Slack is a beautiful tool that helps me –– and millions of people –– get shit done daily. I use Slack every day for work and to keep up with my Praxis community and I think it’s the best!
But, a few months ago, I realized Slack became one of the main sources for my procrastination.
Let me explain.
I’m a bit OCD when it comes to answering messages and notifications. Whenever I get one, I must answer it right away. A fast response time is not a bad thing. But it can become one if it distracts me from the task at hand multiple times a day.
When I first started working at Product Gym, I wanted to prove myself to be a reliable employee that’s readily available at any time, and that came with a cost. Every time a new Slack notification popped up on my computer, I immediately left whatever I was working on to either respond to a message or read any updates. And, of course, to waste 15 minutes doing so.
A part of it was me being a nervous new employee and wanting to make a good impression. But it was mostly my slight OCD to never leave a message unanswered.
I learned quickly that 50 to 70% of the time, I got notifications that had nothing to do with me and didn’t require me to take immediate action. But I still let the notifications distract me, because there was always a slight chance that somebody had sent an urgent message. And if I didn’t check immediately, my anxiety would eat away at me until I eventually did.
As I became more comfortable with my coworkers and my Slack environment I didn’t feel the pressure to make a good impression anymore. The impression was made and I know I’m a reliable worker because I demonstrate it time and time again by being proactive with my tasks and getting work done on time. Not because I answer every single message immediately after receiving it.
But the anxiety to answer new notifications as they popped up was still there. And once I checked them off my list I’d linger and read all the new updates from different channels. Some that weren’t even relevant to my work. Cue the procrastination.
When I finally realized how much time it was taking away from me, I knew I needed to do something about it. So instead of letting this OCD rule my productivity train, I put two things into practice.
#1 I turned off my notifications
I know, I know. It was daunting for me at first too. But it was the obvious choice and it has saved me so much time!
I didn’t go cold turkey with it though. I came up with a system to turn my notifications off when I’m about to dive into some deep work. So if I’m planning a project, scheduling social media posts, or doing anything that requires a longer commitment of time; I turn them off.
I also like to turn them off when I’m doing mundane things like answering social media comments or deleting bots from our accounts because it’s easier to procrastinate when it comes to tedious tasks.
The rest of the time my notifications are on and I’m free to check them immediately without disturbing my productivity. It’s also the perfect time to check on what I’ve missed. It’s a simple system but it has saved me a lot of time and effort.
When I started doing this, I noticed something life-changing. Most of the time, Slack notifications aren’t urgent. They’re mostly channel-wide announcements or messages you can respond to at your own time. On the rare occasion when there’s something urgent you need to tend to, whoever is trying to contact you will find a way to do so. I promise.
But other than that your messages and announcements will be there when you finish your tasks. So, go ahead and mute your Slack notifications for an hour at a time and see how your productivity rises.
#2 I deleted Slack off my phone
I know some people cannot live without knowing that they can check Slack at any time. Hey, that used to be me. But having the Slack app on my phone was not only distracting me from my work, but it was also keeping me from unplugging at the end of the work-day.
If you use Slack on your phone more than on your computer, then it makes sense to keep it that way. But, in my case, I keep tabs on my computer all day. I don’t need another device hounding me with notifications. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I find it easier to procrastinate on my phone than on my computer.
Here’s what would happen.
I’d get a Slack notification on my phone and I’d stop whatever I was doing (working out, answering an email, uploading a Product Gym Tiktok to Linkedin, etc.) to read said notification. While realizing it wasn’t anything urgent I’d get an Instagram notification so I’d jump to the app. And so on until I’d wasted 20 minutes checking incoming notifications.
Having Slack on my phone was a recipe for disaster –– err, procrastination –– and I needed to eliminate the temptation. So I did. And, as predicted, my productivity went up and I’m still in the loop of what’s happening on Slack. Who would have thought?
*Bonus tip if deleting Slack from your phone is off the table: If you struggle with checking the notifications, put your phone in night mode. That way your notifications can still come in and you can check on them whenever you want, but they’ll be silenced. So you won’t be tempted to answer the second they come through.
It’s that simple.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s important to be in constant communication with your team and it’s important to stay in the loop of what’s happening. But what I’m getting at, is that you don’t need to be checking your Slack every 20 minutes and derailing yourself from your tasks. You can still be clued in if you check on it every hour or so.
Do not let Slack notifications (or any notifications for that matter) send you into a procrastination spiral. Slack is a great tool and it makes so many lives easier every day. Don’t give it the power to distract you!