A little while ago, Asana gave us a sneak peak at some of the new features coming to the platform in 2016. Asana’s vision for the platform is to expand beyond simply managing tasks and to give users the ability to track all aspects of their work. So instead of just managing “tasks”, you can use Asana to manage customers, your content calendar, job applications, employees and pretty much anything else you can think of. Today I’m going to give you a sneak peak of one of the features that will allow you to better track your work; Custom Fields (this feature is currently in beta which you can sign up to here).
Custom Fields is a project setting that allows you to create new attributes to sort and filter your tasks. As the name suggests, these fields are completely custom and can contain anything you like including plain text, numbers or a drop-down menu.
For example, I have a project called “Content Calendar” where I plan what’s going to be published on my blog. I have a custom field called “Status” which I use to set the status of the post, Idea, Draft or Finalised:
This is a very basic example and I’m looking forward to seeing what else you can do with Custom Fields.
Oh, and a quick note about tags…
Asana currently gives you the ability to tag a task. So, theoretically, I could have tags for my post status. However, Custom Fields is a little neater as I can only set one status at a time, whereas with tags, I would need to remove the old tag and add a new tag to accurately show the post status.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS CAN YOU DO WITH CUSTOM FIELDS?
I’ve only just scratched the surface with Custom Fields, but here are some of my initial ideas on what you can do with this new feature:
Setting the value of a sale
If you work in any kind of sales role, you can use custom fields to set the value of a potential client or deal. For example, I have a project called “Consulting” where I keep track of the clients I’m currently pitching and working with. I have a numerical Custom Field called ”Deal Value” which I can use to input the potential value of that client. This comes in handy as Custom Fields lets you sort by the field values so I could rank tasks by value to help prioritise clients.
Establishing task priority
Another basic use of Custom Fields could be to create a field with a dropdown menu for priority e.g. High Priority, Medium Priority and Low Priority. Similar to before, you could then sort your project tasks by priority and hit all the high priority tasks first.
Okay, what else?
“Like to do” vs. “need to do”
Kind of like sorting tasks by priority, you could have a custom field that allows you to group tasks by what you’d like to do (i.e. things you’ll enjoy) and things you need to do (things that may not be as fun, but are more important).
Estimated time to complete a task
How about creating a numerical field to sort tasks by the number of hours required to complete them? This is particularly useful when you’re scheduling your time and you want to find all the tasks that take 3 – 4 hours to complete so you can fit these into your day first. You can then fill up any remaining time with shorter 0.5 – 1.5 hour tasks.
However you work, Asana can track it
We’ve just scratched the surface here and these examples are fairly generic. The great thing about Custom Fields is that regardless of what you do or how you work, Asana now gives you the ability to track it.
So if you’re a photographer who wants to track clients by what package they’ve purchased or a graphic designer who wants to sort illustrations requests by dimension, Custom Fields will let you do just that.
WHY ARE CUSTOM FIELDS SO USEFUL?
With the endless possibilities that Custom Fields now gives you, what are the main benefits of this new feature?
Custom Fields allow you to manage more than just “tasks”
Until now, Asana has focussed on helping you to manage tasks; things that you need to do. Now, with Custom Fields, you have a unique way to track all different types of work (if it helps, think of Tasks in Asana as “units of work”).
As you saw above, you can use Asana to track clients, a publishing schedule or just about any kind of work (whether it’s actionable or not). For example, in my “Consulting” project, my clients are listed as tasks, but these tasks will never get marked as “Complete”. Instead, I move them through sections to illustrate whether they’re a potential, current or previous client.
I can use the Custom Fields to add extra information like the deal value, signup source, packages purchased and other information to this “unit of work”.
There are great tools out there for tracking clients and deal progress (e.g. Pipedrive). But with the added capability that Custom Fields now offers, I can keep everything inside Asana instead of having to jump between multiple services.
Sort by Custom Fields
A simple but powerful feature of Custom Fields is the ability to sort by the values of your field. So, sticking with the client deal value example, you could sort clients by deal value to rank them based on how much the deal is worth.
Up until now, Asana has allowed you to sort tasks by due date, assignee or even popular tasks. With sorting by Custom Field you get a better view of your work and can group tasks based on how you like to manage things.
Unique ways to track any project
Custom Fields are set at the project level. This means you can have completely different sets of Custom Fields for each of your projects. So if you have a project for managing clients, you can have a bunch of fields for adding client information to a task. These are completely different from any fields you’ve set up in another project. This means you can have a unique way of managing the “units of work” for each project you’re working on.
You can even set fields to be hidden in the main project view if you like. This is handy if you have a lot of fields for extra information you’d like to add to your tasks, but you don’t want all this information cluttering up your main task window.
Of course, you can add fields from one project to another project. So, lets say you create a Custom Field called ”Priority” which you’d like to include in all projects. You would simply set this up once, then in your new project you can search for this field in the Custom Field settings.
How will you track your work?
I hope you can see how Custom Fields offers endless possibilities when it comes to tracking your work. I’m really excited to see how people use this new feature to manage more of their work (and not just tasks) inside Asana.I can’t wait to try out @asana’s new Custom Fields!Click To Tweet