Distraction Free Slack

I have gotten to the point where I can almost use Slack with zero distractions…

We use Slack at work; it’s definitely useful for collaboration, but it tends to feel like an attention monopolizer, rather than a force multiplier, much of the time. I’ve written about this before; I suggest reading at least that section of my post to see why I do this.

The following sections are in order of effectiveness.

🔗 Just Don’t

The main way to avoid wasting time in Slack is to leave it closed until you need to turn it on. I personally try to get work done before meetings, which for me tend to start between 9am and 10am, so I will work for an hour or two before meetings, then after the meetings are over I typically fire up Slack to see if anyone has reached out. What this means is that often I am not in Slack till the afternoon. This is fine.

🔗 Deaddrop

Sometimes I need to send someone a message on Slack but I don’t need acknowledgement. In this case I’ll use slack-deaddrop, which allows me to send a single message to any channel, group message, or direct message, from the commandline. It’s less convenient than using the normal slack interface, but I don’t get tempted to look at the other outstanding messages to me.

🔗 Focus Mode

Often I need to have a specific conversation in a specific channel. Maybe I am stuck on something, or need to make sure that a team member agrees with some implementation choices, or whatever. For this, I have cobbled together a “Focus Mode” for slack. This is built with (at the moment) three tools:

I use uBlock to hide most of the sidebar with the following cosmetic filter: app.slack.com##.p-workspace__channel_sidebar.

I use favicon-customizr to prevent the favicon from showing red or white, which tells me that I have some outstanding message.

And finally I use slack-open to go straight to the channel or direct message that I want to interact with.

The title of the tab still shows characters (like !) that imply activity, but it’s subtle enough that I don’t notice it, which is what I really care about. At some point I hope to replace both the first two addons with a tampermonkey script, but until issue 700 is resolved I can’t even start on that.


If you’re at all interested in the system I use for my notes, it’s based on Getting Things Done, and I’ve found it pretty helpful.

If you are inspired by all these tools that I’ve built, I suggest reading The UNIX Programming Environment.

Posted Mon, Aug 19, 2019

If you're interested in being notified when new posts are published, you can subscribe here; you'll get an email once a week at the most.