productivity

Using Slack without Slacking

The team collaboration tool *Slack* is one of the fastest-growing startups and it has become a favourite at places such as NASA, the New York Time and even Slack itself. It truly is a fantastic service that can be used by organizations and any type of teams who wish to communicate efficiently and productively. As a real Slack enthusiast, I’d reference the tool’s core capabilities as: unified communications, archiving and search. And these are essential features for proper communication! So you really have to understand Slack. But what are some of the basics that you should know about?

Mario Uher

· 4 min read

Channels

For me, they are probably the most essential tool to understand. There can be several types of channels for several purposes and topics within an organization, so it’s crucial for group members to understand how these should be organized and used for internal communication (btw why not add a phone channel? Simply invite the Yodel bot to your Slack team). I’ll introduce you to the more important features that you definitely should know about:

  • Hiding channels — you can adjust the settings to hide channels when there are no notifications. This provides for a clean look that anyone who doesn’t like cluttered inboxes surely will appreciate; if the channel doesn’t appear, there’s no new question to be answered or topic to be discussed.
  • Notifications — on the flip side, you can activate notifications in case someone mentions you or in case certain keywords are mentioned. If your role relates to advertisements, marketing, outreach, blogging, or anything else, in particular, you simply need to create a notification for it and Slack will alert you when someone makes use of that term. But you should definitely be wise when selecting which words to receive notifications for. Choosing a very broad term might lead to endless notifications. The ability to additionally set up desktop notifications is also a welcome feature in order to ensure that you don’t have to keep the browser tab open whenever you want to be available for others.
  • Search — Slack saves just about every conversation that you had. This means that any time something has been discussed by a team member anywhere on Slack, others will be able to find it. This provides an archive that allows team members to see how previous situations were managed in order to follow a similar route or make any necessary adjustments.

“Do Not Disturb” Policies

Conveniently, you can establish policies to prevent notifications from being sent and received at all times of the day or night. One huge benefit of this is that a night owl can mention a morning person in the late hours of the night but the morning person will not receive this until the policy allows for messages to be received. This allows people to work and communicate whenever they work best without having to worry about disturbing those with different working hours. This feature will come in pretty handy when you want to put work away for a little while as you can set up “do not disturb” filters, so you can perfectly rest without any disturbance coming from work.

Shortcuts

Anyone who uses applications for long enough will likely learn to appreciate the value of shortcuts (let’s give a big THANKS to shortcuts!). Something as simple as knowing how to use “cmd” + “t (or “ctrl” + “t” on windows) to open browser tabs or “cmd” + “w” (“ctrl” + “w”) to close them can turn into a quick time-saver that adds up thanks to the convenience of keeping your hands on the keyboard rather than scrolling around with a mouse.

Pressing “cmd” + “/” (“ctrl” + “/”) will show you all the shortcuts that are available on Slack. These are categorized into Channels, Messaging, and Extras that allow you to do anything from switching channels, marking conversations as read, or attaching files to a conversation. Perhaps one of the most useful “shortcuts” is using “/remind” in order to have the slack bot remind you, or @someoneElse to do a certain activity by a certain time. This leads us to the last great feature of Slack:

Customization — themes, apps, and bots

Slack allows for a plethora of customization options. Anything from themes to emojis and features can be altered in the user interface. You can click on “Customize Slack” in order to create new emoji for everyone to use or to program the slack bot to carry out a specific task when a certain keyword is used.

That said, we cannot simply glance over the one feature that was just mentioned: bots. Slack allows you to download plenty of bots that automate (and thereby facilitate) a range of tasks. These can do statistical work or even notify you when someone on the internet mentions your startup. You can even build your own bots that may be used internally or by the entire Slack community. Yodel is one of those bots that makes your working life a lot easier by integrating your business phone into Slack.

So if you haven’t already signed up to Slack, you should do it right away, and don’t forget to integrate Yodel with it! ;)

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Co-written with Ed Alvarado

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