How to manage Slack notifications to protect your focus time

Wondering how to manage Slack notifications to get more done? Carve out time to focus and get more done each day with these handy tips for taming your Slack notifications.

Anybody who has used Slack knows that it is an impressive tool for workplace communications. However, Slack can be noisy and disruptive to your focus time if not set upright. Constant notifications in Slack is a real problem for workers; so common that the term ‘notification fatigue’ has been coined to describe it.  With too many notifications, teams can quickly fall into the trap of spending more time talking about work than getting work done.

This is why it’s important to know how to manage Slack notifications properly.

What Are Slack Notifications

Slack notifications are a blessing and a curse. Slack will notify you when there is new activity in Slack. Slack notifications are a great way to stay informed and communicate when appropriately set up. But if you don’t manage your Slack notifications carefully, they can do more harm than good; resulting in fatigue, disruption, and a lack of focus time.

Slack notifications can be delivered in different forms:

• Banner notifications: These appear at the top of your Slack channel to alert you of new activity since you last checked.
• Sidebar notifications: These appear as badges in the left-hand sidebar of Slack to alert you of new activity within specific channels or conversations. They alert you to which channel has new activity, and if you have been mentioned by name in the chat, you’ll also see a numbered badge next to the chat showing you how many times you’ve been mentioned.
• Badge notifications: These appear on your desktop in the Mac dock or Windows tray, or others depending when you have unread activity. If the badge has a number, you’ve been mentioned or sent a direct message. If it doesn’t, it’s a notification of general activity.

How to Manage Slack Notifications

You’re not alone if your head is spinning from all the different notifications Slack sends. Slack notifications are a great way to keep on top of what your team is doing, but they can easily disrupt your workflow because they appear in real-time. Achieving deep focus is critical to working productively and reducing burnout, so successful business leaders are fanatical about protecting their focus time.

It’s also why Slack provides multiple settings on how and when you get notified. In addition, numerous apps have emerged to help protect focus time, such as Pulse, which you can add to Slack to have better control of your schedule. Pulse lets you configure when you can and can’t be disturbed, optimizing for maximum focus time.

Using Pulse to change Slack status. 

Screenshot showing Pulse changing Slack status.
To adjust Slack notification settings from Slack’s main menu, access Preferences and manage your notifications. You can silence specific channels, change which devices you receive notifications on, and configure your status when away from your desk.

Turn off notifications

• Click your profile picture in the top right of the screen.
• Select Preferences.
• Go to the section headed; when I’m not active on a desktop, uncheck the box beside Send me email notifications for mentions and direct messages. Unchecking this box will stop Slack from sending you notification emails.

Use Snooze

Snooze is a great tool for when you don’t want to be bothered by notifications. Snooze makes sure you won’t be disturbed until you choose to be and prevents you from forgetting to turn your notifications back on and missing something important.

• Click the bell icon in the navigation pane next to your company’s name.
• Choose how long you want to snooze notifications, from 20 minutes to 24 hours.

Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb functions like Snooze but can be set up to activate and deactivate on a specific schedule. This is super useful if you’re working with people in different time zones or have certain hours where you can’t be responsive on Slack.

• Click on the bell icon.
• Scroll down to the Do Not Disturb schedule.
• Set the times when you don’t want to be disturbed so Slack can automatically turn notifications on and off.

Note that Do Not Disturb doesn’t make you unreachable. Your coworkers will still be able to message you if they have an urgent question or concern.

Set status

Setting your status can help keep your coworkers informed about when you are and aren’t available to chat. It’s a useful way to keep your team informed about your schedule.

• Click on your profile picture.
• Click Update your status.
• Choose from the list of suggested statuses or create your own.
• Click Clear after to set a time when your status will revert to the default.|

Getting the Most From Your Slack Notifications

Every Slack channel you’re a member of provides the following notifications by default:

• When you receive a direct message
• When someone replies to a thread you’re following
• When someone mentions you by your username
• When someone uses a keyword you’re following

These notifications can help you stay part of a conversation, whether at your desk or mobile phone.  

When you don’t have Slack open, you will receive notifications by email. Much of this can be configured through Slack settings.  Finally, if your feed is too cluttered with notifications to manage, you can hit shift+esc to clear all your unread notifications. Be warned, however, that you may miss important messages this way, so make sure to use this nuclear option sparingly.

Optimizing Slack’s Interface To Help You Focus

Some ideas to improve focus time with Slack are:

Use the compact theme to reduce clutter.

Selecting Slack’s Compact theme from the Preferences menu minimizes the space notifications take up on your screen. You can set Slack only to display the names of your teammates to reduce clutter.

Screenshot comparing Slack’s Clean theme vs. Compact theme.

Comparison of Slack’s default Clean theme vs. the less cluttered compact theme.

Create custom sections to optimize your sidebar

If you have too many conversations in your sidebar, you can create custom sections to keep them organized. Create a folder in the sidebar, then simply drag and drop your conversations into the appropriate folder so that you always know where to find them.

Favorite your most important channels and conversations

When using Slack, you’ll find that most of your communication is with the same people. You can ‘star’ your favorite conversations to keep them at the top of your sidebar, so you always know where to find them.

You can also keep your channels less noisy by changing your preferences to show “unread conversations only.”   In doing so, you can make it so that only the channels with new messages are visible.   Read conversations are hidden from view.

Automate your status with Pulse 

Your Slack status sets the tone in your digital office; keeping it up to date, whether manually or via tools like Pulse, sets expectations that can address some of the anxiety associated with Slack notifications. In addition, with Pulse, you can configure rules and special do-not-disturb settings such that when you want to be in focus, your notifications are snoozed automatically.

Using “Show All Unreads” to review new messages quickly

If you’ve been away from your workspace for a while, you can quickly review everything that’s happened via the Show All Unread section, which allows you to quickly browse your new notifications to see what you’ve missed.

Get rid of images

Slack helps to replicate the feel of working together in a physical office by allowing coworkers to share images and gifs. As great as this can be for team building, it can also add to clutter. Via settings, you can set Slack not to show images until you want.

Other Common Questions

How do I turn on Slack notifications?

Go to the top right corner of your screen and click on Preferences. From there, go to Notifications and click on Enable Desktop Notifications.

To enable mobile notifications, hover over the heading ‘use different settings for mobile devices.’ When the drop-down menu appears, click to select ‘Direct messages, mentions, and keywords.’

Screenshot of Slack preferences to get notifications across different devices.
How to change your Slack preferences to get Slack notifications on different devices.

How do I snooze notifications in Slack? 

Under your profile picture, look for the heading that says Pause notifications. Clicking on this option lets you snooze your notifications for 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, or until tomorrow. You can also pick a custom timeframe that enables you to snooze notifications, making it great for meetings and other times you’ll be away from your desk. Alternatively, you can use tools like Pulse to do this automatically for you.

How do I unsnooze notifications in Slack?

Click on Pause notifications. In the menu that appears, click on Resume notifications.

Slack Notifications Across Workspaces

Many Slack users are members of multiple workspaces compounding the notifications they receive. Unfortunately, you will need to configure these settings for each workspace you are a member of. 

We hope to help balance your work for a healthier and more productive working life by implementing some of these tips.