Get going with Flat in four easy steps
Using Flat is easy. All your team needs to do is:
- 1.Write down what needs to be done
- 2.Assign responsibilities and priorities
- 3.Get moving and stay focused!
- 4.Collaborate using discussion threads
Tip: To invite colleagues to join you in Flat, just hover over “People” in the sidebar and click the “+” button.
Create a topic for anything your team needs to deliver, discuss, or otherwise keep track of. Topics provide a central gathering place to collect the context and resources related to a piece of work, and to discuss it.
Topics are kept organized in workspaces. Each workspace has a series of steps called a workflow. Topics move through the workflow as work is done on them. A workflow can have many steps, or can it be as simple as To do ⇒ In progress ⇒ Done. By moving topics through their workflow as you work on them, everyone can see the state of the work and what’s still left to be done.
Here’s a workspace called HR displayed as a board view. Each column from left to right corresponds to a workflow step, and each topic appears in a column as a card:
Tip: Click in any column to quickly create a topic with just a title, or use the
button to add more details like a description, owner, due date, etc. (You can always add or edit these later.)
Drag cards to rearrange them within a column, or drag them between columns to move them through your workflow. Click on a card to view a topic's page:
Here you can write a detailed description to give everyone a clear idea about what needs to be done, and have discussions about the topic using threads (see below). You can also:
- Add labels to categorize the topic however you like
- Track who’s responsible with an owner and collaborators (see below)
- Add due dates and effort estimates
- Break the topic down into smaller tasks using checklists
- Attach resources such as design files, spreadsheets, or videos
Tip: Only a topic’s title is required — everything else is optional! Use what makes sense for how your team likes to work.
Every topic in Flat should be a complete record of the work, able to provide all of the context and resources required by everyone involved and to help answer questions about it later.
Each topic in Flat can have a single owner and any number of collaborators. The owner is the person currently directly responsible for the topic — that’s Michelle in the example below — and collaborators are any additional people involved in the work. You can change them at any time.
Tip: If you want to mark responsibilities even more granularly, add a checklist to the topic and assign owners to individual tasks using the ellipsis menu at the right edge of each task.
Priorities in Flat are indicated by the order of topics within a column. So whatever’s at the top of a column is the team’s first priority in that workflow step, below that is the second priority, etc. This makes it easy for everyone to see and focus on what’s most important.
As your team gets work done, move topics along your workflow to track progress. The final step in every workflow is special: moving a topic there marks it as completed. While it can be gratifying to see all the work you’ve accomplished piling up there, eventually it will start to get too cluttered and you’ll want to archive your completed topics. You can quickly archive everything in the completed stage by clicking one button (highlighted in red below).
Archived topics aren’t gone forever: you can view a workspace’s archive via the ellipsis menu in the top right corner. Archived topics are also included in search, so you can easily find answers to questions about work that was completed weeks, months, or even years ago.
Tip: Archive completed topics periodically, such as at a weekly or monthly team meeting, to keep your workspace uncluttered and focused on the work in progress or coming up soon.
Tip: You don’t have to complete a topic to archive it. For example, if you abandon a topic without completing it, consider archiving it to retain a record, instead of trashing it. Individual topics can be archived using the topic ellipsis menu.
A common source of clutter is topics that may be picked up at some point in the future but haven’t yet been prioritized (for example, ideas for new features). Consider keeping those in a separate workspace so that your team can stay laser-focused on your current priorities.
If you've used apps like Slack, Teams, or Discord, you know it's all too easy to be constantly disrupting each other's focus and to lose track of important messages in the chatter. Flat's discussion threads are designed to provide a better alternative — one that lets you have conversations in the context of the work, protects your team's ability to focus, and makes it impossible for balls to be dropped.
When you have a question or request related to a topic, just click on the New thread button and start typing.
You can optionally assign your message to a teammate so they know the ball is in their court to respond. Threads are visible to everyone, and assigned threads appear in the assignee’s “My threads” navbar menu, so that ball is definitely not going to be dropped!
Once the question or request is answered, you can resolve the thread. It’ll disappear to keep clutter to a minimum, but don’t worry – you can still view it by clicking on the count of resolved threads (see below), and you can still search for resolved threads in the navbar search.
A blocker is a special thread about something that’s preventing a topic from moving forward. It has a short subject line to capture the reason the topic is blocked, such as “Waiting on press release to go out”. Use blockers to make it clear to everyone that a topic is being held up by something.
If you need to get someone’s attention quickly, by all means chat, text, or call them as you normally would! Flat’s discussion threads aren ’t intended for urgent messages, sharing memes, deciding where to grab lunch, etc. They’re designed to let your team collaborate on your work without balls getting dropped or disrupting each other’s ability to focus.
Tip: Draft messages are saved automatically as they're written, so you can start composing a message, navigate away from the topic, and come back to it later.
When you have topics assigned to you in more than one workspace, you’ll likely want a way to see and prioritize everything on your plate in one place. Click on your name in the People section of the sidebar to see your personal planner:
In your planner you can see every topic that you’re the owner of or a collaborator on. More than that, you can actively prioritize your work by moving topics from the Inbox (where they initially appear when assigned) into one of three simple priority buckets called Now, Next, and Later. Topics disappear from your planner when they’re completed.
Tip: Flat lets everyone see each other’s plans by default, so managers can check in on their team members’ prioritizations without having to bother them.
Since nobody has it all figured out when they start, and things naturally change over time, Flat is designed to be a flexible, unopinionated, and easily-adaptable partner in your team’s work. So, don’t agonize over how to make your Flat setup exactly “right”, because there is no “right” – there’s just “helpful”!
Flat is most helpful when workspaces and workflows line up with how your team actually works – not how you’d like to work in the future, or how you think you should work according to some book or blog or expert, but how you actually work today.
Keep it simple. You can always make changes to your setup later when your team’s process evolves, or when a better way to align Flat with how your team works presents itself. We recommend starting with a single workspace and categorizing your topics using labels.
Tip: To modify a workflow, just click on the workspace name at the top of the workspace view to open the Workspace setup dialog.
Workspaces are great for:
- Separating the work of different teams, to keep clutter to a minimum for everyone.
- Separating work that moves through different workflows. For instance, a marketing team might have one workspace for ad campaigns and another one for website content. Even though the same people work on both, those two kinds of work have different life cycles so it’s useful to track their progress separately.
Tip: Don’t use workspaces merely to separate different categories of work being done by the same people and going through roughly the same workflow; use labels instead.
Tip: To create a new workspace, just hover over “Workspaces” in the sidebar and click the “+” button.