Chez Socialize, we use 37signals’ project management system Basecamp. It helps us keep on top of all our various endeavors and their related tasks much better than fishing through our email ever did.

A while back, we put together a Basecamp bootcamp to help new (and old) employees get the hang of using Basecamp. Every so often, though, we come across philosophical questions like “what do you do with late to-dos?”

We aim to set fair but aggressive deadlines (it’s one of our manifesto points), but we all fall behind or have to push back on projects from time to time. We try to be as honest as possible when it comes to redating, but sometimes there’s a benefit to letting a late task sit there as a reminder. Which approach works better/ensures productivity and success?

Currently, we will remind our employees of any late tasks they may have and ask them to re-date appropriately. This allows the task to move forward (it can be kind of soul-crushing when you spend a whole day just working on yesterday’s tasks). At the same time, however, it gives a false sense of “new life” to the task. The to-do wasn’t done by its original deadline, so is assigning a new one fixing the problem? Or is it just a bandaid for a larger problem? We hope that our re-dating policy (leave a comment on the task if you’re re-dating it) will leave an informative digital trail, one that will show us if we’re not being fair enough to ourselves with the deadlines we set…or aggressive enough in meeting them.

At the same time, it’s helpful to have that late task linger there: like circling an error in red ink, it reminds you that there’s something you need to fix. You’ll prioritize that task instead of pushing back on its deadline. But what if you have five overdue tasks? You could fall behind and build up a more-than-healthy amount of late tasks. In that case, you ruin the organization that Basecamp provides and you allow the tasks to slip through your fingers much like that email neglected from 3 weeks ago.

So which is it: redate and push back on a late task or let it sit as a reminder of SHAME? For all the fellow Basecampers out there, what camp are you in?

One Response to “Crowdsourcing Basecamp: What Do You Do With Late To-Dos?”

  1. Great question! Shame (especially digital public shame) is a great motivator for me, so I tend to let tasks sit if they're overdue and then knock as many out as possible in a furious Basecamping session.

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