Asana is the best available project management tool. I will show you how we use Asana in our business.  

Before owning my own business, I worked in corporate america as a project manager for many years. During that time, I tested many different project management tools like Smartsheet, MS Project Management, Trello, Spreadsheets and others. However, nothing I tried worked because I was the only person using it. Then, I started my first business in 2013. I tried to use project management tools to manage tasks between me and my partners. However, it failed again because I was the only person using them. Those experiences taught me the importance of simplicity and user experience in project management tools. That’s why Asana works. It is simple and user-friendly for anybody involved.

Just to put it in perspective, so you understand the efficacy, let me tell you how I use Asana. I use this system to manage 11 people, along with my own personal tasks. I use it to manage 6 businesses in 3 different industries, which include at least 50 different projects. If it works for me, I bet it will work for you too.

I often hear from people about cool tools. However, when I start using them, I do not like them or they are not as useful for me as that person suggested. Why? Because I do not know how to use the tool, or I need to use it for many months or years before learning the best practices. That’s why I want to share with you how we use Asana in our businesses, and how it can be a baseline for you. You can adopt our practices, or tweak them to create your own strategy.

So let’s begin…

Asana Teams

First of all, Asana is free for up to 15 users per team. What does a team mean? You can create as many teams as you like, and have as many projects as you want per team. I personally use “team” to mean my business or entity. Here is a live example:

Also, as you can see in the example above, I have one team named Family, where I and my wife manage personal family tasks, and I called the team Personal.

Asana Projects

You can make as many projects as you want per each team. Since we use the free account version,  everybody on one team can see all of the projects under that team. In our digital marketing agency business, we have one project per client. See example below:

When you create a new project, you have two options for the project layout. List or Board. See below:

We always select Board layout. We do not use List layout at all. The board layout is much easier to understand and to manage for people. Also, it is very easy to see the overall picture of the project, like a list of things that needs to be done and more.

95% of our projects have a very simple setup with 4 columns:

    • To Do
    • Assigned
    • In Progress
  • Completed

The idea and definition of each column is as follows:

    • To Do – This is the column where we put things we need to do, or things we might need to do, or things which we might want to do. In general, this is the inbox for each project. We do not assign these tasks to anybody, and we do not specify the due date.
    • Assigned – In this column, we put tasks which we have already assigned to somebody. However, the task is not as urgent, so we do not put the due date. Instead, we let the assignee to pick their own due date. This column is the progression from To Do to Assigned. The idea is to filter the To Do column, and assign the task to the right team member. After you assigned it, you need to move the task from To Do to Assigned.
    • In Progress – This is the most active column. In this column, every task is assigned to team members and has a defined due date.
  • Completed – This is just a column, where we keep all completed tasks. After somebody on the team completes the task from the In Progress column, then marks the task completed, it moves to the Completed Column.

The idea of the column layout is to move a task from left to right. However, sometimes there are tasks that are put directly into the Assigned column, or in most cases, into the In Progress column.

By the way, I own a few businesses, and, in general, those businesses are divided into 3 different industries: Marketing, Real Estate and Non For Profit. And the system I described above, works well for all the businesses, so I’m confident that the same system will work for you as well.

In addition to those 4 columns above, we sometimes have a 5th column. We call it Recurring, and we put it between In Progress and Completed.

We use this column for recurring tasks. For example, you or your bookkeeper need to do a reconciliation of the accounts monthly. This is the perfect task, which you can assign to be Recurring, repeating on monthly basis.

Tip: When you click complete task wait 1-2 seconds until it shows completed at the bottom, then you can move it to the Completed column. Why? It takes 1-2 seconds or less to recreate the recurring task for the future. After it is done, you can move to the Completed column.

Asana Project View

I gave a task to a newly hired project manager, and she told me that she was not able to see the project. Initially I was confused, but later, I realized that I did not explain how to see all projects at once. By default, Asana shows you only few projects that are assigned to your team. You need to click “Show More Projects” to see all of the active projects you currently have under the team.

