One of the biggest areas of confusion when getting started with Asana is how to organise your projects. The great thing about Asana is that there are so many different options and methods you can use to organise your work. But because you start with a blank canvas it means finding the “best” way to organise you work can be tricky.
And bear in mind that you’ll probably never find the perfect way to organise your work. You’ll find that your project setup evolves and changes over time as you discover and refine your style.
Having worked with a number of client’s to optimise their Asana set up, I’ve witnessed a few common mistakes being made. Mainly, users set up too many projects and this makes it much harder to stay organised and maintain a tidy Asana account. This contributes to feelings of overwhelm (“I have so many projects!”).
To overcome this issue, I find myself giving a few common pieces of advice…[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKldnymTxHM]Do you feel overwhelmed by your projects and task? Here's how to stay more organised!Click To Tweet
Think of projects as areas of your business.
A lot of people think of Asana projects as, well, projects. i.e. a temporary batch of work like a product launch or development sprint.
Rather than creating an Asana project for each “project” that you’re working on, I often recommend setting up Asana projects for the different departments or areas of your business. For example, I have a project and section set up like this:
- Business – For general business tasks and administration. I have sections for Administration, Website, Email Marketing, Planning and so on.
- Content – For planning my content calendar. Sections are set up as months of the year to plan blog/podcast/video content in chronological order.
- Products – Which I use to plan product launches, updates and tests. I have a section for each product.
- Sales – For managing clients (each client is a task) and other revenue generating activities like sponsorships and affiliate marketing.
With a project set up like this, the project will never come to an end. These projects are all ongoing.
Question: So what’s the advantage of setting up projects like this?
In short, it minimises the total number of projects you have to manage making it much easier to maintain an organised Asana account. Too often I get into a client’s account and see they’ve gone crazy setting up projects for all sorts of different things and some projects may contain only a few tasks. Rather than setting up a project for each new piece of work, you should demote the project to a task and take advantage of the hierarchy that Asana gives you (sections, subtasks). More on this below…
Think of tasks as “mini-projects”
Let’s say you have a product launch coming up. Instead of creating a project for this launch, you could structure this as a section inside a “Products” project. Or even as a single task within a section. You would then use subtasks (and sections to organise your subtasks) to plan all the activities that need to be completed for the launch.
One of the advantages of this approach is that is combats a common question I hear; “Is there a way to view and organise all your projects in Asana?”. While Asana doesn't give you a clear way of viewing all active projects (apart from simply viewing them in the sidebar), now, because you’ve set up your work projects as tasks, you can add these to a master Asana project and essentially view your “projects” in one place.
I recently wrote about how I use a kanban board to organise my tasks and “mini-projects”. By adding tasks (i.e. your mini projects, like a product launch) to this kanban board, you can see what stage each of your “projects” is at.
Take advantage of the Asana hierarchy to stay more organised
When using this approach to minimise your total number of projects, it’s important to take advantage of the different features Asana has given us to organise your account.
What are they? Here we go:
- Project – Like I said, think of this as a department or “area of your business” e.g. Business, Marketing, Products, Sales
- Sections – Use sections to further dissect the project into logical areas e.g. the “Products” project may be sectioned off into the different products or even categories of products like ebooks, videos, courses, physical products.
- Tasks – A task would represent something you need to do within that section e.g. in the “Products” project in the “eBooks” section, you may have a task like “Write copywriting ebook” (this is what I’d call a “mini-project”).
- Subtasks and Sections – Now you can use subtasks and sections within your subtasks to further organise and plan the work for this “mini-project”. For the “Write copywriting ebook” task, you may have sub-sections for Planning, Production, Launch and Marketing with subtasks in each of these sections.
Hopefully now you can see how a task can be structured like a project and therefore helps to minimise the total number of projects in your account.
As I mentioned before, now you could even go a step further and add the “Write copywriting ebook” subtask to a master project (like a kanban board) that displays all the active “projects” you're working on.
Using a board vs. list
Finally, it’s worth asking the question, when should you use a board vs. a list? In general, I recommend going with the list view for a few reasons:
- You can see more of your tasks on the screen at any one time.
- When you click on a task in a board, the task takes up the entire screen and you have to click outside the task pane to close it. However, in the list view, when you click a task, the task pane expands on the right hand side and doesn’t obscure the rest of the project. This means you can quickly click to view others tasks without having to close the selected task first.
- Lists also display Custom Fields right there in the project view and you can even click to edit the value of a field (this isn’t possible in the board view).
Boards are still useful and have their place:
- If you like moving tasks through a workflow, like you do with a kanban board or when using a scrum methodology, using a board is a great visual way to do this.
- The tasks in the board view also show previews of any attached images. This is useful if you have a project with lots of visual components that you’d like to view.
- I find that boards also support brainstorming much better when you may want to move tasks around between columns a lot.
How do you set up your projects?
What do you think of this approach? How do you set up your projects? I'd love to hear your feedback, please leave me a comment below!