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Our Top Five Tips for Staying Organized in Microsoft Teams

Paints organized by color in cabinet

Written by Laura Schomaker

May 14, 2020

If recent events have forced you to work remotely, you’ve probably been using Microsoft Teams more than ever over the last few weeks. And while there’s no doubt that Microsoft Teams is one of the most powerful collaboration tools available today, the more you use it, the more cluttered it often becomes. As we all know, unnecessary clutter can quickly become frustrating and distracting. So, to help reduce your stress level and keep you productive during these challenging times, I want to offer you a few easy tips for staying organized in Microsoft Teams.

Staying Organized in Microsoft Teams Tip #1: Use Channels to Organize Your Discussions

Microsoft Teams offers a variety of ways for you to converse with your team members. This flexibility is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great because it gives you the freedom to choose the communication style that works best for you. But the flip side of that coin is if you need to find a conversation later to remind yourself of a particular detail, you may find yourself looking in a lot of different places before you find what you need. One way to avoid that is to use channels to of organize your discussions.

Pro tip: this is easiest to do if you haven’t yet created your team or the team is brand-new. If you have a team, that’s been around a while and who’s organization has really gotten out of control, consider creating a new one and starting with these best practices from the ground up (or use tip #5 to help you find specific conversations).

When you first create a team, think about how you want the members to use it. What types of projects will they use it for? What types of conversations do you plan to have? Design your channels to support this. Use descriptive channel names to make it easy for team members to see how and where you would like them to contribute. If your team is already familiar with using tools like One Note, Planner, Yammer etc. in their collaboration workflow, you can include those as tabs in your channel.

Once you have your team set up, use channels to segment your team into smaller groups. Think of channels to organize your team interactions by topic or project. There is no magic number for the correct channels to create for any team. But keeping your channel list streamlined and clear will help avoid communication confusion. Should you need to have a place where certain members of your team can focus on collaborating on a specific workload, consider using a private channel.

Staying Organized in Microsoft Teams Tip #2: Hide Teams You Don’t Use Often to Reduce Clutter and Distraction

When you hide a team, it doesn’t mean that you’re leaving the team. It moves it to the “hidden teams” section at the bottom of your teams list. You still have complete access to all its content; but Teams won’t notify you about that team’s activity as often. So, if there is a team you only need to access once in a while and do not need to see constant updates, hiding it helps minimize distractions.

Hiding a team is simple. Go to your teams list, select the team or channel you would like to hide. Then click the ellipsis next to the team or channel name. A drop-down menu will appear. The first option should be “Hide.” Click it.

Menu showing how to hide a team in Microsoft Teams

Staying Organized in Microsoft Teams Tip #3: Reorganize Your Team List to Make Teams Easier to Find

Does the default ordering of your teams list make logical sense to you? If not, it’s easy to reorganize your teams in whatever way makes the lists easiest for you to navigate. Perhaps you want to order them by how often you use a team, who’s involved or something else. The choice is yours. To reorder teams just click on the name of the team you want to move and drag it to its new home. Once you have it where you want it, release your mouse button. That’s all there is to it. Simple, right?

Staying Organized in Microsoft Teams Tip #4: Manage Notifications

Because it is likely one of the most important items in your online collaboration arsenal, Microsoft Teams offers a lot of different notifications, both visual and auditory to help you make sure that you never miss an important announcement or deadline. But sometimes, these can become overwhelming. Especially if there are teams where you are more of a passive, rather than active member. In this case, you might not want your workday interrupted every time someone posts something new, comments, add the file, etc. For these instances, Microsoft Teams gives users flexible control over the notifications want to receive. To check out the full range of notification settings available to you, click your picture or initials, found in the top right-hand corner of your Microsoft Teams screen (in the desktop or web apps). Then click settings and select the notifications section. You should see a menu that looks something like the one shown below.

Settings menu in Microsoft Teams

Please note: your options may look different depending on how your administrator has configured the system.

As you’ll notice, when you look at the menu, you will find your sound settings at the top. For most users, this will be one of the most important settings for you to adjust according to your work style., there aren’t many things more distracting than having random sounds coming from your computer and being unsure why they’re occurring. Unlike other settings in Microsoft Teams, your sound settings are all or nothing. By this I mean they’re either on or off. You can’t specify certain instances in which you would like to hear a sound notification.

Right after the sound settings, you will see an option for digest emails. This is a great option for people new to Microsoft Teams or spend little time working in the program. Use these to have any important notifications sent to your inbox.

Below this, you will see a variety of options that allow you to choose what type of notifications you’d like to receive when certain actions occur. For each of these, you have three choices for the notification type.

For the actions most important to you, I recommend choosing the first option “Banner and Feed.” This notification is like the messages that pop up at the top of your cell phone screen when you receive a text message, there’s an important software update, etc. This is the most noticeable of the three options. So, if you get too many of them, they can quickly become annoying, but they’re useful for things you need to follow up on immediately.

The second option “Only in Feed” is mainly for conversations in teams or channels. When you select this option, you won’t get a banner on your desktop notifying you of recent activity. Instead, the name of the team or channel will be bolded in your team/channel list on the left-hand side of your Microsoft Teams app. This is a less intrusive, more subtle way the program lets you know that there’s been some activity.

The third option “Off” works just as it sounds. Choose this if you do not want to know when a specific activity has occurred.

Staying Organized in Microsoft Teams Tip #5: Looking for Something Specific? Try Search.

Let’s face it. A lot happens in Microsoft Teams. So, even when you’ve followed all these best practices (and more) for organizing your Microsoft Teams, there might be a time where you’re looking for a specific conversation or file, and you’re not sure where to look. In these situations, search is your best friend.

If you want to do a very specific search, narrowing your results down to only the most relevant items, I recommend using the filter feature. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to the top of your Microsoft Teams application and type your search term in the search box.
  • Press enter on your keyboard

As you can see in the screenshot below, I searched for “project”. The pane on the left-hand side gives me my search results organized into categories, “Messages”, “People” and “Files”. Under those major categories are some additional filtering options to help you narrow in on exactly what you’re looking for. You can choose who the content was from, what type of content you would like to find. Or you can set additional filters that will search by “Subject”, “Date Range”, “Team”, “Channel”, “My Mentions” or “Has Attachment.”

Conducting a search in Microsoft Teams

As you can see these search filters are very granular, giving you complete control over your search so you can focus only on the most relevant results, rather than wasting time searching through an entire haystack just to find a single needle.


We hope these tips for staying organized in Microsoft Teams help you take back some of your workday. If you’d like to learn even other best practices for Microsoft Teams organization, check out the articles below.


Did you like this post? Check out our library of other Microsoft 365 tips and tricks. Or leave us a comment to let us know which Microsoft Teams organization tip is your favorite.

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