What’s the one thing every person in your company needs more of? Yes, money is also an acceptable answer, but what they actually need is time. Whether they’re coding, designing, selling, or just about anything else, everyone could use a few extra minutes (or hours) to get things done.
It wasn’t too long ago that Slack emerged as a solution to that problem. It was meant to eliminate email overload, reduce lengthy conversations, and save you from jumping in and out of programs to share files or feedback. And it worked… for a little while. Lately, it feels like Slack has become a sporadic source of exactly what we’d like it to prevent: distractions.
Live chat tends to imply that when somebody messages you, it’s rude or unprofessional to not reply immediately. Or we tell ourselves that if we don’t answer right away, we’ll forget and the message will slip through the cracks, with you having missed something potentially important. And so we’ve fallen into the trap of checking Slack every time we get a ping, feel a vibration, or notice a little red dot, pulling us out of the important work we should be prioritizing. How do we get back to Slack’s roots?
How to use Slack, without slacking off
Don’t despair! You can survive the noise and volume of Slack while keeping it in your arsenal of communication tools. Here are some key tips and tricks to help you use Slack in a productive and efficient way:
Use Slack etiquette
The first way to increase your chances of keeping the noise levels low is by treating others how you want to be treated on Slack. Only @mention users if you need a response or are discussing something that they’re in charge of. Don’t flood people’s direct messages with casual conversation (maybe build a casual channel people can check if they have spare time). Use emojis to react to messages that don’t require a wordy response (Quick tip: using a plus sign in front of an emoji adds it as a reaction to the last message automatically). Maintain basic Slack etiquette and others will likely follow your example.
Use to-do app add-ons to create actionable items
Reminders and task checklists can help your team use Slack as a resource and a source of guidance, not a place to shoot the breeze while they’re waiting for an actionable directive to come through some other platform. Used effectively, Slack add-ons can turn simple conversations into action items.
Use project management tools (Asana, Trello, etc.) as your platform of record
Another way to approach the problem is to discourage habitual, mindless Slack-checking by pulling work tasks and commentary out of Slack and into a project management tool. One reason people misuse Slack in this way is because different teams within the organization use different tools. With Unito, every team or department can stay on the project management tool of their choice and simply sync information two ways, making collaboration easy and efficient.
If you’re glued to Slack because you know you’ll forget to reply to messages if you put it off for too long, reminders can help you step away without worrying. The /remind command creates a custom reminder at any time, and you can set reminders about individual messages just by clicking and holding them on mobile until the “Remind Me” button pops up. An alternative solution is to “star” individual messages, which essentially bookmarks them for later.
Never assume people read your message
When you’re messaging somebody and you need verification that they received and read it, ask them to confirm receipt with a checkmark or some other specified reaction. You can even set a reminder on your own message so you remember to follow up and look for the confirmation.
Muting a channel is as easy as typing “/mute” into the message box. When a channel is muted, it won’t show up as bold on your channel list when it contains unread messages, and you won’t receive notifications from activity in that channel anymore. The use of @ mentions and threads ensure you’re still aware of new messages that matter to you. If you’re in a Slack channel that tends to fill up with lot of unimportant chatter, mute it!
The new Slack groups
Sometimes, channels get crowded and chatty, even though they’re still conduits for important information. Slack user groups let you send out targeted messages to multiple people that won’t get lost in the noise. You can create a user group by selecting “User Groups” from the “More Items” menu and clicking “Create a new group.” Then you just need to name your group and invite members. If you do stick to channels, make sure you’re using the right commands so you’re not also adding to the noise: @here for all active members of a channel, @channel for all members active or otherwise, and @everyone for every person in the #general channel (Use @everyone with extreme caution). You can even ask admins to disable or limit the usage of these @ codes if things get out of hand.
Our magic formula
Want to send the perfect Slack message? We’ve got the template right here:
hey @<people who need to know>, I’m planning to <some impactful action> on <a date in the near future>. If you have any suggestions/objections, let me know before then. In any case, please confirm you read this so I know it isn’t Lost in SlackNation.
Don’t cut out Slack — just use it correctly
Slack is an awesome tool for communication and collaboration, but only when you use it effectively. When Slack is a space for unfocused chatter, it isn’t much better than a modern-day version of AIM or IRC — entertaining, maybe, but not helpful for your actual job.
If you put our Slack tips to use, you should be able to filter out the noise, while continuing to benefit from everything it has to offer.
Much like Slack, Unito can help you collaborate better with other teams and be more productive at work.