Advanced Slack Tutorial: 19 Tips on How to Use Slack

Advanced Slack Tutorial: 19 Tips on How to Use Slack

I ❤️ Slack.

Our entire 50-person, 8-figure team at Sumo and AppSumo use the Slack app religiously. And so does my small team at OkDork.

Slack helps us:

  1. Coordinate projects in real-time — much quicker than email
  2. Manage our to-dos easily
  3. Have a little fun (because business isn’t always serious, you know? 🌮🎉💪)
  4. And tons more...

Whether you’re about to use Slack for the first time, or you’ve been using Slack for awhile, I’m going to show you 19 tips to do more on Slack easier and quicker.

You'll learn...

  1. How to stop distracting notifications (and get more done)
  2. Save TONS of time with super easy keyboard shortcuts
  3. Some easy tricks to save notes in Slack — so you can keep everything organized easily in one place
  4. Plus more

Let's dive in.

19 Productivity Tips to Help Your Team Get the Most from Slack

  1. Use Slack in your browser
  2. Disable notifications
  3. Set highlight words
  4. Quick edit with just one key
  5. Set a reminder using Slackbot
  6. Catch up on Slack at set times
  7. Jot down quick memos or notes
  8. Star important messages
  9. Add emojis to the latest message (with autocomplete!)
  10. Only show unread channels
  11. Send direct messages via any text box
  12. Go straight to the last unread message
  13. Go back to the previous channel or message
  14. Move up and down your sidebar easily
  15. Jump into a conversation
  16. Search for keywords
  17. Type "/shrug" in the text box to create: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  18. Mute distracting channels in channel settings
  19. Edit your notification preferences

1. Use Slack in your browser

I used to keep Slack constantly open in the dock bar of my MacBook. The little red icon would be a distraction whenever I wanted to get something done.

Even if I tried to ignore Slack's constant pings, I couldn't resist.

When I started optimizing my MacBook, I made a big change: I removed Slack from my dock bar.

I recommend you remove Slack yourself so you’re less likely to be tempted to check it and distract yourself. A better option I've been testing is to use Slack in your browser, rather than the desktop app.

You can open and close the page as you need to check in with your team.

Plus, if you’re like me, you’ll probably have too many browser tabs open and probably forget about checking Slack while you’re grinding...

2. Disable notifications

I try to keep disruptions to a minimum. (This is why I disable iPhone notifications.)

Slack is no different.

With notifications switched off, I push myself to only open Slack when I have a purpose.

  1. If I have a question for my team
  2. If I have to update a team member on project status
  3. If I want to post a cool link for people to learn something new

This means I’m not constantly distracted by updates and messages while I’m trying to focus.

To set up my Slack notifications for optimal focus, when I use the desktop app, I turn off all desktop notifications.

Pro tip: Use Command + , to open up the preferences in Slack in macOS.

Then, I continue optimizing notifications...

  1. Mute most channels so I'm not bothered
  2. Disable the red icon to hide unread activity
  3. Mute all sounds within Slack

You can also experiment with more notifications settings in Slack's “Preferences” menu.

BONUS: Want to save time using Google Chrome? Check out my favorite Chrome tips

3. Set highlight words

By default, Slack notifies you anytime your name and username is mentioned.

But maybe, you want to stay in the loop on keywords or phrases. For example:

To stay on top of important notifications without getting distracted by unrelated conversations, set your “My keywords.”

To set highlight keywords:

  1. Open up Preferences
  2. Click the Notifications tab
  3. Find “My keywords” and enter words and phrases you’d like to be notified of in the text box

I have a few keywords to alert me to any issues... or grab a bite to eat.

Pro tip: If you NEVER want be notified for any highlight words (only have notifications when someone pings you directly), you can clear out your highlight words.

4. Quick edit with just one key

Here's why I like Slack more than email: You can edit any Slack message you write.

  • Ping the wrong person?
  • Misspelling?
  • Pasted the wrong link?

No problem, you can edit or delete your message with one quick key.

To quickly edit without leaving your keyboard, click the up arrow on your keyboard in the channel you typed the message, and Slack will automatically open the editor.

Pro tip: After you edit your message, you can just click“Enter” to easily save the message without leaving your keyboard.

5. Set a reminder using Slackbot

When you create Slack account, you’ll be partnered with a helpful assistant named @slackbot. Most people take one quick glance at Slackbot’s tips... and then ignore him forever.

Poor, lonely Slackbot. 😞

Not only does this hurt Slackbot’s feelings, but you’re missing out on the Reminders functionality of Slackbot — which can be a HUGE time-saver.

Forget creating a to-do list in your iPhone, copy-and-pasting in Evernote, or creating a calendar event to remind yourself.

Instead, go to Direct Messages and select Slackbot (usually the first option), and type the following:

/remind [me / @someone / #channel] [what] [when]

Hit Enter, and your trusty sidekick Slackbot will handle the rest.

