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Show HN: Stop Slack from controlling your brain
32 points by ishan_chhabra 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments
HN, we talk a lot about how Slack has ruined our productivity (eg. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18320968, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16301508, etc.), but nobody has taken steps to fix this. I am building Oliv to take a stand.

I am a software engineer turned manager. I am guilty of enthusiastically introducing Slack in my previous organization, only to realize how it killed the pockets of focus time that my engineers need to be productive. Once you introduce Slack in an organization, all communication becomes synchronous, even if only 10% of it needs to be, and Slack’s notifications start controlling everybody’s attention.

Oliv is a slackbot that manages your Slack status & Do Not Disturb based on your calendar. Oliv also auto responds and takes messages for you / escalates as needed when you are unavailable for a longer period of time.

Here’s how my team and I use Oliv today to create focus and manage expectations around communication:

1. We make it a habit to schedule couple of 2h “focus time” blocks for every day on every engineer’s calendar. During that time, Oliv sets Do Not Disturb, updates the status to “is heads down” and takes messages to show later when the focus time ends.

2. For me, when I am in meetings, Oliv updates my status to “in meetings till 4p”, etc. so that my team knows I won’t be able to respond immediately.

3. During vacations, Oliv sets our status to “On vacation till Dec 31”, etc. and takes messages on our behalf. We get to enjoy our vacations, and instead of having a deluge of notifications to comb through when we come back, we get a list of clear asks from our teammates.

Oliv has worked wonders for our productivity, and I hope it can do the same for you and your team. You can enable it for yourself at https://oliv.app . It’s free and you don’t need admin privileges to enable it.

Or get someone to log in from Iran. That’ll solve it.

What a shitshow from Slack.

What worked for me was using the web version, and also showing only unreads/starred channels in the sidebar.

1. Do you keep the notifications on, or shut them off completely?

2. How do you create the discipline to only open / look at Slack every x hours to go through the unreads?

I have mentions enabled, both on desktop and mobile. So if someone really needs me it will pop up. I have noticed though that if someone really needs my attention, they will come over.

> schedule couple of 2h “focus time” blocks

How does this work for engineers who have variable schedules, or who do their best work when inspiration hits them? Do they just go DnD on the fly?

You can DnD on the fly, but the goal is to have at least two 2h blocks booked before hand so you know there is protected time every day. You can always spend more focused time at your discretion.

This gives you at least 4h of deep work each day, which Cal Newport heavily supports in his book "Deep work" (http://forimpact.org/4-hours-deep-work-day/)

There is nothing worse than days when you are completely distracted and at the end of the day you ask yourself "What did I even do today?". This system prevents that from happening.

Just close slack. Tell your coworkers you have closed slack. Put it on the calendar that you will be unavailible at prime work hours. Make you life predictable. Seems like your bot is OK, but we can just undo what what done with alt-f4/cmd-q.

How does Oliv "takes messages on our behalf"?

Does it summarize what has happened from the time of the user's vacation?

When a teammate tries to reach you during your vacation, they have an option to leave a message. When your vacation ends, you get a list of all messages that were left for you.

This help page clarifies the workflow with screenshots: https://help.oliv.ai/getting-started/how-does-the-slack-auto...

Why does it need access to my mailbox?

It doesn't, there seems to be a bug or some misunderstanding.

Can you drop me an email at ishan.chhabra [at] gmail.com about where you are seeing this. I'll resolve immediately.

It’s when connecting to Outlook. Sent a screenshot.

Thanks. Taking a look.

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