This is based on our experience with our sister company, Articulate Marketing, and my personal project that I set up because it’s just so ridiculously useful!
Get used to putting everything in there
It’s unnerving at first, but really the best way to get all you can out of Basecamp is to put everything in it. Upload documents, break down and assign every to-do and put everything else straight into discussions and text documents. For example, we type interview transcripts straight into Basecamp text documents: everyone who needs it has access straight away, and they’re saved securely for our records all in one go.
Develop iterative documents
Basecamp is designed specifically for collaboration. This means several people can create new working practices, writing guidelines or project outlines all from one place. Depending on how formal your document is, you can either type up guidelines as a new discussion that others can comment on and edit, or upload a document and start a discussion around that.
Communicate and ask questions
This carries on from the last point. Need something clarifying? Start a discussion. Want to make sure something gets done? Assign it and give it a deadline. Bypass email and calendars and get used to Basecamp being your whole project management world.
Set dates and deadlines separately
Basecamp lets you set important dates in your project and separate deadlines for each to-do you have. At Articulate we use this to our advantage: project deadlines refer to the client deadline, the immovable and vital date to have in mind. Tasks are then assigned working back from that, mutually agreed, with a minimum of a day’s gap between the latest task deadline and the client deadline.
Tick off and archive
When you’ve completed a to-do that’s assigned to you, make sure you tick it off: there is nothing more satisfying. As a project leader you also need to make sure you archive finished projects to keep your Basecamp homepage tidy and relevant.
Star current projects
Speaking of your homepage, you can ‘star’ certain projects meaning they will be displayed like a series of playing cards when you log into Basecamp, with your other projects listed below alphabetically. Each Monday assess what needs to have a star and what can be relegated to the text list so that you can focus on what is most pressing.
Keep an eye on the progress tab
Click on ‘Progress’ at the top and see a real-time timeline of what everyone has been doing. It often answers why your colleague hasn’t responded to your question and often gives you a heads up for some to-dos that are heading your way.
Make it all about me
If you are really getting stuck in with Basecamp you will start to realise that there is often a lot going on in there. New projects spring up, the Progress tab is full of activity and you are getting pings about new messages and tasks on various projects.
The ‘Me’ tab is perfect for zoning in on just your work. It lists to-do’s per project due either today, this week, next week or forever. It tells you what activity and completions you’ve done recently and files you’ve uploaded. It’s great for figuring out what to do next.
Meetings in Basecamp
At Articulate we work remotely, so our Monday morning planning and catch-up meetings are really important. We use Basecamp to create an agenda, allow additions, and then edit that discussion through the week so that by Friday we have a wrap-up of work we have completed. This gives us a springboard for the following week and helps everyone keep an eye on the productivity of Articulate as a whole.
When you first start to use Basecamp you might think it quite simple and stark: that is because 37Signals have included the minimum amount of fuss for the maximum amount of functionality. You get the most out of Basecamp when you play around with it, trust it and look for new ways of doing things.
How do you use Basecamp?