I have been using Basecamp for some time to implement larger multi-tiered and ongoing projects. Lately, I have been using it even more to manage projects for the team I lead at work. While I am using Basecamp mostly in the fashion it was intended for, since proposing my ideas about changes to my GTD implementation in Backpack, I have been pondering how some of those same changes (as well as some other useful hacks) could be applied to using Basecamp for GTD as well.

The Setup

Basecamp is designed so that, on paying accounts, one can manage multiple projects. A “project” in their definition assumes a y large one with the need for multiple sub-projects, messaging, colaboration, milestones, etc. – in other words, a lot like most people’s daily lives. The free version only allows for one project which is just fine for one’s life so this setup assumes that you are going to use one project for your GTD implementation.

Basecamp, like Backpack, allows you to create multiple lists under the To-Do tab for a project. For a GTD implementation one could have one list for single action items (i.e. projects with only one action) and then a list for each project (i.e. anything which requires two or more steps). You can see in the picture above an example of this setup. That part is pretty straight forward and pretty much inline with my @Projects setup in Backpack.

The Context Hack

I am sure you also notice in the picture above that I have set contexts for items in bold. I also bet you are wondering how that was achieved. Here is how…

People. That’s right – People.

Basecamp allows one to add people to a project and assign To-Do list items to those people responsible for them. Therefore, I thought, if people were actually contexts, then you could just as easily make the person’s name the context you want, give them an e-mail address (I just used the dummy Gmail account I have for such nonsense purposes), an equally nonsense password, and… um… tada! You have contexts which you can assign to those list items.

Another advantage to this is that Basecamp allows one to view just To-do items assigned to a specific person. Therefore, if your person is a context, you can use this hack to just list specific contexts:


Of course, one can use all of the other features of Basecamp as well. For instance, you can use the Messages section for notes, set Milestones for important projects, etc.

Basically, with a little outside of the box thinking and repurposing, one could easily use a free Basecamp account as a real and effective GTD solution with the ability to organize actions as well as viewing and printing by both context and individual project lists.