Here are some reminders I use:

  • /remind me to drink water every weekday at 3pm
  • /remind @brandon to update me on the latest video tomorrow
  • /remind #general it’s Ash’s birthday today

Pro tip: At Sumo, we have a number of tasks and meetings on a weekly basis. We use Slack to automate the reminders.

For example, here’s our weekly reminder to share any kudos and praise in our Monday meeting.

6. Catch up on Slack at set times

One of the best email hacks out there is to only check in on your scheduled at set times. The same applies for Slack.

Only check Slack when you’re not trying to focus on super important, high-focus work. You could even go as far as to set times when you’ll be active and online.

I try to check Slack three main times:

I try my best to stay disconnected and put my full focus into my important tasks during “off” times.

(Sometimes it works well... but sometimes I cheat and check messages during other times… 😅)

You can also set “Do Not Disturb” times on Slack to optimize focus.

This is one of my favorite features, and I tend to block out notifications during work hours so that I can fully focus on my most important tasks.

To do this, click the bell icon next to your team name and select “Do Not Disturb schedule…”

Next, Under Do Not Disturb, select your preferred hours for silencing notifications from Slack.

With pre-defined times to check Slack + a “Do Not Disturb” schedule, you'll be able to more clearly focus on your work and important deliverables.

7. Jot down quick memos or notes

Tired of switching between apps when you want to save a quick note or jot down some ideas?

Me too.

Just like with Slackbot reminders, you can make life easier by consolidating your note-taking to Slack.

All you need to do is direct message Slackbot (or yourself), and your notes will stay there forever.

If there are certain notes you want to highlight, you can easily Star them to revisit (or set yourself a reminder to check them again soon).

Here are the types of notes I record in Slack:

Pro tip: During your next meeting, write some notes for yourself using Slackbot. As a bonus, set a reminder with Slackbot in 1 week to revisit your notes.

8. Star important messages

One of my favorite features in Slack is the Star beside each message.

Clicking the Star allows you to bookmark any important message — and keep all these important messages in one place.

These starred messages will save in “Starred Items” in the top right corner of your Slack window. You can keep everything easily accessible from your Starred Items menu:

  • Messages from other people you need to remember
  • Important links or resources you constantly need
  • Passwords or other information you reuse again and again

Pro tip: Star important messages, like useful links, project ideas, or to-do items you want to do later. This helps cut down on keeping a Google Doc or notepad list with random ideas.

9. Add emojis to the latest message (with autocomplete!)

Who doesn’t love emojis? 🌮 💪 🚀

Most Slack users have fun with the hundreds of emojis to choose from (our team at Sumo has found creative uses for dozens of them).

But with so many emojis to choose from, it’s easy to get lost trying to find the one you want.

Instead of clicking on the emoji icon and wasting time looking, you can use an emoji keyboard shortcut.

Simply type +:[character] and start typing to find what you’re looking for — Slack will autocomplete the rest.

For example, if you start typing +:t, you’ll see emojis for taco, thumbsup, tada, and more.

When you find what you’re looking for, you can just click the “Tab” key to autocomplete the emoji.

Then, press“Enter” to send the emoji... all without leaving your keyboard.

Use this shortcut to your advantage when looking for emojis. Emojis can take cold, boring text and make it more fun. 🙌 🎈  🎂

10. Only show unread channels

If you work for a larger organization, you might have hundreds (or thousands) of channels.

Even with our small team at OkDork, we have tons of channels:

  • #general
  • #random
  • #podcast
  • #optimizations
  • #advertising

And more.

If you're a member of more than 5 channels, I recommend you set your side panel channels only to show unread channels. Then, Star any channels or direct messages you want to lock in place.

To do this, go to Preferences > Advanced > Channel List and select “My unreads, along with everything I’ve starred”.

This helps keep your channel sidebar list clean and not distracting.

Slack is just the start —
get my Google Chrome timesaving tips

11. Send direct messages via any text box

Want to send a quick message to a team member without having to find their name in you Direct Messages list?

As your team gets bigger, and your Direct Messages list grows, it can be a PITA to send a message:

  1. Scroll through your DM list
  2. Try to find your team member
  3. Don't see them in your sidebar, have to search for them

Instead of wasting time searching, you can message ANYONE from ANY channel using the “/msg” command.

Pro tip: All you need to type is  /msg @user [your message] from any channel or direct message, and it’ll be sent to the right person

12. Go straight to the last unread message

Trying to find a thread after you left the conversation can be annoying.

Who wants to scroll all the way down multiple channels?

This shortcut keyboard shortcut will save you the headache of searching. Instead, you'll automatically jump right down to the latest message.

