The Ultimate Guide on How to Use Asana to Become a Productivity and Task Management Genius

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Time Management Tricks / 103 comments
How to Become a Genius at Productivity and Stop Letting Tasks Fall Through the Cracks with Asana

“If it’s not in Asana, it’s not going to happen.”

So said the founder of the online task management system that has literally transformed my life and business.

Asana is one of the best free tools I’ve ever used to simplify my projects, help me plan my days and weeks, manage my team and organize my business.

It’s also one of the easiest systems to get started on, thanks to a super clean and intuitive interface and  will immediately help you become more productive and in control.

I would say on average I save between 2-4 hours per week using Asana to set my own daily tasks as well as those of my team, instead of using emails and other tools to streamline every activity.

So I thought it was about time I explained exactly how incredibly useful Asana is for your own personal productivity, your business projects and managing your team.

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In this mega post you’ll learn:

  • A Complete Overview to Getting Started With the Basics of Asana
  • Five Ways to Use Asana to Minimize Your Daily Effort
  • Six Strategies to Use Asana to Make Your Meetings Massively Effective
  • 5 Unique Ways to Use Asana for Projects and Scheduling

Plus there are a wealth of examples and screenshots from how our team uses it, especially Cher who’s the master ninja of Asana.

What you’ll really need to do with Asana

The sooner you start using it, the more easily you’ll transition into making it a part of your every day life, and it will be especially useful when you start hiring a team  – like life-saving.

But when you first start to use it, like any tool, it can be a little confusing to know how to get the most out of it and be more efficient

Above all it’s important to know that using a tool like Asana requires that you and your team commit to learning how to use it and make it your key tool.

Without this discipline, it will just turn into another fad tool that could’ve been useful but ultimately didn’t serve you.

Now before I introduce some best practices for using Asana, here are the basics.

Asana

A Complete Overview to Getting Started With the Basics of Asana

1.) Workspaces

You can create a workspace for your business as the main workspace. Then you can create workspaces for other businesses you run or use it for other clients that you have.

2.) Projects

Within your workspace, you create projects. These could be anything from ‘Administration’ to ‘Events’ to ‘Affiliates.’


Projects

Each project can have a color to help you easily differentiate the tasks in your task feed.

Color

If a task corresponds to more than one project, you can add more than one to reflect that.


Project+

 

Finally, you can create sections within your project to divvy up the tasks.

For example, if your project is Blog Design, your sections could be:

  • Front page
  • Contact page
  • Blog page
  • Media page
  • Plugins

You can easily add sections by typing something and then putting a colon : immediately after it.

3.) Adding a task

Adding a task is as simple as typing in the empty bar or pressing Enter from the last task.

Task

Then you can add a description, a due date, who it’s assigned to and followers.

You mark tasks as ‘complete’ by simply check marking the box on the left of each task.

What’s cool is that you can add sub-tasks within a task to go to certain people.


Subtasks

 

You can also comment on those individual tasks by pushing that small talk bubble.

4.) Due dates

You can assign a due date just by clicking a date on the calendar.

You can also create repeating tasks by choosing a type from the drop-down + a number. This way you don’t have to worry about forgetting to write your weekly newsletter or to publish an article on a certain date because it’s all recurring within Asana.


DueDate

5.) Assigned to

Then you can assign team members to certain tasks and once it’s assigned to them, they have the power to change the due date, add comments or alter the description.

AssignedTo

6.) Adding Followers

Then you can add people as followers who aren’t responsible to the task but need to be clued on to the progress or information of the task.Followers02

You can add team members to your workspace easily by clicking the addition button on the left-hand side of your dashboard.


Team
(Our team looks awesome.)

7.) Calendar view

Asana is always adding cool, useful features, and just recently they added a calendar view. So you can essentially look at each project individually in list form and in calendar form, which is such a handy feature for bloggers creating editorial calendars.

Calendar

Now that you understand the basics, here are five ways to use Asana to see success in your business with less effort.

Five Ways to Use Asana to Minimize Your Daily Efforts

1.) Stop depending so much on email!

