Setting Contexts

How Backpack is Saving My Sanity

Posted in 37signals, Backpack, Basecamp, Campfire, Online Productivity by jquig99 on March 30, 2008

In the last few months, my life has changed significantly. My company was acquired in December and our corporate structure is significantly different. I have a number of accounts assigned to me as well as being part of the senior strategy team on many of the others. It’s exciting but exhausting – and I need to be able to organize everything and hopefully share among the necessary teams. All of whom I work with remotely.

So I’ve been using OmniFocus since last May – I adore this app and the Omni team. The effort and enthusiasm that went into building this application was infectious, the whole beta process was an incredibly collaborative and enjoyable experience. I very much love this application.

But with my new world order, I needed to shake this up a bit.

I was at SXSWi and saw Jason Fried’s keynote on “What We’ve Learned at 37Signals” (side note – who at SXSWi thought it was smart to schedule JF’s keynote at the same time of John Gruber’s panel? Bad, bad scheduling!). It was the best panel of the day (for me – the whole conference) and it reminded me how much I love their products and how much I enjoy using them.

Backpack is a particular favorite. I have used Backpack when it was really just a great personal organizer – all of the bit and pieces of my life went in it. In fact, my friend Patrick Rhone and I met through our shared love of this product (and his Productivity White Paper – where Backpack is a major factor). In the last few months, Backpack has gone through a significant upgrade and it was time to look at the product again.

Backpack is now a multiuser solution – great for small team collaboration (which is what I do – many small teams, much collaboration).

New Features:

* Multiuser – All team members can log into a single account
* Calendar – Users can log into a single calendar with additional controls as to who can see what
* Reminders – messages can be sent by email or text to many users as well as yourself (love this feature!)
* Messages – People can post messages and can also receive comments
* Newsroom – (my favorite new feature) gives you an update on all recent activity in your Backpack.

So I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and really enjoying it. But for a couple of projects I need a bit more control. So I upgraded my Basecamp account and have started to use that for some larger projects.

I’ve used Basecamp for about 3 years – first with my prior company and now with Zeta. What I love about Basecamp is that I can set milestones for my projects, assign to do’s, messages and use the system to email all appropriate team members.

What’s great also is that there’s a Open bar at the top where I can switch from Basecamp to Backpack (and to Highrise – but that’s another post). So according what I’m working on, I can switch between the accounts I’m using to track those projects.

But there was one more thing that I was missing – I’m traveling a lot, in a ton of meetings and pitches and also need the ability to shut everything and everyone out when I can to get some stuff done. But I don’t want to miss anything or give people the impression that I can’t be reached.

So a couple of days ago I added Campfire – and as the website says, it’s iPhone compatible!

Campfire lets me set up “rooms” according to need – projects, conversations, etc. I use these to chat with my teams, share links and screenshots on projects, etc. It also integrates with Basecamp – so I can set up these rooms for each of those projects. It also allows me to participate when I want to – not always immediately.

So for the first time in a few months I feel like I’m more in control – not just organized, but working with my teams more efficiently. And my teams have been very supportive in trying these tools out and participating. While I don’t have the ability to block off time each day to get work done (too many meetings – grrr) without interruption, I can track what needs to be done and get things done before and after the “workday”.

I’ll track our success (hopefully!) and our challenges and will report on them here. BTW – I’m not the only person struggling with these issues right now – see the related link below.

Offices and the Creativity Zone – Dan Benjamin (found via. Daring Fireball)

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4 Responses

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  1. Patrick Rhone said, on March 30, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Thank for the shoutout Jane. Glad to see you workin’ the 37 Signals love.

  2. jquig99 said, on March 31, 2008 at 7:39 am

    @Patrick – I reread your white paper last night. Still a great work. Thanks for the response – hope you’re getting some sleep! Say hi to the girls for me.

  3. Natalie Adams said, on May 16, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Hi, it nice to see our productivity is evolving with the help of Web 2.0 tools. Frankly speaking, I don’t use 37 signals for a number of reasons, I use Wrike.com instead. But I think the trend itself is amazing. The world becomes borderless. 🙂

  4. spierce said, on August 2, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for the great article. Please check out Whakate.com- The new journal about self-improvement, personal effectiveness and time management. There is an interesting article “Novice Experiences with Productivity”, it provides some great sources on the subject.

    http://www.whakate.com/reader-to-reader/novice-experiences-with-productivity/


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