How To

March 10, 2023

How to be more productive on Slack

Slack can be excellent for helping teams work together, but countless channels and chats can also be incredibly distracting. Here's how to make Slack work for you

Adit Trivedi was scaling the team at the edtech he cofounded, Lingumi — from two employees to 75 across London, Singapore, Taiwan and China — when he realised Slack just wasn’t scaling with it: “As teams scale, so do the number of channels and the time it takes to get up to date. Once you send something in Slack, it’s often lost in the abyss,” he says. 

After trying and testing a bunch of manual solutions, he started Rayday — a tool to help teams use Slack more effectively, by ensuring your asks don’t end up lost in the chaos of endless chat. In Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter, Adit gave his top tips for using Slack more productively. 

Decide what can be discussed on Slack

Because Slack treats everything with the same level of importance, key bits of communication and information get buried. Use Slack for instant communication: ephemeral wins, praising the team, shoutouts and so on. It’s also great for discussing projects, early designs or other assets you want immediate feedback on, or for discussing fixes for critical bugs. If it doesn’t require the team’s immediate attention, use a different tool. For example, you may have project information or manuals in Google Docs or Notion, or brainstorming in Miro or FigJam.


Get to-dos out of Slack

Assign someone to find and get tasks out of Slack conversations and into Notion, Trello, Asana, Rayday or another task management tool of your choice — and assign them to the relevant people. Forcing the team to scan channels for things they have to do takes them away from doing actual work — looking for things to do becomes work in itself!

Use emojis

React with an emoji if there is an update you’re impressed with, a photo you think is funny or an announcement you want the sender to know you’ve read — saying “great work” or “got it” provides no value and clogs up channels and threads. To get the team using emojis, create an internal memo on how emojis should be used. Remember, not everyone uses them in their everyday lives, so ensure people are comfortable with what they mean. You can also request an emoji response when posting on Slack — you can say, “give this a thumbs up if you’ve read it”, for example.

Be succinct

It’s easy to write essays and endless messages in Slack — it’s similar to how we text our friends — but be mindful of your colleagues’ time and capacity for taking in information all day long:

  • Make your point or question clearly;
  • Explain why it’s important;
  • And state what kind of response you’re expecting.

Also, be very specific with what channel you post in, so only the most relevant people read it — don’t force people to wade through pointless noise.

Jump on a huddle

If a thread is getting out of hand and people are participating right in that moment, suggest jumping on a huddle call to have a deeper discussion. Make sure someone is tasked with taking notes to later turn into a summary for the thread — so others who did not join can follow along — and assigning follow-up tasks.

Make people’s lives easier

If you’re a very small team and just starting out, mention a person or people to notify them that their attention is needed on something. If you’re a slightly bigger team, direct message someone a thread they may not have seen — provide them with context, an update of the conversation and what they need to do.

Stop relying on Slackbot

It is not a replacement for good management and leadership — get to know your direct reports personally and don’t palm them off to a programmed set of questions and answers. It does not help build company culture.

On the subject of... Slack productivity

🗡️ Is Slack harming your workplace culture? An oldie but goodie from theSifted archives.

🤔 How do teams actually use Slack? TheGist — a tool recommended by Adit that helps summarise any Slack channel or thread — has pulled together some data.

🤖 Automate your processes. Here are Slack’s tips to help you automate routine processes.

🔗 Are we all too connected? Create a culture where setting boundaries about when you work is not only acceptable, but expected.

🧵 Slack threads. Here’s how you should really be using them.

Anisah Osman Britton

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Startup Life , a weekly newsletter on what it takes to build a startup. Follow her on X and LinkedIn