They said it'd change our lives.

They said our productivity would skyrocket, that our collaboration would go through the roof.

Is Slack really the savior of all things work? Not when the channels become more channels. When the notifications never stop. When it feels like you're glued to Slack all day instead of getting anything done.

I'll admit Slack has its merits. But when the lines between legit work and just-for-fun chit chat blur, Slack also brings its fair share of distraction and overwhelm. From information overload to pulling you into conversations that might not be relevant to your work or interests, the Slack struggle is real.

Enter Alexis Grant, the Executive Editor at The Penny Hoarder to save the day. The Penny Hoarder is a personal finance site that made the Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest growing media companies in 2017. Grant used to individually train new employees on setting up their Slack. But when their team grew from 50 to 85 employees in under 12 months, that was no longer feasible.

"I'm personally into productivity, and I could see when I walked around what people's Slack's looked like," Grant told me. "It stressed me out." So she pulled together all her best tips and started leading Slack trainings for employees. Grant calls it "Take Back Your Slack," and she helps employees learn how to best utilize the tool for their productivity -- and sanity.

Here are a few tips and tricks Grant employs to solve common Slack pain points and work more productively.

Problem 1: Your sidebar is a discombobulated mess

Sidebar too cluttered? If you have to scroll down to locate channels or conversations, the answer is yes. "Invest a little bit of time in the front-end to identify which channels you need to be in, and which ones you don't," recommends Grant. Then get to work exiting, muting and staring channels.

  • Leave channels that aren't important to you. If you don't read every BuzzFeed article posted to #random, you'll probably survive.

  • Mute channels that aren't as relevant. People can still notify you if needed, but this will push those less relevant channels down.

  • Star your most important and active channels. This will bubble them to the top of your sidebar for easy access.

  • Leave, mute or star DMs. You can take all the above actions with direct messages and groups.

  • Get super pro with sidebar sweep. Follow Slack HQ's tutorial to adjust your preferences and try a streamlined sidebar.

Problem 2: You get distracted by constant notifications

Even if you try to ignore the little pink dot at the bottom of your screen, it will continue to scream "READ ME! READ ME!" until you finally do. Time for some notification management. You don't need notifications popping up on your screen all day long. Here's how to tame them.

  • Turn off notifications. In your preferences, you can choose which types of messages will prompt a notification.

  • Customize channel notifications. Want notifications for some channels, but not others? (I'm looking at you again #random.) You can tailor your notifications by channel.

  • Change your phone notifications. Any notification settings you select for desktop will automatically apply to mobile, but you can set different preferences for each. For example, if you want to get notified about DMs on your phone but not on your computer, you can do that.

  • Mute replies. Annoyed with getting notifications every time someone replies to a message you commented on? You can mute that thread. Of course you want to wish Karen a happy birthday. But you don't need to be notified every time someone else does.

Problem 3: You feel pressure to be available 24/7

Slack has made workplace communication more instantaneous, even when we're out of the office or not at work. But that leaves little time for deep, focused work. So you may need to create boundaries to reduce how available you make yourself on Slack. "You don't need to be on Slack all the time," says Grant. "You can take time away to do work."

  • Turn off Slack if you need to. Seriously. It's not reasonable for your colleagues to expect you to be instantaneously reachable at a moment's notice.

  • Try Do Not Disturb mode. If logging off entirely seems too drastic, communicate to people you're not available by going into DND mode for 20 minutes, an hour or longer. If someone tries to message you at this time, Slack will let them know that you've virtually stepped away. You can also set default Do Not Disturb hours, such as between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m.

  • Set your status. If you're out of the office, edit your status so people know why you might not be responding. Just as you would with an out-of-office email, Grant recommends you include an end date so they know when you'll be back.

Hungry for more tips and tricks? Slack's help center dives deep everything possible under the sun. To up your Slack game even further, check out the tools and customization topics. There's stuff about advanced search, keyboard shortcuts and creating to-do lists. Happy Slacking!

Published on: Dec 29, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.