Project Manager Morgan Gallas, our resident Asana expert, shares her advice for keeping complex projects organized
Asana is a free task and project management platform that helps users streamline their to-do’s and communication around projects big and small. Whether your team is in the office together or working remotely and has three team members or forty, this tool helps users stay on top of deadlines and track tasks from start to finish. It is our go-to for keeping track of projects with multiple moving parts including task responsibilities, deadlines, documents and their related communication for content creation, video and website projects, ad campaigns, team meetings and even our in-office snack shopping list. We asked Morgan Gallas, a project manager and our very own Asana enthusiast, to share her best tips for using the software for project management. If you’re just getting started or have been using Asana for a while, these five pro tips will help you organize projects, improve efficiency and harness your inner project manager.
To-do list or not-to-do list
Asana offers a couple of different options for visualizing tasks. Depending on the type of project and how many people are involved, list view may be the best option to review what needs to be done. For tasks like ad creation—with repetitive steps every month—list view lines tasks up neatly and is Morgan’s favorite view in Asana. However, it may make more sense for a project to be set up as boards (Asana’s column-style view), in a timeline or as a calendar. If content moves between assignees, utilizing column view shows where content is in the process. For example, monthly social media content that moves from the Associate Content Strategist to the Editor to the Content Strategist to the Designer, etc., works best in column view with each column named for the person working on the task. You can also toggle between views on any project.
How to view the Asana to-do list
Select any project from the left sidebar. Then, choose your preferred view in the top tabs.
Create custom fields
Within a project, creating custom fields adds detail to tasks while also defining a new way to sort them. For example, a field where assignees can show their progress on a task with options like “in progress,” “on hold” and “waiting for review” provides extra detail compared with viewing as complete/incomplete. Then, sorting by this field organizes tasks to show what’s currently being worked on and what may need a follow-up.
Depending on the need for more specificity, custom fields can track and provide additional info to facilitate time tracking, managing priority levels and more. A great example of this is for a client who prefers we track our time by marketing campaign: Public Awareness, Annual Fundraising, Events, Major Giving. To help team members determine which task belongs to which category, Morgan created a custom field in Asana for timekeeping with a drop-down menu on each task in the project to make it clear where team members should track their time.
How to use Asana custom fields
Select a project from the left sidebar and open list view. Near the top right corner, select the “+” to create a field. Select the field type that you need. Morgan used drop-down in her example but other options allow for designating a percent or currency. Title the field and add any options.
Set to repeat so you don’t forget
For tasks that recur, whether monthly, weekly or bi-weekly, setting up a recurring due date not only helps keep them on your radar but also saves time. Even if these don’t align with a project or team, you can still add them to My Tasks—and set them to recur at the right frequency. This is useful for remembering to submit a timesheet for review each week or to clean up the downloads folder—two tasks that don’t really make sense in any one project.
How to create recurring tasks in your My Tasks
Select “My Tasks” from the left sidebar. Within calendar view, click on the day you want the task to be due. Name your task by typing and then hit enter. Click into the task you just created. Select the due date and click the little arrow circles at the bottom of the popup to open recurring task settings. Ask yourself what timeline makes sense. Morgan has “Submit your time” set up for weekly on Fridays and “Clean up downloads” set up for once a month.
In Asana, apps and integrations create cohesion between the different systems that keep business moving. Take advantage of these integrations with other programs to improve efficiency in tracking tasks and projects, communicating with team members and linking the necessary project briefs, editorial calendars and the other files the team needs all in one place. Integrations for communication channels like Slack provide a notification when projects are updated while integrating Zoom lets you link meetings to tasks and automatically pull transcripts and recordings into an Asana project. File-sharing platforms like Vimeo and Google Drive bring everything together by letting users add files to tasks without leaving the task creation screen. Asana also connects to Gmail for quickly turning emails into tasks and keeping your inbox under control. Finally, we also connect Asana with Harvest, the timekeeping system our team uses, but it can be connected with other time trackers as well.
How to connect Asana integrations
Log into Asana. Then, in the left sidebar, click “Help & Getting Started” at the bottom. Select “Apps and Integrations” at the bottom of the popup bar. Search for and select integrations that add value to your task-keeping. Or click here to view featured apps and integrations.
Take the inbox seriously
When our team first started using Asana, the inbox feature felt like a throwaway because we mostly communicated through Gmail. However, as we’ve shifted some of our project-related communications to Asana, we’ve found the inbox is key to staying on top of things. Why use the Asana inbox? The inbox shows how tasks relevant to you are moving—providing updates when tasks and subtasks are completed or when a team member comments on or assigns a project. Aspire to keep this inbox at zero. When someone tags or comments on a project you’re collaborating on, it will appear in the inbox.
Pro tip: If it doesn’t need attention, send it to the archives. But if it requires action, keep it in the inbox and archive once when it’s complete. There’s also an “archive all” feature that’s especially useful if you’ve used Asana for a while but are just starting to appreciate the inbox—and yours happens to be crowded with old notifications. Plus, notifications can be unarchived as well.
How to use the Asana inbox
In the left sidebar, select “inbox.” Take a look at what your team is up to. Respond where you’re tagged, deal with any tasks that need your attention and archive once you’re done. The goal is inbox: zero! Click here for the Asana inbox view.
There are so many aspects to Asana and these tips just scratch the surface. Morgan’s best recommendation is to try out new ideas and be open to change because a task management system is only useful if people use it. If your team best visualizes projects by column-style board view even though list view is clearly the best, then so be it. Good luck with your projects!
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