Slack is a great tool for collaboration. But when it comes to asynchronous communication, it can be so distracting that it will not allow you to dive into deep work and you will catch yourself hanging on Slack all day.
This article will help you tune your settings and set up team guidelines so that Slack becomes an asynchronous tool that you will fall in love with.
1. Get notified only about the messages that require your action
It doesn’t mean that you should ignore all the rest. Just go through them during the time dedicated to Slack reading.
2. Set up notification delay for your mobile device
We’ve all been there: your MacBook, iPhone, and iPad all beeping about the new message at the same time. Don’t make it happen no more.
3. Mute channels that are not relevant to your work
Are you working in #engineering but interested in #marketing as well? Mute this channel and read it once in a while when you’re in the right mood.
Or, on the other hand, set up notifications for every message if a particular channel is important to you and you have to react promptly.
4. Use saved items and reminders
If you have read a message that requires a complex answer or you want to get back to it later, consider using “Add to saved items” and creating a habit of going through the saved items at least once a day to reply.
Alternatively, you can use “Remind me about this”:
Personally, I prefer the first solution as reminders usually distract me at an inappropriate time.
5. Avoid writing multiple messages and use threads
One post divided into several messages results in multiple notifications and makes it difficult to use a thread for communication about the topic.
By contrast, a thread makes it easy to follow what you are answering. Also, even old communication can still be active if a thread has been created.
Take advantage of “Turn off notifications for replies” if you don’t want to follow a certain thread anymore. You will still get notifications for mentions. As an opposite, you can use “Get notified about new replies” for threads you want to follow.
6. Use reactions
Instead of simple answers like “OK”, “will do”, or “acknowledged,” learn to use reactions. Create a list of reactions and their meanings with your team, e.g.:
🕓 - I saw the message and will respond later
👀 - I have read/acknowledged the message
✅ - It’s done
7. Make clear guidelines on how and when to use mentions
Mention means notification. Think twice before using it and agree with the team on what are good use cases for mentions.
- It makes sense to mention @michal in case I expect a response from him
- It might not make sense to mention Michal in case I’m just referring to him. E.g. “Michal asked to discuss this with you”
8. Minimize usage of direct messages
It happens very often that you ask a specific person something in a private message. Sooner or later, they need to involve someone else in the conversation, but it’s not possible. Also, the context is missing. It’s often better to ask in a channel mentioning a specific person instead of using a direct message. It also encourages transparency, which is key in asynchronous communication.
9. Don’t use group messages
Group messages are even worse than direct messages:
- When you need to get back to the topic, you need to remember who exactly was involved in the conversation. As a result, it’s so easy to lose track.
- The discussion can’t be linked as it is private.
- If you want to add a new participant, you’ll have to create a new conversation without history (read: context).
Always consider creating a public or private channel. It’s not an issue if the channel is just temporary. It can always be archived.
10. Use your status to set expectations
Status is a good place to let others know when they can expect a reply from you.
Bonus: Disable a badge to avoid distraction & mute all sounds
This is rather optional. But if you would really like to minimize the “noise” that Slack makes, consider setting these options as well.