  • Mac: Option + Shift + ↓
  • Windows: Alt + Shift + ↓

Pro tip: Use this shortcut to quickly scan between latest unreads in any channel, especially if it’s #general or #random chats that can get a bit noisy.

13. Go back to the previous channel or message

As your team grows, or you join more organizations and groups using Slack, your number of channels also grows.

And with more channels, it means more jumping back-and-forth trying to track everything going on.

Instead of clicking around like a madman, use the following key combinations to switch between your current and previous channel like a pro

  • Mac: Command + [
  • Windows: Alt + ←

Pro tip: Think of this like the “back” and “forward” buttons on your Internet browser. Save time, especially if you’re chatting with one colleague and then jumping to a convo with another person.

14. Move up and down your sidebar easily

Using your mouse to click on a Channel or a direct message is fine… but you want to be a pro, right?

When you’re in the flow, you don’t want your fingers to leave the keyboard.

Use this shortcut to move up or down the messaging list quickly.

  • Mac: Option + ↑ or Option + ↓
  • Windows: Alt + ↑ or Alt + ↓

Pro tip: Jump back-and-forth between different conversations with people who are pinging you — without taking your hands off the keyboard.

15. Jump into a conversation

Looking to jump to a conversation with a team member, but don’t want to use the “moving up and down the list” shortcut until you find them?

There’s another solution.

Use Command + K on macOS, or Ctrl + K on Windows, and you’ll see a search box pop up.

Type in any character and select a channel or a team member you want to message.

slack switcher

Pro tip: This can be the quickest way to find a team member without having to search their name in your sidebar. Use it often to save time.

16. Search for keywords

Searching for conversations about a certain project or topic?

There’s an easy keyboard command for that:

  • Mac: Command + F
  • Windows: Ctrl + F

The search window appears right away, and you can plug in any keyword you’d like.

slack search

Pro tip: You can also use some advanced search functionality in Slack to save even more time. Here are advanced search queries and commands to use in Slack.

17. Type "/shrug" in the text box to create: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We all need to shrug every now and then, right?

18. Mute distracting channels in channel settings

Ding!

Ding!

Ding!

Sometimes, you’ll have someone on your team who loves to chat, and you hear constant, distracting notifications.

Or sometimes, your team members are discussing a project you aren’t involved in.

Frankly, it’s annoying and distracting to receive every notification from these unrelated conversations or unimportant channels.

To stop receiving notifications from a specific channel, go to the channel setting, and mute the channel. Peace of mind.

Pro tip: Even when a channel is muted, you’ll see an in-Slack notification by default when your name or username is mentioned (unless you turn off default highlighting).

19. Edit your notification preferences

Muting a channel is the first thing you can do with notifications, but you also don’t want to miss out on your other preferences.

You can also change how your notifications are handled:

  • Alert for just your name or username, or a keyword, or all channel activity
  • Mute @here and @everyone messages
  • And more...

To make it easy to change your notification preferences, here’s the keyboard combination:

  • Mac: Command + ,
  • Windows: Ctrl + ,

You can set your notification display and sound in the Preferences menu which pops up.

Personally, I usually block all notifications in the preference setting because I don’t want to get disturbed.

When I need to check any conversation or update I do it intentionally, instead of being distracted during my main grinding hours.

Pro tip: Set your “Do Not Disturb” period so your team members don’t expect an immediate reply from you. If you want to go full head-down mode, turn off all notifications.

Now You Can Slack Like a Pro

Using the 19 tips we outlined, you’ll MASSIVELY improve your communication with your team, your productivity… and you’ll save yourself the annoyances of normal Slack use.

Let’s recap:

  1. Use Slack in browser
  2. Disable notifications
  3. Set highlight words
  4. Quick edit with just one key
  5. Set a reminder using Slackbot
  6. Catch up on Slack at set times
  7. Jot down quick memos or notes
  8. Star important messages
  9. Add emojis to the latest message (with autocomplete)
  10. Only show unread channels
  11. Send direct messages via any text box
  12. Go straight to the last unread message
  13. Go back to previous channel or message
  14. Move up and down your sidebar easily
  15. Jump into a conversation
  16. Search for keywords
  17. Have fun with /shrug
  18. Mute distracting channels
  19. Edit notification preferences

What's next?

If you made it this far, I have a bonus for you.

BONUS: I want to hook you up with $100 in free Slack credit. When you click here, you’ll get $100 in free credit when you upgrade to a paid plan.

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One response to “Advanced Slack Tutorial: 19 Tips on How to Use Slack”

Andrew Warner
July 28, 2017 at 5:01 pm

This seems insane. After your last Mixergy appearance you became the voice in my head telling me to simplify so I'm shocked you put up with all this.

Serious questions:

When you need to do all this to make a work tool usable, isn't it an indication that it's the wrong tool?

Isn't Slack just too distracting?

And if everyone at the company has to do this much homework to make software useful, is it really a useful tool?

Reply