Slack may be the single most important digital tool that I use every day. I switch to Slack hundreds of times per day (sometimes just for a second or two), send over 20,000 messages per year, am a member of 180 channels at work, and actively participate in 6 workspaces.
Over the years, I have found a number of settings and features that have allowed me to stay on top of the firehose that it can be at times. None of my tips are specific to any one company and several people have found them useful so I figured it would be useful to share my personal Slack tips with the world.
Only Show Unread Channels
The very first setting I change in any Slack org is to only show unread channels and conversations. You can do so here. This is invaluable. Slack channels and DMs are often temporary and pile up over time. The transient nature of channels is a feature (see below). However, once old ones start piling up, it becomes untenable quickly.
Priority-Based Channel Sections
Slack allows you to group channels into sections. Think of them as folders for channels. Instead of one long list, you can arbitrarily group channels with a title + emoji.
The most common way to use sections is by team/domain. However, I have found that making sections based on priority helps me stay on top of things much better. As I mentioned, I am in 180 channels in my work org alone. However, the degree to which I care about new messages varies greatly.
My solution is to create four channel sections: tier 1, 2, 3, and rarely.
- Tier 1: Always open. I actively monitor these channels.
- Tier 2: Open if I’m not busy. Checked periodically if I am.
- Tier 3: Checked once per day.
- Rarely: Checked whenever I’m bored or want to look at cute pictures of my coworker’s dogs.
@channel vs @here
@channel will notify all members of the channel on desktop and mobile even if they are not working, sleeping, etc.
@here will only notify people who are actively working.
Both should be used with extreme caution. Think twice before using either. Is your message time-sensitive and relevant for everybody in the channel? If not, don’t use them.
Slack outlines the differences here.
This point is worth mentioning twice. Don’t overuse @here. Be respectful of people’s attention. If you wouldn’t stand in the middle of the office with a megaphone and announce your message to everybody, it’s probably not the right tool to use.
Prefer Temporary Channels over Group DMs
Group DMs are useful for reducing clutter in public channels. However, the fun stops when you decide to loop in somebody new. Suddenly, you have a new group DM and that person can’t see what you were talking about before.
Temporary channels also allow you to have multiple topical conversations with the same or a similar group of people at the same time.
Finally, group DMs are a nightmare to find if you participate in multiple with similar groups of people. You have to remember the exact permutation of people in order to get back to it multiple days later.
Love it or hate it, Slack is an integral tool at most companies. It can be a firehose at times but with a few tweaks, it can be extremely manageable. Hopefully, you learned a few new things. Feel free to leave a comment or let me know on Twitter what you think or if there is anything I missed.