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How to stop Slack getting in your way when working

Slack is a widely-used real-time communication tool in remote companies. We use it too at Automattic, and it’s our default app for communication. But the problem with Slack is it’s too noisy. Especially with the default settings.

You can not go in a focused work time without getting a Slack notification to ruin it. Or the constant channels checking (Slack’s name for groups) due to the fear of missing out an important conversation. And the list goes on.

Here, I detailed my personal approach to stop Slack getting in my way of doing work and staying productive. I hope you’ll find it useful:

Group your useful channels

With this new Slack feature, you can group channels into groups called sections. Use this to your advantage and create a section for the channels you think are important for your work.

Everything that’s not important should go in another section and stays collapsed. This way, they aren’t around begging for your attention.

Slack's new sections feature
My Slack sections

I personally have a “Team” section, where I put the channels I want to keep an eye on. And everything else is in the Channels section that I usually keep collapsed.

Set a schedule for your notifications

With Slack, you can set a schedule to receive your notifications. Outside of these hours, you’ll not get any notifications. I personally use this to get notifications in my working hours only.

Slack's notifications schedule settings
My notifications schedule

Receiving notifications outside of your working hours is the perfect ingredient for FOMO (feeling of missing out). It’s better to silence them if you’re not working.

Disable who’s typing

When engaging in a conversation in Slack, I found myself losing a lot of time waiting for the response. Especially when I can see the user is typing…

So, I decided to disable this feature completely and you can do it too from Settings > Messages & Media > Additional options. No mention of who’s typing from now on. Respond and go back to your business 🙂

Slack additional option settings
Slack who’s typing settings

Use Slack status and pause notifications

Slack status is a way of communicating what you’re currently doing. Combined with pausing your notifications, it’s the perfect combo. Use the status to communicate your need for some quiet time, and then pause your notifications. Examples of a status you can use:

  • Deep working this afternoon
  • Not around for the morning
  • Responding to emails for the next hour
  • etc

Quit Slack when not using it

Even with notifications paused, you’ll still get that red dot with the number of notifications… I find this to be distracting too.

Slack's notification red dot
Slack’s notifications red dot

My go-to-method is quitting Slack when I want to completely focus on something.

I was hesitant to do this before as I always had the feeling of “bad things can happen any time”. What if something is not working? What if something is broken? I need to be around! The truth is, everything can wait an extra hour.

Our definition of “urgent matters” tends to be too dramatic. But in reality, they are completely different.

Before thinking about it, an urgent matter for me was a question, information needed to close a deal… But in reality, an urgent is something affecting a large number of customers. And if that happens, we have procedures in place to notify the responsible team using cell phones.

To sum up, you’ll miss nothing if you close Slack completely.

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