You’ve heard me advise against using Slack, because asynchronous is better than synchronous almost every time.
I recommend using Basecamp for asynchronous project management and other company-wide communication.
For the record, Basecamp takes the best features of Slack and packages them in a more organized and asynchronous way. For example, rather than constant interruptions and reading through pointless threads that are irrelevant to me, Basecamp helps me to go get the important stuff rather than shoving it in front of my face when I’m not ready for it.
Disable All the Notifications
Interruptions kill deep work. Disable them all! Here’s my notification settings in Basecamp:
Everyone knows to text me if it’s an emergency. And there’s only 1 thing that qualifies as an emergency: Website Down!
If it’s not “website down”, then email or add to Basecamp, and I’ll get back to you at a time that’s optimal for me. If you need to interrupt me, then text or call me. It’s that simple.
It’s the opposite of “putting out fires” work. The opposite of the kind of daily grind that makes you wonder why you went to work in the first place today.
My wife will confirm that you don’t want what’s on the top of my mind. It’s reactionary and passionate and generally not great business advice. If you want a thoughtful reply to your question:
- Ask a thoughtful question via email or Basecamp.
- Wait patiently for my reply.
I’m not a fan of stand-ups and other “update me” meetings, unless there’s a clear objective that cannot be achieved asynchronously. Status updates don’t belong in meetings – they belong in Basecamp. And maybe they are once a week, maybe not.
Communication needs to be compelling! If you haven’t achieved anything this week, tell us why – don’t tell us about that little meaningless thing you achieved. If you’ve truly achieved nothing of note, that’s great! Keep on working and let us know when you have something interesting to report!
I use Basecamp to communicate big wins and team-wide need-to-know updates (server work, feature releases, upsells happening, new products, etc.).
I also have Basecamp post a question once per week: “What’s the most-important tech thing you’d like fixed this week?” I usually get 2-3 replies, and that’s great! I don’t want everyone to chime in every time – just the people who are feeling strained by a tech thing.
The Info is There and Organized For You When You Need It!
Unlike in Slack, which forces you to sift through heaps of unrelated/uncontextualized garbage in order to find the tidbits you are interested in, Basecamp actively-hides unnecessary conversation from you.
Basecamp never interrupts me. When I am ready to work on specific projects and reply to specific teammates’ questions/concerns, I go to my Basecamp home screen and click “Hey!”. Everything I need to respond to is right there! I never venture out of that view unless I’m managing a project and need a more wholistic view and/or need to create work for others.
When I log into Basecamp, I feel confident that I won’t miss anything. By comparison, when I log into Slack, I’m never sure what I’m missing or what’s relevant to me.
Additionally, I’ve found Slack’s search feature not very helpful. The primary search I want to run is to see all posts that @mention me. Slack kindof has this feature (the “@” button in the top-right), but in typical Slack fashion it includes all replies to my posts mixed in with things that I’ve posted mixed in with posts that @mention me. It’s a typical Slack mess.
Basecamp, on the other hand, does a better but not perfect job of search. And I never need to search for people who @mention me, because the software assumes it’s important to me and puts those posts in my “Hey!” menu by default! Pretty smart!
The one integration I use for Basecamp is Tracked, which gives me more viewing options on existing to-dos and also lets me categorize to-dos (e.g. “blocked”, “ready to rock”, etc.).
Project Management & Communication is a Moving Target
I get more wrong in life than I get right (wisdom earned the hard way!). That’s especially true with anything in the tech space. And not every company is the same – For example, just yesterday I set up a very minimalist Basecamp implementation for a company using only the “todo” module! They didn’t need any other features, so I disabled them.
p.s. Fwiw, any asynchronous tools will serve your project better than Slack, because with asynchronous tools like email, Google Docs, Basecamp, Trello, etc., all the info is there when you’re ready for it; not a moment sooner. These tools all give you the option to batch your time, which empowers you to be more productive!