The goal is to have your entire workload in Asana.

As Justin says, you have to trust it as the source of all correct and up-to-date information.

Here’s how you can do this:

A.) Type in a description for each new task.

This is where the most up-to-date information on each task should live.


Description'

 

B.) Each task has an option for team member to comment on specific tasks.

  • You can @mention any member of your team within the comment thread to make sure they see it and add followers to a task so they can follow the thread.

Top tip: You can also @mention any previous task put into Asana. Then the person can easily reference back to that task complete with all comments + the description.

  • In your inbox on Asana, you can see which tasks you have been added to as a follower and you can choose to unfollow that task if you wish.

Screenshot 2016-03-24 18.25.40

C.) Send an email in your normal email inbox directly to Asana by forwarding it to x@mail.asana.com.

You can choose in your settings which workspace this goes to.

D.) If you don’t alter your settings, then Asana will send you updates on each tasks and daily digests, which does the opposite of freeing you up on email.

To avoid this, go into settings and turn off your email notifications. Then, get into the habit of checking your Asana inbox at the beginning/end of each day.

2.) Organizing tasks

A.) Asana is super responsive in that you can drag + drop tasks by moving them with your mouse or using the shortcut COMMAND + UP/DOWN ARROW.

However, if you’re viewing your tasks by “Due Date,” you’re not able to manually move the order of the tasks.

B.) Use the ‘View Tasks’ drop down to choose to see tasks by

  • Tasks to Do
  • Recently Completed Tasks
  • Tasks by Project
  • Tasks by Due Date

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 12.11.13 PM

I can easily collapse other sections by choosing the collapse button, and I can change priority by clicking the small calendar symbol on the left side of each task.

 

3.) Searching for efficiency

Asana has an amazing advanced search system where you can see a number of useful things, all of which can be saved for future use by pressing the star symbol.

How to find it: Find the search bar on the left side of your dashboard, and press the down arrow to the right of it.

  • View your employees’ task lists filtered by future due dates, past due dates and within certain projects
  • Incomplete tasks assigned to you
  • Completed tasks assigned to you


FindaTask

Try this: Add the names of all of your team members to the Assigned to field, then choose Incomplete and search. You’ll see all of the incomplete tasks by all members of your team and you can see if there’s an imbalance in task load according to project or employee.

This helps keep the overwhelm at bay with each employee.


Assigned

Top Tip: Use the advanced search feature – with Tasks completed by employee within the last 7 days – to acknowledge and celebrate progress with your team.

4.) Sync Asana to your calendar

If you’re a person who lives and breathes by their calendar, Asana has an option to sync your Asana tasks with due dates to your calendar.

You can even choose to sync specific projects to your calendar.

Sync

5.) Enter focus mode

If you’re somebody who needs total focus on your screen in order to accomplish things, you’ll love this aspect of Asana.

You can choose one task, then hit the TAB + X shortcut. Your entire dashboard will show that one task and when you finish it, you can mark it as complete and then go on to the next one.

Asana is perfect for task management, but it’s so much more than that, too.

It’s also a brilliant tool for running your team meetings.

Six Strategies to Use Asana to Make Your Meetings Massively Effective

Have you ever been in one of those meetings that just dragged on for hours?

You know the ones that, come the end of the meeting, you realise you’ve gone in circles, discussing the wrong things for hours and there are no real outcomes.

In almost every study done on meetings since the 60’s, it turns out that the majority of employees think that half the time of each meeting is wasted and that some executives spend up to eighteen hours per week in meetings!

I remember one of the first meetings I attended in my corporate job in London. We sat there for 2 hours talking about nothing of consequence and congratulating people on work they’d done, rather than discussing all the things that were outstanding and needed to be done.

I almost left the meeting in the first 20 minutes as I was literally pulling my hair out trying to get everyone to actually do the work.

