Asana is an excellent tool for project and task management.  But it is also a broad tool, built intentionally to suit many needs and purposes. For this reason it isn't very opinionated about how you use it.  This makes it similar in some ways to email; While offering amazing potential, if not used with discipline and common practices can become more of a pain than a support.  See if your team can follow these five steps to make sure Asana is working optimally for you.

1. Use a task management system

Asana is a tool, not a system.  And like any other tools, e.g. email, it's the system you set up for yourself that makes it useful, way past the tool.

I strongly recommend GTD® for my clients, it's a time-proven and highly adaptable method, and works really well on Asana.

Asana can build trust and transparency, but if when I set my colleague a task, I do not trust that it won't just get lost in the ether and not get done, then this defeats a lot of the purpose.  Having everyone on a disciplined, GTD practice can really support this.  

Here's a quick overview about how I introduce GTD and how it builds trust for my clients:

 
 

2. Set a Clear Discipline: Any request for action HAS to be in Asana

The discipline of not having requests for action come anywhere other than Asana has been incredibly helpful to my clients.

It reduces the stress and mistrust that occurs when actions are requested everywhere, and that feeling that somehow I'm missing something from that email chain because somewhere back there, 4 reply all's ago someone asked for something actionable.

This way we can all relax; If it's not in Asana, it's not an action!

Here's how I present this to my clients who do a full Holacracy/GTD implementation:

 
 

3. Watch out for hidden actions in the comments section

I've seen this mistake happen over and over with clients.  That after you've set a clear discipline about actions not being requested outside of Asana, old habits creep back in with people requesting actions in the comments sections of tasks.

This repeats email and slack anxiety again within the Asana Inbox tab.

One question I like to pose to clients to help them determine of a comment should be a sub-task or new task instead is:

  • Is this blocking your work at all? Are you waiting for an answer for your work to move on? If yes then this should be a task.
  • On the receiving end, do you feel like you can't archive this notification from your inbox until you do something? Then this should have been a task.

4. Create Saved Smart Searches

Saved smart searches are such a powerful and useful tool in Asana, and not enough people are using them.

Creating smart searches is the way to make use of all the context tagging you're doing, and also important to note that saving smart searches make them available on your Asana phone app.

Here are some examples of smart searches I use:

  • Context tags: Home, office, errand, phone, etc.
  • Focus level required: Focus, easy, avoiding, etc.
  • Priority leve
  • Tasks I'm following
  • Tasks due within a week

Here's a quick video on how to create and use saved smart searches:

 
 

 

5. Treat every task like a contract

This is a small mind-shift that can create a lot more trust and fluidity in the system.

If each partner treated each task as a contract of trust between them and the task followers, it helps guide our behavior towards the task.  And leads to behaviors like:

  • Updating progress
  • Updating reason for deleting before doing so
  • Communicating needs and disagreements clearly

6. Be opinionated about norms

Sometimes options are good, sometimes they're overwhelming and create more trouble than good.  Don't be afraid to be opinionated about naming norms in Asana.  People might not like it for the first couple of days as they get used to it, but that soon fades into the background and what you're left with is a common language people can understand.

Some norms to consider:

  • Any project starting with "_" is a list
  • Shared tags that have the same meaning, such as "High Pri"
  • Any tag that starts with "&" is referring to a role in the org
  • High priority projects are marked in red

7. Use weekly project updates

Turning on Asana's option to remind you to update the project is another high leverage small change.  This gets your team in the habit of updating any project follower about the progress once a week.

Imagine getting updated on anything at work that you're interested in (which you can also opt out of) every week.  The kind of trust, transparency, and level of accountability that builds.

It also removes the stress and relational pressure of nagging our colleagues for status updates and due dates.

Here's a quick video on how to ideally set up projects:

 
 

 

I hope you found these useful.  Feel free to reach out if you'd like to learn more about how your team can make the most out of Asana