we don’t shout to the person who sits 5-10 meters from us, we write on Slack. (OK, sometimes we go to that person, but yeah, Slack is easier).
On Slack, we have channels like #general, where we share info about new team members, cakes that we bring to work to celebrate important moments, and the discussions about the future of the live chat industry. We have #food where we order our lunches daily. There are also many channels, like #marketing, #support, #sales, #admins where smaller groups of people from different departments talk about their projects.
At LiveChat we have over 100 people at the moment and we keep growing. There’s a lot going on in the company and on the company’s Slack.
With the help of Piotr Bednarek, our Chief Operating Officer, I want to show you how to use Slack and stay focused at work.
Note: If you think some examples are obvious, don’t give up on the whole post and keep reading. It’s good to have all advice in one place, especially for the beginners. Thanks for understanding!
Golden Rules of Slack from the LiveChat Team
Here are some ideas of what you can do when Slack distracts you from work or... life.
#1. Consider “Do not disturb” mode
There are moments at work when you don’t want to be bothered at all (for example you're coding, writing an important email or talking with a customer). When that’s the case, it’s worth to put on the “do not disturb mode.” The person who is going to write you will receive a question if they want to send you a notification for sure, so let’s hope you’ll receive only essential messages.
DnD mode can be even scheduled:
#2. Set up notification settings wisely
Just like you decided whether you want to have push notifications from Facebook and Instagram or you would rather only see them when you open an application, you can do the same with Slack. If your team is big, maybe there’s no need to see all of the messages people are sending. You can choose to be notified only about direct messages and mentions.
To set up notifications, click on your name then go into Preferences:
- Only direct messages and mentions
To avoid notifications from all channels about each message, you can set up the option called "direct messages, mentions & keywords". Go to Preferences > Notifications.
- Only unread conversations
In Preferences -> Sidebar you have a hidden power feature - a simplified sidebar. With that in place, you’ll see only channels/people with whom you have unread messages. Say hello to a short sidebar that will help you focus and say goodbye to 30 minutes scrolling through the list of channels.
Please note that after reading the message from channel/person the sidebar will get cleaned, so it’s worth remembering to “Star” messages that you want to handle later on.
- Not interested? Mute channel
Some channels are a bit different. These are the channels where you put your messages instead of being interested in what people are saying (#food, #shopping, #general sometimes). It’s worth to set up mute for such channels and enter them only when you have something to post.
Muting channel is way less consuming than entering and leaving channel each time you want to say something (note that it leaves two notifications in channel history - for all channel members who are wasting time to read such announcements as well).
#3. Communicate in threads
If the channel has more than a few people, and you want to reply to a message that’s directed only to the author (or a few engaged people), consider using threads.
Piotrek explained it really well:
Thanks to talking in the threads, notifications about each new message will go on to specific people (author and people you’ll put in a CC). When you have a technical thread, that’s being solved at the end it’s worth to “tick” it at the end to speed things up for the people interested if the case was resolved or no.
Take a look at the flow on #support-tech and #support-partners where those threads are saving the channel from the notification overload.
#4. Use Slack shortcuts to speed up communication
On Slack, you can use a quick search and a full list of on unread messages by using CMD+K or CMD+T (on Windows CTRL+K). Without taking your hands from the keyboard, you can smoothly go through all the messages.
There’s a lot of shortcuts, I will show you the basics ones. The rest you can find here.
#5. Notifying others - @channel and @here
Now you know how to mute the channels and conversations, what about when it’s you that wants to write something to others?
I don’t wanna sound too stiff, but consider if it’s necessary to send that message at the moment. For example, if a person has a snoozed notifications, maybe it’s not the best idea to bother them at that moment.
The same applies to the “silent hours” in the office. Our development team has an agreement with everybody in the office that the two hours in the middle of the day from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. are “silent hours” and nobody is allowed to speak (unless you are in one of the allocated meeting rooms). It gives them at least two hours of undisturbed working time a day. Maybe you Slack message can wait a little longer then?
When you want to reach a bigger group in the company on Slack, there’s nothing easier. But you should be aware and extra careful with using @channel and @here commands. Command @channel notifies all the members of a channel, whether they are active or away. Command @here notifies members of a channel who are currently active in Slack.
Follow Piotrek’s advice:
Remember that with these commands, you are sending a notification to the numerous of people, who are probably doing something different and will be bothered with the notification form you. Make sure that it’s worth taking their time (note: “@channel pizza is here!” is always a good idea).
Different email communication
When it comes to communication, a long time ago, we decided that on Slack, we would handle urgent cases, projects etc. On emails, we write about important things, projects that take time and messages that we want to last. On Slack, they could get lost in the waterfall of messages, especially for people who are on vacation and don’t check it a few times a day.
For that kind of communication we have a few advice as well: check the blog post from our CPO.
Last advice I want to give you, is to get up and talk in person if you have something serious to talk about. Eyes to eyes communication is not dead yet. So go for a walk and talk about this project you have in mind.
Just remember to set up a meeting date on Slack first!