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I was lucky enough to sneak away from my desk recently to have a wonderful breakfast out with a good friend. We caught up and talked about all kinds of things — including what I love about basecamp, the web based application I use to track show deadlines, among other things. (Yes, strangely enough, that came up, we were talking organization.)

I’m a list maker, always have been, so why bother to make my assorted lists on a web ap instead of paper? or in a word processing document?

I guess first I should tell you what you can do with basecamp. So you create your free account, and then on your own personal page with its own unique address, you’ll have these tabs to choose from:

Overview
Message
To-do
Milestones

Chat

Here’s a sample page of what it looks like:

homeshot-success08

I’m all alone on my basecamp, so I don’t use Chat. Milestones are deadlines, basically. So you enter in the deadline of the show (or the date you need to mail your application by), and the name of the show. Now basecamp will automatically email you a reminder of this milestone 48 hours before it’s due.

And, it automatically creates a calendar where you can see all the milestones you’ve put in. This is extremely handy, because you see visually, right away, “Oops, I’ve got three deadlines in one week, I’d better plan ahead.”

Here’s one of the things I told my friend Lynn at breakfast: if you’re late in doing one of your To-do items, or Milestone, they turn red! Ack! I hate that! That makes me get them done, so I can check them off.

The To-do list feature is just what you would think it is, you can make lists, and these don’t have dates associated with them. So I could have lists for

Clean up Studio,

Steps to Opening New Etsy Shop,

Steps to Completing that Specific Piece for a Big Show I Want to Enter

And under each one, I have the specific first steps needed to accomplish that goal.

Once you complete a To-do, you click it, and it very satisfyingly, goes to the end of the list, in the “crossed off” section. Oh! The feeling of satisfaction!

I admit that may sound silly, but it works!

The other reason I love basecamp is that all my projects, all my stuff, is in one place. It’s can be hard to focus — it’s nice to have a parred down website that’s all my own, password protected, where I can log in and see, “okay, what deadlines do I have coming up?”

Messages are another tool on basecamp. If you’re sharing your basecamp with someone else, say your website designer, you could use basecamp as a place to share information and ideas.

I use it as a place to store little bits of information, things I want to make sure I don’t forget. Messages is also where I store the details of the shows that I’ve put into Milestones.

Here’s what I do: I get an email with a Call for Entry. If it’s an appropriate one to share on the blog, I create a blog post. If it’s also one I want to enter, I go to my basecamp, put the deadline date with the name of the show in Milestones. Then I copy and paste the details into a message. (and under the message, it asks, “Is this message associated with a milestone?” and I can click yes, and which milestone it goes with.)

Much cleaner and easier to deal with than just having bookmarked all those sites, and I have a custom calendar with all my dates in it. And since I also put in my teaching dates and conferences as Milestones, I can see potential problems in advance and see, “whoa, I’d better enter that show early, I’ll be out of town.”

Writeboards are just a simple text editing place where you can write or paste larger bits of information, or longer projects. The simplicity helps, because you’re not distracted by formatting like you might be if you were using MSWord, you’re just focusing on writing.

I got started with basecamp because I’m on the board of a not-for-profit that teaches art to kids. During the start up phase of the group, we board members found that we were overwhelmed with emails from each other about various projects.

And, we found that timing could be a problem, maybe one board member was way out in left field, according to me, because I just wasn’t at that place that they were.

We switched to posting at basecamp instead of emailing, and that allowed us to timeshift, one of the magic things about the internet.

So board member Kara can write a post, and instead of my getting an interrupting email, I read her post at basecamp, when I’m ready to work on my board projects.

If you have a shared project you’re doing with someone, even a collaboration on jewelry or artwork, basecamp can be quite helpful in that time shift.

The makers of Basecamp also have a solo product, called Backpack. I tried it out, but ended up switching to basecamp, because that’s what I was familiar with from my board work.

You can use their free version for well, free, and it’s probably plenty for most artists. If you ever outgrow the free version, you can upgrade without having to move any of your stuff.

Try it!

More info. here: http://www.basecamphq.com

Here’s a link to:

How I manage my deadlines for shows II

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