So, without further ado, here’s some insight into how we use the program at our sister company, Articulate Marketing. We hope you find these tips as useful as we do!
1. Get used to putting everything in there
It’s unnerving at first, but 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 task 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.
2. 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.
3. 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. Basecamp can eradicate the need for excessive emails and calendar sharing if you use it correctly.
4. 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.
5. Tick off and archive
When you complete a to-do that’s assigned to you, make sure you tick it off. Trust us, there’s nothing more satisfying!
As a project leader, it’s your responsibility to archive finished projects to keep your Basecamp homepage tidy and relevant. The more you keep on top of tasks, the less daunting your list of ‘to-dos’ become (and the less frustrated your colleagues get!).
6. Star current projects
Speaking of your homepage, you can ‘star’ certain projects, which displays them like a series of playing cards when you log into Basecamp. Your other projects are then listed below alphabetically.
Each Monday, try to 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.
7. 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 gives you a heads up for upcoming to-dos .
8. Make it all about me
If you’re already knee-deep in Basecamp, you will start to realise that there is often a lot going on. 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 your work. It lists your 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 without any distraction.
9. A go-to source Basecamp
At Articulate we work remotely, so our Monday ‘virtual’ planning and catch-up meetings are really important. We find Basecamp a helpful tool that can help to remind us of our upcoming tasks and allow us to discuss and reference our workload easily. Although it’s not the only productivity tool we use, it certainly helps us to find our feet on a Monday morning.
What’s more, we can also reference the progress of the overall business progress and our colleagues throughout the week. This helps us to brief in work appropriately and set deadlines effectively.
10. Get creative
When you first start to use Basecamp you might think it quite simple and stark. It’s no accident: 37Signals have included the minimum amount of fuss for the maximum amount of functionality. And, trust us, the tool works a treat once you get to grips with it.
How do you use Basecamp? Let us know in the comments below!
[Note: this blog post was originally publish 27/02/13 but we have since updated it with new content. And, yes, we’re still using Basecamp religiously.]