I’m going to tell you about twelve super practical ways of using Slack that will make your online business activities more effective... and fun!
The goal of writing this article wasn’t just to list out all of Slack’s features. You can easily read of those features on the Slack blog. This list is how our team use Slack. We’ve found some creative ways that really speed up our productivity and efficiency.
Slack has become our system for taking notes, creating reminders, chasing new clients, keeping track of projects, and watching all the various online tools we use every day.
Let’s dig into the list of Slack best practices.
1. Note Taking In Your Personal Channel
Slack doesn’t just list all your teammates in your workspace. It also lists you.
This channel is the perfect place to take notes and record messages that you want to reference later.
If I’m on the move I’ll open this personal channel on my mobile Slack application and make a note for later. It’s like a virtual notepad that travels with me.
As much as I like using Evernote, Slack has become my go-to for notes and minute taking.
2. Pinning important items
Slack does a great job allowing important documents and links to be shared. These important files often disappear into the avoid as the conversation continues. A week later they’re nearly impossible to find. That’s where pinning comes in.
Pinning documents that you think you’ll need to come back to is a great way to use Slack as a simple document sharing system. This is especially useful if you lean on cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive that let you open files in the browser rather than having to download the file.
A cool way to use this feature is to drop important files and links into your personal channel and then pin them for later.
3. Set 3 hour reminders
It’s so easy to read an important message from a client or colleague when you’re not concentrating and not take any of it in. As soon as you open that unread message, the notification disappears. If you find yourself doing this and thinking “I’ll reply to that later” then you should be setting a reminder.
Hover your cursor (or holding your finger on the message on mobile) over the three dots and then select Remind me about this in…
I find 3 hours reminders work the best.
4. System and uptime monitoring
Our team at Clean Commit supports a number of other businesses’ hosting and applications. Time means money to our clients and having a server go offline for several hours is a big deal. There are various expensive tools out there for monitoring infrastructure and application health, with fancy email alerts and different ways to let you know when things have gone wrong.
We’ve found the most effective method of staying on top of these situations is to build custom uptime monitoring integrations with Slack.
Slack offers native integrations with some of the more popular platforms like Uptime Robot, which let you know exactly when your site, server or application go down.
Configuring these kind of integrations can be a bit tricky. If you want to harness the power of this reporting but need a hand putting the technical pieces together, please reach out to us!
5. Set simple manual reminders
Often I find myself needing to set reminders in my calendar for random things. Maybe I want to finish a task before dinner. Maybe I have to remember to do something in an hour or two. Sometimes the calendar isn’t the right place to set these reminders.
Slack to the rescue. /remind me to do something in 3 hours. Easy as that.
The trick with setting manual reminders is to keep it simple. I personally don’t find Slack’s syntax easy to remember and I often mess it up. For a while this kept me away from using this feature. I found sticking to simple reminders easy to get right and the most useful.
This is how you need to write them out. Simply type:
/remind \[someone] \[at a time]
/remind me to write back to that email in three hours
The tricky bit here is the time. If you’re just using reminders for yourself, you can always write
/remind me, but sometimes you’ll want to set the reminder for a few days in the future. Slack is pretty flexible in what it accepts (i.e. Thursday at 3pm, 27/11/2019, November 20th at 5pm) but it’s worth playing around with it to see what works.
6. Dark theme
This isn’t really a trick or tip. It’s completely preference. I’m a big fan of dark themes. As someone that spends their entire day glued to the screen, I find dark themes a lot easier on my eyes.
Slack’s dark theme is well optimized and after a day or two you won’t even remember what the light theme looks like.
Slack even wrote a quick little blog piece on how to turn on the dark theme.
7. Integrate everything
At Clean Commit we use a number of different tools. Asana and ToDoist have been our go-to for task management, we host applications and websites on Heroku, our important files are saved in Dropbox, we write documentation in Google Docs, the list goes on.
Slack has an integration for just about everything. Not all the integrations are useful, but a lot of them are huge time savers.
Asana for instance is our favourite integration. Notifications in Asana can slip through the cracks because it’s easy to forget to check the platform every day. Slack fixes this issue. With the integration turned on, every time an Asana notification is received you’ll get a message in Slack.
8. Use channels. Avoid multi-member conversations.
Dedicated channels are one of Slack’s core features that originally set it apart from other electronic communication systems. Keeping topics grouped into channels lets you leverage the other tricks and tips I’ve talked about, like pinning related documents and taking super relevant notes.
A couple of years ago a new feature popped up - multi-member conversations. Prior to this feature, conversations were one or one or in a channel. Suddenly private conversations could happen between as many people. One group would be Peter and Mike. Another would be Jessica, Peter and Susan. Another would be Peter, Mike and Susan…
This is a super useful feature but after a while the number of open conversations become unmanageable. This is especially problematic when you’re searching for something someone said a while back and having to remember exactly who you were talking to.
The trick here is relying on these multi-member conversations as little as possible. If you end up discussing something you think should be shared, pop it in a real channel for everyone to see. Or better yet, create a new channel for your topic and invite specific people.
9. Private Channels
Sometimes the things you discuss in Slack aren’t appropriate for everyone on your team. Private channels are the best way to make sure that your conversations are contained and restricted.
Slack can become a noisy place. With threads and channels running everywhere conversations can get missed. Inviting just the people who need to be involved is an effective way to cut down on some of the unnecessary conversations. This can also be achieved with general channels, but there’s nothing stopping someone from wandering into the channel.
10. Slackbot reminders
Slackbot can do a range of things such as answering questions, customise responses, and set personal reminders. It can also set reminders for your entire workspace. This is super handy for reminding your team to do things like submitting their timesheets, preparing for regular meetings or providing status updates.
Writing a reminder follows the same syntax as personal reminders:
/remind @channel to do something every Monday at 3pm.
11. Keyword notifications
Another cool trick for staying on top of conversations when things are moving fast is setting notifications to trigger on particular words. This is handy in situations where you want to keep a close eye on topics without reading through tons of messages.
For instance, if you’re the lead designer on a team and want to know anytime your new logo comes into conversation, you could build an alert for the word “logo”.
12. Special text formatting
The last trick is using a few simple commands to format the appearance of your messages. This is useful if you want to highlight a quote in the block of text, reflect a file name, or just make something stand out.
Slack has recently upgraded their message formatting tools making it easier to bold, italicize and strike text through. To be honest, we use those regular formatting options less often than the following three formatting commands.
> Hello world
This command formats your text as a block quote. It will only affect text on one line. If you want multiple lines or paragraphs to be formatted in the same way, simply just a triple arrow like this >>> Hello world
The triple backtick is used for blocks of code. But we find it just as useful for highlighting quotes since it separates the text into its own little container.
Single backticks are used for one line of code or file names. We end up sticking to this practice pretty closely, but we’re also web designers and developers so there’s a lot of file names being thrown around!
That’s a wrap
There’s countless other ways to use Slack and a lot of functionality I haven’t covered. To be fair, our team at Clean Commit don’t use a lot of the other features Slack offers. We also use Slack in a way that suits us. Some of these tips may not work for your team. But hopefully some of them will and you’ll gain a bit of efficiency!
If you know of any cool ways to use Slack that we haven’t covered, please let us know! We love hearing from you.