10 tips on how to get the most out of Basecamp

To save you a little time, we’ve taken our own experience of getting to grips with Basecamp and turned it into some handy hints and tips on getting the most out of this project management tool.

Basecamp logo

Having raved about how useful the online tool Basecamp is for project management, it seemed only right to offer some hints and tips on how to get the most out of it.

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

Summary tab in Basecamp

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

Basecamp discussion

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.

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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

Starred projects on Basecamp

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.

Me tab on Basecamp

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.]

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6 comments on “10 tips on how to get the most out of Basecamp

  1. Pingback: 25 ways to improve your emailsBad Language

  2. Spencer Kelly

    I agree Basecamp is an essential tool of any project team but as a team manager I often struggled to get an overview of what my team was up to on a particular week.
    To solve this problem I started using Workstack (www.workstack.me) that gives me a calendar view of my entire team with all the ToDos they are working on, when they are doing them and how long each one is going to take them.

    • I had a look at Workstack but it didn’t work so well for us as we often have hundreds of tasks each at any one time.

      In the end we built our own little app to helps us prioritise Basecamp tasks across projects. We have a public beta coming up soon, if you’re interested. Sign up at http://mojicamp.com.

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  4. Hi, thank you for this post I agree with that Basecamp is designed specifically for collaboration communication between team and manager is the most important part. thank you for this its great help with much useful information

  5. Pingback: How we work: 7 lessons from a new client account manager • Articulate

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