Getting Things Done

I’ve been an fan of the getting things done methodology for awhile. I try and stay on top of my process, though with multiple projects going on in & outside of work, many with significant amounts of reading, I do tend to end up with a lot of to do tasks in whatever bucket they’re in.

I use a combination of 37 Signals services to help manage this flow. I started using Basecamp about 2 years ago (still have the initial setup message) as a way to manage products at Xfire, where I was working at the time. It evolved into my own personal task list and project management solution. I then also set up a Backpack account, as it seemed more geared toward personal rather than professional use. Both have their unique quirks, and neither is perfect.

  • Basecamp is definitely targeted at groups, but it’s a powerful way to manage your personal tasks as well. Only gripe is the pricing model (limited to one project in the free system – it’s actually a genius pricing system but I’m cheap) and the fact that there aren’t simple timelines on reminders. I want to be able to defer a task for awhile.
  • Backpack is great for personal use, though it lacks some of the robustness of Basecamp. Also, the completed todo lists don’t truncate as you tick things off, which annoys me to no end. Having multiple pages for multiple projects is great, though (as has been mentioned in their forums) it makes it difficult to centralize your todos like you can in Basecamp short of using odd notation.
  • Neither really provides what I’d call personal CRM. I want a system that will sync with my contacts list (which is itself synced across Entourage, Apple’s Contacts list, Plaxo & my phone). While we do use Highrise for work at Into, the lack of syncing makes it much less powerful as a personal relationship management tool. I’ve taken to using reminders in Backpack to help me keep track, but it’s not an elegant solution.

Anyone else out there use a combination of the above? Any tips & tricks?

I also feel like, despite the philosophy of keeping things simple, there’s a powerful play for integrating the Basecamp, Backpack, Highrise and Campfire suite. You can sort of integrate things now (embed campfire in Basecamp, for instance), but the major task, scheduling, and contact systems each reside in their own silos. I would argue that suite is actually the threat to Microsoft’s office – being able to create docs & spreadsheets online is great, but the real crux of the problem of any team is keeping people coordinated. And Google has done a terrible job of really helping teams organize around Google docs (each person has to be invited in to share a doc, for instance, rather than making it publicly available for a select group. Yes I know you can hack something together with Page Creator, but it’s awkward and is probably hampering adoption.)

At the same time – I have massive respect for the team for focusing on their core, growing slowly, and building software they love (and getting paid directly for it!)



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