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Tips For Microsoft Teams User: How To Simplify Your Chats, Channels, and Notifications

Tips For Microsoft Teams User: How To Simplify Your Chats, Channels, and Notifications

Calling all users of Microsoft Teams!

Ever wish you could be using Teams more productively?

You’re not alone. But all the guides that tell you to do technical things weren’t written for you. They were written for someone with a ton of Teams experience and all sorts of access you could never dream of.

But, never fear. This post covers some basic things you can change when using Teams so you can start saving time and working in a less clunky way.

Note: if you are a Teams admin, this post tells you all the ways you can streamline your Teams management tasks.

Simplify chats, channels, and notifications in Microsoft Teams

Taking a minimalistic approach to Teams is the key to productivity. If a tidy desk = a tidy mind, we must apply the same logic to our virtual desks. After all, Teams is the modern equivalent of where we store our files, have our meetings, and send our letters. 

It’s not quite the same as the office of the 80s with in-trays and people hovering around your cubicle but you can see the parallels. 

Managing chats and channels 

Start by keeping your chats and channels under control. You can do this by leaving teams you’re no longer participating in. Keeping your screen real estate to only your active channels is the best way to organize Microsoft Teams and stop the potential for clutter. 

Just because there is room for 10 teams and scrollable space for even more doesn’t mean you need to fill it. If you’ve only got three teams in view, that’s okay. You don’t need to be in every channel just to be seen. Instead, focus on providing value in the ones you’re in. If you’re no longer adding anything or you have notifications piling up but no interest in checking them, it’s just added noise. 

How to better organize chats and channels in Microsoft Teams

Inside Chats, you have the option to Pin your important chats at the top of your Chat panel. Just right-click the chat(s) you wish to have at the top and select Pin. 

How to better organize chats and channels in Microsoft Teams

This immediately makes it easier to find conversations that are most important at that moment in time or are the people you chat with most frequently.  

The alternative, searching for a new chat every time, may seem trivial. But time is of the essence and every added second adds up across the year.  

Another easy win for organizing your Teams chat is to hide the chats created off the back of meetings. If there are no documents or chats you need access to inside, choose to hide them from your Chat panel. Just right-click the chat in question and select Hide. 

Hide chats derived from meetings for better organization in Microsoft Teams

Managing notifications 

A large part of your day might be spent reacting to inbound notifications. Even if you don’t check and respond to them straight away, the looming notification banner(s) can be a big distraction. 

Just like an email waiting in your inbox or someone standing by the side of your desk, it means someone wants your attention. Only, if you haven’t left irrelevant teams then it might not be anything you need to deal with. It’s acting purely as a distraction rather than a genuine bringer of information. 

Assuming you’re only in the channels you need, this notification is still going to be there. And, if you haven’t set up a notification schedule or customized your settings, you may have an email with the same notification too. 

The wonderful thing about Teams is that it’s asynchronous chat. It’s not a real-time chat app like Skype used to be. Your chat history won’t disappear if the other person goes offline.  

So, when you’re focused on deep work and don’t want to get distracted, why not turn off your banner notifications and only get the red notification in your feed? 

Organize Microsoft Teams better by customizing the notifications you get

In fact, you may find that this is a better way of working altogether. Personally, I haven’t had banner notifications on since the beginning of Teams. I wouldn’t dream of working another way.  

Yes, there could be some circumstances where you do need them on. If you’re tasked with emergency maintenance or need to be on-call at all times, this is a bad idea. But for general information workers, removing the attention-hogging notifications is a massive help. 

While you’re in the notification settings, play around with the various options to find your optimal way to organize Microsoft Teams. 

Simplify Microsoft Teams management by customizing the notifications you get

Teams still feels fiddly, what can I do?

It’s not you. It’s Teams. 

No, really. We mean it. There are a few clunky things about Teams that we put up with every day that are slowing down the way we work. 

The good news is that there are small workarounds that can alleviate these pains and make us more efficient. 

Use the browser version if you switch between tenants 

If you’re an external or guest user on a Teams tenant outside your organization, you likely spend a few minutes per day switching from one to the other.  

If you’re an external consultant, a developer, or a Teams admin, your number of tenants may have reached double figures. 

Did you know it takes 13 seconds to switch from one Teams tenant to the other? And that’s only if you’ve got sufficient bandwidth and a well-powered computer. How many times have you been caught twiddling your thumbs waiting for your destination tenant to fully load? 

Waiting to switch between Microsoft Teams tenants is not efficient

Those 13 seconds may seem insignificant. But if you switch 50 times (and back) per day, that’s over 100 minutes per week lost. That’s nearly two working weeks per year waiting for Teams to load. 

An easy fix for this, if you can work this way, is to use the browser version of Teams. There are two reasons for this: 

  • It loads faster than the desktop app 
  • You can have multiple tenants open in different browser windows 

We don’t recommend opening all of them in one go. That sounds like hell. But opening the tenants you need the most, and navigating between them, is a lot more efficient than waiting for a tenant to load each time. 

Did someone say shared channels? 

Yes, Teams shared channels have been available for a while now. But, as Kevin Kieller, points out in his blog post, the lack of adoption is down to a few things: 

  • Technical complications 
  • Governance concerns 
  • Feature and access limitations 
Limitations of shared channels in Microsoft Teams

Shared channels should allow you to collaborate with people in other organizations without logging out of your main tenant and into theirs. The reality, unfortunately, is they’re not quite delivering user expectations (yet). 

Embrace apps inside Teams 

Sticking with the theme of switching between tabs and apps, one of the biggest time sucks in our day is app switching. One study coined the term toggle tax and found that executing a single supply-chain transaction included 350 switches between 22 different apps.  

We know that switching between apps saps productivity. And so does Microsoft. That’s why you can integrate almost any supported third-party app with Teams. 

What’s more, we’re not just integrating, we’re placing that app inside our Teams interface. That means there’s no need to switch between apps. It’s already here. 

Take Freehand, for example. Check out how you can use all the functionality inside Teams in the screenshot below. 

Example of an integration inside Teams to help simplify Microsoft Teams management

There’s no need to fire up another tab, windows, or browser. Just add it to the team you’re going to use it in. You’ll save loads of time.  

There are over 600 known integrations for Microsoft Teams. Just head to your Teams App Store to add them.

What if we want to do more behind the scenes? 

This blog post is designed for users of Teams who want to get control of their own access. Making Teams simpler to use at a personal level is massive for day-to-day productivity.

If you’re tasked with a wider project, like provisioning, number management, or support, we recommend a few resources:

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