How to use Asana

How to use Asana (a getting started guide)

Asana is the best project management tool out there and has helped me to save a tonne of time as I grow my business. Today I’d like to share a step-by-step guide on how to use Asana to plan your goals and grow your business.

In this post:


The benefits of using Asana

One of my previous clients, David, credited Asana with improving his team’s productivity by 20%! What would a 20% improvement in output or time saved mean for your business? Let’s look at some of the benefits of using this tool.

how to manage your tasks with asana

Streamline communication (and reduce email clutter)

By managing your work in Asana you can move your internal communication out of your email and into Asana. There are a few advantages to moving communication into Asana:

  1. Communication happens inside tasks. This makes it easier to see what you’re talking about and keeps the conversation on topic.
  2. Because the communication is happening in a task, everyone always knows who’s responsible for what and when everything is due by (this isn’t always clear with email).
  3. By having conversations in tasks, the conversation will naturally become much more action orientated. Because everyone can see what needs to be done, decisions get made quicker and more progress is made.
  4. Comments are exactly that, comments. By commenting in Asana the conversation naturally more concise meaning no more long emails to deal with.

asana comment

See all your work and goals in one place

Do you ever feel like you work too much “in” your business and not enough “on” your business? When you set up all your business tasks, projects and goals in Asana, you can create a complete view of everything you need to do to move forward and reach your goals.

This means you’ll no longer have to go searching through old business planning documents, emails and spreadsheets to find key milestones and plans. Instead, all the work and these documents can be stored in Asana for everyone to see.

Increase accountability and transparency

When you assign a task to someone and set a due date, something amazing happens; people do what they’re told. Because Asana creates so much transparency about who’s responsible for what, there’s nowhere to hide. If you miss a deadline or aren’t keeping up with your work everyone will know. This keeps people honest and working hard to meet their targets.

asana assignee

Compare this to email where it isn’t always clear who’s doing what or when work is due. It’s much easier for people to respond with “I’m working on it” and give an excuse about how expectations weren’t clear enough.

Getting started with Asana

Think of Asana as the place for tracking all aspects of your work. Not just the things you need to do, but client’s you may be working with, software bugs to fix and customer questions to follow up on.

Organizations vs. workspaces

When you set up your Asana account, you’ll have the option of setting up the account as an organization or a workspace.

asana organisation

If you have a shared email domain in your business (e.g. @yourcompany.com) then you’ll automatically get set up as an organization. Within an organization, you can create teams (e.g. marketing, development) to group your team members together. Within each team, you have projects that the team is working on.

The alternative is to set up your account as a workspace. This is best if you don’t have a shared email domain. The only real difference between a workspace and an organization is that workspaces don’t have teams (essentially the workspace is one big team).

Don’t worry too much about workspaces vs. organizations when getting started. You can always upgrade a workspace to an organization later if you need to.

Each workspace and team come with its own calendar and conversation area. This makes it easy for the team to view all tasks that are being worked on and communicate with one another right alongside the work.

Projects

Projects house the tasks that your team will work on and can be set to public or private depending on how open you want to be. A project can be given a project owner and even a due date so everyone know’s who’s responsible for moving the project forward and when the project is due to be complete.

Similar to workspaces and teams, each project also comes with its own calendar and conversation area. This is great for viewing tasks and having discussions related to that specific project.

asana project

Sections

One of the ways you can organize your tasks within a project is by using sections. You can create a section simply by adding a semicolon to the end of a task, like this:

Section name:

Sections allow you to break up your tasks into logical areas. The beauty is, sections can be whatever you like. For example, when planning a content calendar, you could use sections for the months of the year. Or when planning a marketing campaign, you can use sections for different marketing channels.

TIP: In my goal planning project, I use sections to create “seasons” that illustrate what I’m working on for a particular month or quarter.

Tasks

Within a project, you can create tasks. These are the main units of work that you’ll use in Asana.

When you click on a task, the task pane expands on the right-hand side so you can see all the task details right alongside your main project.