Asana Project Description

There is a project description option for each project in Asana. Asana’s idea might be to describe the project, but we use it a little bit differently. We use it to add the important links for the project. We use Google Drive for all our businesses –– so in the project description in Asana, we put links to project folders or the commonly used files for reference. For example, in addition to folder links, we put links to the campaign calendar schedule. For us, this is a helpful shortcut to the locations where we go often. If you do not use password sharing software like Lastpass or One Password, you can put passwords in the project description area as well.



Task Tags In Asana

There might be too many tasks in your project to accomplish in one day. For example, there are many past due tasks currently assigned to my name. To simplify everybody’s life, I created 4 tags that we use for each task we create, to help prioritize the tasks:

    • Critical – These are top priority tasks. We need to do them before anything else. After all tasks that are  assigned to your name with critical tags are completed, you can move on to other tasks.
    • High – These are high priority tasks.
    • Medium – These are typical tasks which we have to do.
  • Low – These are low priority tasks, which are nice to get ahead of, but not critical at the moment.

Later I will explain the daily routine I use, which I recommend for you as well. For now though, I just want to show you how your tasks look with the tags assigned to them.

If you want to see tasks of only one kind (for example, tasks that are critical), you can just click on the tag, and it will filter everything by that specific tag.

Subtasks in Asana

There might be some cases, where you have a task, which might have few subtasks. For example, we recently recorded new videos for our website category page. I created one task to update the videos. However, there are many subtasks since we have different pages, and we need to edit the video, and then update the website pages. So here is the example of how it looks like:

Update Videos is the task name on category pages. All the links below are subtasks. We can complete few subtasks. However, the task will not be completed until all subtasks are done.

The Task Completion In Asana

When you use Asana only for yourself, it is easy to complete the task. You just do it, it is done, and you mark it complete, and move to complete column. However, when there are 2 or more people on the task, it is different. The task is not completed, until everybody agrees it is completed.

For example, I assign to somebody to do XYZ. After they do it, it makes sense to just click complete and move to complete column. However, it is not the case in our businesses. We use it a little differently. I assigned task to a team member. If after the reviewal the team member has a question, he/she  reassigns to me the task, and puts the due date for the next business day. This way, the next day when I check my Asana inbox, I can see it, and either respond to his/her question or review it.

In some cases, one task goes back and forth many times, until it is done. It is like those long emails, where people say something like “see my response in red below” or etc.

The Process

As I said before, we use that setup for 95% of our projects. However, there are few projects where we use it differently. If you have a system for something what you do over and over and over, it is better to recreate the major steps in Asana in columns format. For example, we have one project called BLOG. In this project we create blog posts like in the example below.

Correspondingly, I am currently working on this article. And as you can see, it is in the second column called emNYC-0042 – how we use asana. After I am done writing this article, I move it to our copywriter, who will proofread it. After the proofreading is done, we move it to our virtual assistant, who will log the blog post to our database. After the VA is done, we move it to our graphic designer, who will create an image for this post and so forth. We use this process for all our articles. It does not matter how big or how small it is. We developed the system, which works for us and we use it.

Also, this kind of customized projects can save you a lot of time. For example, instead of logging each blog post to our database, our VA can check this project once a month, and batch the post log at once.  The same thing our graphic designer can do.

Additionally, I want to show you another example of the process in Asana for different industry. We own commercial property, and we own homes that are standing on it, which we need to renovate time to time. We have close to 20 columns for each home renovation. It covers all parts of the renovation. When you open it, you can see what is outstanding, and what is in need of more attention. See the snapshot below.

As you can see, we have zero tasks in insulation section, which means we completed all tasks there. By the way, if you are in real estate industry, and you think you would benefit from this setup, we set up all out categories by using J Scott system from the book The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs.

Asana Inbox

Asana inbox is like your email, which you open every day or every minute (bad habit 🙂 ), and check all incoming emails. However, inbox in asana will have all tasks which are due today and assigned to your name, or if there was activity on some tasks which you follow. By the way, you follow tasks you want by adding your name at the bottom left corner.