I vowed after that complete waste of time NEVER to head into a meeting without:

  1. An actual purpose for the meeting in the first place
  2. A clear agenda for the meeting and who must attend
  3. Meeting briefing notes that are short and sweet but must be read before hand

Ineffective meetings can not only be a waste of everyone’s time, but can lead to a lot of frustration within a team, a lack of delegation and the most important tasks falling through the cracks.

In the long-term this affects your bottom line and the happiness of your team.

So how do you avoid crappy, time-wasting meetings and get real work done?

Say a big hello to Asana, a totally free project and task management tool for individuals and teams, that has the potential to eliminate the ineffective meeting forever.

There’s one rule of thumb for meetings that the founders of Asana live by:

If you feel like you’re going to write an extra-lengthy email, then it’s meant for a meeting. Otherwise, you can communicate through Asana, which we tend to do as a team because we avoid meetings as much as possible. – Justin Rosenstein, Asana

Start using Asana to simplify your meetings with these 6 steps

1.) Create a new project specifically for meetings.

Create a new project by pressing the addition button the left hand side of your dashboard.


NewProject

 

Be sure to add all of the necessary team members to that project by clicking the share button at the top of the project screen or they won’t be able to see it.

2.) Create a task for each goal for the meeting ahead of time.

Think of 3-4 goals for each meeting, but vary that number depending on how long your meetings typically run.

When it’s our weekly team meeting, we usually have 20-30 minutes and focus on two main topics.

Also, when you post the goals prior to the meeting it allows the people attending to give some thought to those topics so they feel prepared to speak about it.

Top tip: Press Tab + Q to add a task quickly.

3.) Create sections for different meeting dates.

Make a habit of keeping your meeting notes organized by creating sections for various meetings. When you keep them all in one place, it makes it easy to search Asana for a certain keyword or note by you or a team member.

Easily create a section by adding a new task and ending it with a colon (:).


NewTask

Take action by turning those notes into tasks with due dates, an assignee, and a task description.

4.) Schedule specific meetings for check-ins throughout the week, month, and quarter.

Asana does one week out of the month called ‘Road Map Week’ to determine what they should do next, what they have done so far, and what fits into the company.

They split employees up into committees, designate one person as the chair of each committee and then stop all normal week.

During that week, they ask difficult questions about the past, the present, and their future.

At The Suitcase Entrepreneur HQ, we have weekly meetings with the staff, and we schedule in monthly meetings where we analyze the metrics, take a look at what is and is not working and look ahead at larger projects.



5.) Schedule 1:1 meetings.

While meeting as a team is beneficial for keeping everyone in the loop, it’s necessary to set aside time every so often to focus on individual employees. Talk to them about their growth, their position, their tasks, and brainstorm together for future projects.

As a virtual team, we have to stay on top of our communication to make sure that all of us are knowledgeable of what is going on and feel like we have all of the information we need to successfully accomplish our tasks.

When we have 1:1’s, questions that have been blocking accomplishment of certain projects is taken care of and employees know that they have a safe place to chat about growth, opportunities and new ideas.

If you have it as a scheduled and recurring task in your calendar via Asana, you turn up and commit to your 1-2-1 meetings.

6.) Assign one person to create tasks during the meeting.

The beauty of using Asana to conduct meetings is that every single task given in that meeting can be put immediately into Asana.

Choose one person on the team to be in charge of this.

Throughout the meeting they can create a new task, clarify who it should be assigned to, add the details and the due date.

This simple act ensures that nothing important falls through the tasks and that someone is responsible for it.

How to run effective meetings from now on

I hope this has given you food for thought, not only on how to use Asana within your current systems, but how to change up the way in which you run your meetings or question why you have them at all.

Let’s recap on the 6 steps you can put in place today:

  1. Create a new project specifically for meetings.
  2. Create a task for each goal for the meeting ahead of time.
  3. Create sections for different meeting dates.
  4. Schedule specific meetings for check-ins throughout the week, month, and quarter.
  5. Schedule 1:1 meetings.
  6. Assign one person to create tasks during the meeting.

If your meetings are not serving a purpose and creating real, positive change within your business, then isn’t that time better used to allow you and your team to focus on their goals and milestones?

