I am addicted to Slack

Here's what I'm going to do about it

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I have a confession to make: I spend a lot of my time at work reading and posting to Slack. I don't even mean to do it, it just... happens. I'll be in the middle of some focus time and I'll alt+tab over "just to see what's happening" and get the little dopamine rush of answering someone's question or posting a funny GIF. It is killing my productivity and my ability to focus and on top of that, it's burning me out.

In some ways, this has been a strength of mine in the past. I learned a lot about what was going on in the rest of the business just by reading Slack and as a result, I knew exactly what was going on where and why. As my career has progressed though, I am finding it is getting in my way. I simply don't have time to get into the weeds on Slack and do my other work so it is something I want to work on.

This blog post is me figuring out how to do better on the fly. I'm going to try some of these strategies and see how they work for me. Maybe I'll do a follow-up in a few months and let you know how I got on.

Strategy 1: change my notification settings

An easy and practical one to start. I get notified way too much. That little "knock brush" sound makes me alt+tab over to Slack so fast it's unreal. So I think there's some work to be done here. I'm going to try the following:

  1. Disabling the little red badge - I am hoping this will make it less tempting to go in and check what it's all about

  2. Only notify on tags - if I'm not tagged, I don't need to know

  3. Mute those knock brush sounds - this is a funny one because the idea completely wigs me out, but it's making me think that I've got to try it to see what happens. I can always re-enable them!

Strategy 2: stop reading all those messages!

I've now set Slack up so it marks threads read as soon as I open them without scrolling to the last unread message. Hopefully this will encourage me not to scroll back up in the majority of cases. Reading all of that chatter is not going to be productive and I will be tagged in anything that needs my attention.

I've also enabled the "unread messages" pane just in case I do want to catch up - I mostly did this because I hadn't seen it before and thought it might save me time to see all of the unread messages in one place. If it ends up being too disruptive, I'll disable it again.

Strategy 3: close the app when I'm doing focus work

I do use focus mode on my Mac to mute notifications for when I'm doing deep work, but oftentimes I find myself gravitating to Slack when I'm a bit stuck trying to figure something out, almost as a palette cleanser. Instead, it just ends up distracting me and I end up going off on a tangent. For my own sanity, I think blocking or closing the app during those times would be preferable.

I wonder if there is any software out there that does this automatically?

Strategy 4: Leave channels I have no business being in

Recently, the use of @here has made a comeback at our organisation and it's something that has been bugging me a lot. I have no problem calling it out, but I'm also realising there are some instances when it is up to me to leave channels that I do not need to be in on a day-to-day basis.

I have gone through all my channels and left any that were no longer required. I must have left at least forty of them. I am looking forward to the peace and quiet!

Strategy 5: clear away the clutter

I have a lot of sections in my left hand sidebar and a lot of channels within those sections. It's quite distracting seeing that big list and the temptation to click into channels to see what's going on is high. I have now set it up so that channels will only reveal themselves in this list if there are unread messages or in the case of some channels, where I have been explicitly mentioned.

Strategy 6: stop adding irrelevant things to my later list

I am pretty good at adding things to my later list so I can get on with my work in the moment, but I add a lot of things that can probably just be ignored. It's no big deal to mark them as completed at the end of the day even if I didn't do anything with them I suppose, but it's brain space that could again be taken up by something else.

Delving a bit deeper

That's it for my strategies, but I feel like unless I think about why it's a good idea to give Slack a rest, all this might be a bit of a futile exercise. In the past, whenever I've done this, my usage just gradually creeps back up to where I'm using Slack as much (if not more) than I was before.

What exactly is it that I gain from Slack? What primal need is being met? Something to ponder on for sure. If I figure it out, I'll be sure to do another update and let you know.

Are you addicted to Slack? Have you found any strategies that work for you? If so, do leave a comment and share with the rest of us, we could do with your help!