This is the snapshot of my inbox today.

You simply click on inbox and “attack” the tasks.

There are 2 options:

    1. You can simply archive it. By the way, you archive only the notification and not the task. For example, if it is something you have to do today, and it is assigned to your name, I simply click archive because I can find it later under my tasks. Simply click on X sign to archive the notification.

  1. Another option, if you follow some tasks and there were some activities. If you review it, and have some comment afterwards, you just write it in the comment section.



    If you read the update on the task, and do not have any comments, you can simply archive it.

The inbox has to be empty every day so you are on top of all tasks.

My Tasks In Inbox

My tasks section in Asana is the list of all tasks assigned to you. When I work in Asana I like to click on My Tasks and sort it by due date.

This way, I can start working on the tasks which are due today. Remember, since we think sometimes that we are superheroes, we typically have more tasks than we can accomplish in one day. Therefore, I recommend to focus on the ones according to the TAGS, which we discussed above.

Recently, I started to eliminate my daily tasks by removing the due date and putting them into assigned column, or trusting my team and delegating the task to other team members.

Check others’ Tasks In Asana

In case you want to check what other team members have on their plate before you can add more, you can click on their image and see what they have outstanding.

My Personal Asana Routines

Asana can be addictive, as checking emails every 2 second. You think you are productive when you do it, but as many studies show, it is not the truth. I am not perfect and try to be more productive, so I try to improve my habits and routines. Thus, I just want to share what I currently use. I check Asana  twice a day. It is open all day long because I add tasks there often. However, I check my inbox only twice a day. I do it at 11:30am and 5:30pm. At 5:30pm it is part of my work shut down routine. At 11:30 it is part of my start work routine. I do start working at 8:00am, but start the communication with my team and external world at 11:30.

Here are the steps I take:

    1. I go to Asana Inbox,
    1. I check all tasks one by one.
    1. If the task is assigned to me, the due date today and there is nobody else on this task, I simply archive it. Why? Because i can view it later in My Tasks.
    1. If the task is assigned to me by some other team members, and they either completed it and want me to check, or have question, I respond to it right away, if it takes me less than two minutes (the two minute rule which I learned from David Allens – GTD (getting things done))
  1. If the task is assigned to me by others, and it will take me more then two minutes, I archive it.

At the end of the day at 5:30pm, I do the same thing but now all tasks, which are assigned to me and which take more than two minutes, I schedule for the next day or to the day when I decide to do it. For example, I do books on 10th and 25th of each month, or I create content like this article every wednesday.

After I am done with inbox and it is clean, I go to My Tasks. At the beginning of the day, I see where the task fits. For example, if the time on My calendar blocked off for XYZ project, I know that I will do the task at that time. If I do not have time blocked on my calendar, but the task is due today, I either delegate, reschedule or remove the due date and move it to Assigned Column. Aslo, I can simply delete it, in case it is not important anymore.

Taboos

You should not abuse the tasks in Asana. Sometimes, people write essays in the tasks with hundreds of different tasks in one. It is not the proper way to use Asana. You need to break down all tasks into separate ones or the tasks with subtasks.

Things We Do Not Use In Asana

There are many other features which might be beneficial for you, but we do not use it yet. The system has been working for us for the past two and a half years. Why do we need to overcomplicate it?

Closing project in Asana

After you are done with the project, instead of deleting it, I would recommend to archive it for future reference. You can simply select the project from the menu, then click on three dots and select Archive Project (see the snapshot below)

In conclusion, I wrote this long guide for my friends, piers and clients. I receive a lot of questions on how I manage so many projects, and how I can stay on top of all of them. It is hard to explain during a coffee meeting, so I created this article. If you use everything as I described, I guarantee your success. After you master everything I described, you can then build on top of it, change, or simplify it.

If you have any other idea, question and/or comment please leave them below. I would like to learn with you, and hear your feedback. I am still learning, experimenting and adjusting.