Within each task there are a few key pieces of information:

  • Due date – This is where you specify when the task needs to be completed by. Within the date picker, you’ll also have the option to set tasks to repeat on a recurring basis.
  • Assignee – The assignee is the person responsible for the task and getting the work done. You can only assign one person to be responsible for the task. This is to make it very clear who’s responsible for the task.
  • Followers – These are people who are notified of any changes or updates to the task.
  • Comments – This is where team members can communicate, ask questions and share ideas. By typing “@“ and then the name of a person, project or task, you can link to specific people and areas of Asana.
  • Subtasks – If more work needs to be done to complete the task. Subtasks can be used to further break up and plan the work. Each subtasks can be given its own due date and assignee. Therefore, while the main task is assigned to one person, they may depend on other people to complete their subtasks in order for the overall task to be complete. You can even use sections within subtasks to further organize your work.
  • Tags – Tags can be used to group similar tasks together across projects e.g. A tag like “high priority” would group together all other tasks with this tag in one place, regardless of what project they’re in.
  • Attachments – Documents and files can be added to tasks from your computer or even straight from Dropbox, Google Drive or Box.

asana task

MyTasks

This is where you get a summary of all the tasks assigned to you from all the different project and teams you’re part of. When tasks are assigned to you, they get added to the “New” section. From here, you should move the task into one of three places:

  • TODAY – If the task is due today or even if it's due later but you'd like to work on it today, you can put it in this section.
  • UPCOMING – Everything due within the next 7 days. This section gives you a nice view of what your upcoming week looks like.
  • LATER – If a task's due date is more than a week away, mark it for Later.

The nice thing about these sections is that when you mark a task for Later, it will automatically get moved into Upcoming when the due date is within 7 days. Then, on the day it falls due, the task moves from Upcoming to Today. Using Asana like this means you can open it up in the morning and your day's work is already there waiting for you, without you needing to think about what to work on.

IMPORTANT: Keep your “MyTasks” area organised. Be sure to sort new tasks when they get assigned to you. Use the rules above to keep your “My Tasks” section limited to just the stuff that's due today or within the next 7 days. Keeping this page organised will help you to see what to focus on next and avoid feeling overwhelmed by work.

asana my tasks

From the MyTasks page, you can also view your own calendar of the tasks just assigned to you. From here, you can even sync this with your Google or Apple calendar account.

asana calendar sync v2

If you’d like to create your own personal to-do list of tasks, simply add them to the MyTasks page (a lot of people set up their own projects, but using MyTasks is generally more appropriate). By adding a task on this page, you can create a private task (that only you can see) that isn’t attached to any particular project.

Inbox

When you’re a follower of a task, you will get notified of all task updates, comments, and conversations in the “My Inbox” page. I suggest you turn off the email notifications to avoid getting notified about task updates via email as well as inside Asana.

When you click on a notification, the relevant task appears on the right so you can quickly respond or update the task. When you're done with a notification, click the X to archive the notification. If you need to look back at previous notifications, you can click the “Archive” to view past comments and move them back to the inbox if you need to.

IMPORTANT: A common mistake people make is when they don't archive the notifications. When this happens, it's harder to see what's new. Keep your notifications clear and you'll know when you're up to date.

asana inbox

Other useful features

  • Familiarise yourself with the Asana shortcuts to help speed things up and navigate Asana like a pro.
  • You can use rich text within task descriptions and comments to bold, italicize and underline sections of text.
  • Favourite the common projects or tags you're working on and they'll get added to the top of the Asana sidebar.
  • You can use the search box to search for tasks based on any criteria you like e.g. assignee, followers, keywords, due date etc… You can then save the search and add it to your favourites. e.g. You could have a saved search to show all the tasks assigned to you by David due this week.
  • On the “Progress” tab of a project, you can post project updates with a colour to update the team on the progress of a project.
  • Your favourite projects can be added to your “Dashboard” and the graph illustrates the progress you've made alongside the numbers of tasks left outstanding.
  • Whenever you feel the urge to send an email, assign a task instead. Even if you can't add it to a particular project, simply assign it to the relevant person and they'll get it in their My Tasks.
  • When you take time off, you can turn on the vacation indicator from settings so that people know you're away.
  • If you have an email that you'd like to turn into a task, forward it to x@mail.asana.com and a task will be created with the subject as the task name and email body as the description. This is a great way to clear your inbox.
  • There are some extra hacks you can turn on from settings including: “Create follow-up task” and “Reminder task” which lets you instantly create a new task based on a notification.
  • Signing up for premium gives you access to Custom Fields which allow you to add specific variables and drop down options to your project tasks.
  • Premium also gives you access to the “Mark as waiting on” feature so you can create dependencies between tasks.

Need more help?

If you'd like more help with Asana, please feel free to book a free 30-minute introductory call with me and I can learn more about how to help you get the most out of Asana.

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