Slack is overwhelming. 

That's the feedback I've heard countless times. The notifications, the endless chats. Keeping up is hard, but the good news is that there's a way to corral those conversations.

I'm currently part of about five different Slack groups. The one that has impressed me the most uses an interesting method of making sure conversations don't get too chaotic.

The basic solution to the problem is to create more channels than you probably ever envisioned, and then to usher people into the channels.

What this does is create more isolated and intentional conversations. If fewer people are part of a longer list of channels, and you see those channels light up with comments, you know it is a smaller group of people discussing a topic.

With few channels and more posts, it gets incredibly hard to keep up. I've been a part of Slack groups where there are only a few channels (maybe because the admin was lazy). When the notifications start exploding, you know it will take forever and a day to weed through all of the comments, and you also know it will be impossible to keep up.

It's really a way to control notifications. If you're not as interested in some of the channels, you can mute those notifications. (To do that, go to the channel, click the settings icon, then select whether to mute the entire channel or just the group notifications.)

I know people who have used Slack for years and years and they tend to stick with the same basic channels. Let's say you only have 5-6 channels in a startup. Ouch. They will all be full of messages. With tice that many, you've reduced some of the complexity.

Creating channels for projects or even tasks might seem like overkill, but what it does is filter out conversations and funnel discussions in a way that is much easier to manage. Conversations get more specific. If you have someone who is only loosely connected to a project for a short time, you can also set Slack to register that person for a set period of time and then de-activate their account. Again, this reduces notifications in all channels because someone who is not registered can't post.

And does it all work? I decided to monitor a few Slack groups I'm in and ask a few questions, and compare the results to that new group that has more channels. There's a downside to having a dozen channels light up, sure--but the feedback from other users and admins is that at least you can systemically go through each channel and deal with fewer messages, and that leads to a better sense of accomplishment (and real accomplishment) because each channel is "resolved" and you've dealt with those questions and comments.

I use Slack every day, and the more I've been using that group with the extra channels, the more I've noticed how everyone in each channel--meaning, a narrower conversation with fewer people--the more efficient the dialogue has become. On teams where there are only a few channels, not so much. It's often chaos, and I can't ever keep up. 

I'm not claiming to have all of the answers for Slack. However, if you use Slack at work, try suggesting this strategy to your team. If you're successful, drop me an email.

Published on: Oct 23, 2019
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