The answer is YES!

And finally, there are some ways Asana has invented to make task management a good time.

5 Unique Ways to Use Asana for Projects and Scheduling

When you’re working with a virtual team, finding ways to communicate and gather feedback is integral to the success of the business.

So after you master that, what are some other ways can you have fun with this powerful tool?

Here are five less known ways to utilize the awesomeness that is Asana.

1.) Create a project specifically for product opportunities.

For example, we have a section for our customer service called Customer Lovin’ where we note our ideas for creating remarkable experiences for our clients + audience.

When employees go into this project, they can ‘heart’ the various ideas.

Biweekly my Chief Happiness Officer can take a look and see which ideas people most want to see implemented.

This improves team morale and ensures that all people have their ideas heard. Plus it eliminates ideas being shot down simply because the person in charge didn’t like them by showcasing social proof.

You could even create different sections within this project for the various products you already have and the ones that you want to create.

The founders of Asana use this method and love how it acts as a meter of what people are excited about.



2.) Create a project for peer review.

If you want to build a team that is constantly growing and challenging themselves as well as each other, a peer review system will work wonders.

At Asana, they have their employees choose six people within the company that they want to receive actionable and constructive feedback from so they can grow and move forward.

Then they keep that list within Asana so the notes and tasks that come from these meetings lives in one place and gets accomplished.

3.) Create a project about your competitors.

Keeping up to date of who else is in your business playing field is beneficial not so you can play the comparison game, but so you have a wider perspective.

Often times, you’ll find that your competitors are making very smart moves in an area that you really want to improve on and this opens the door for building relationships.

Even though you’re in the same field, you can still support each other and champion the unique strengths that make you who you are in business.

Remember. The goal at the end of the day is not to outcompete each other, it’s to offer value to the greatest amount of people possible.

Some people will resonate with your message and some people will resonate with the competitors.

Read: How to Figure Out Your USP and Attract Crowds Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa

That’s okay.

You can’t charm everyone, but you can show up and offer value in a way that’s uniquely you.

4.) Create a project for education.

Another way to emphasize growth within the team and ultimately the business is to create a project for interesting articles, videos, podcast episodes, or infographics.

Then you can tag specific people you think might find value in it by @tagging their name or by adding them as a follower.

Following that, you can ask team members to set aside an hour every couple of weeks to review those resources.

If it works well, people should be interested in implementing and experimenting with what they’ve learned from that resource.

Finally, this eliminates mass emails and mass responses, which is always lovely.

5.) Integrate Asana with apps and extensions.

One built-in function that most people don’t utilize is the attachment button.

Let’s say that you want your virtual assistant to update your social media and list building analytics.

You can assign the task and attach the spreadsheet directly from Google Drive, Dropbox or as a regular document from your hard drive.

Attach

 

This saves them time from having to search for the document and saves you time because you avoid potential emails about confusion.

Another useful shortcut if you use the browser Google Chrome is to install the Asana widget from the Chrome store. It’s totally free, and it lives right above your bookmarks bar.

So if you’re searching the interwebs and you suddenly remember a task, you can just hit that extension, type in the task and quickly add it, which avoids you having to open Asana and find the right workspace.

Later you can go into Asana and assign a due date, an assignee, and add any extra notes you might have.

Another way to make Asana more fun is to simply change your background theme.


ProfileSettings

 

I don’t know about you but I like making the space I work in something that I like to constantly look at.

You can change your setting simply by going to ‘account settings’ and then choosing the ‘theme’ tab.

Finally, if you want to make task management a little bit more exciting, you can add apps from Asana’s marketplace.

You can find Asana’s apps at this link.


Apps

Do Better With Asana Book CoverThere are options to integrate services you might already be using like Evernote, Zendesk, Mailchimp, Fancyhands.

The more streamlined you can make your business, the easier it is for you honor your community energy toward creating brilliant experiences and content.

If you really want to take it further with Asana then check out Do Better with Asana

In the comments below, tell me what you think of Asana or how you use your own productivity system?

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