We have been using Asana for about three months for our startup project. It has helped us a lot in keeping our tasks in order and being more productive and we thought that it would be a nice idea to write a quick review about it.
Asana was created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-engineer Justin Rosenstein to facilitate task management among teams. Latest it is more and more used by the startup community to enable better communication among team members and getting things done easier. If you need powerful add-ons for Asana, we recommend Bridge24 for Asana
The Asana User interface
While Asana is easy to use, it might be difficult to start with it in the beginning. Some stuff are being done easier than we are used to and you might be looking for several buttons and choices while there aren’t that much because they are not needed. Some of the things that you have to get used to straight away are the following:
- Everything is saved automatically
- Keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time
- If you accidentally create a task, the ‘Delete task’ button is at the bottom of the page
Organization of projects with Asana
With Asana everything starts with the team (sounds cool, right?). So, in order to start a project you must first create a team. To create a new team click on the ‘Add New’ button and then on the ‘Add New Personal Workspace’ choice. You immediately have the choice to add the new team members by email whether they are registered in Asana or not. If they are not registered, they will get an invitation for registration in order to join immediately (growth hacking anyone?).
If you register as an individual at Asana you get the following structure:
or if you have signed up with an organization email (an email other than Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)
Apart from that, from the moment you signup there is a Personal Projects section that you can use for your own projects, which could be whatever, like studying, doing housework, etc.
It looks like Asana has been built with team transparency in mind. Everything inside a team is transparent to everyone. Which tasks should be done by whom, deadlines, which tasks are finished when etc. However, if you have specific privacy settings, you can always upgrade to the pro version and go with that.
Organizing your tasks
There are two basic ways to organize your tasks: Sections & Tags
By organizing your tasks by Sections you are able to drag and drop them at each section easily. For example we have created four sections for our software project:
- Current development (containing active tasks)
- Later development (containing future tasks)
- To think (stuff that we haven’t decided about yet)
- Business (business stuff)
By organizing your tasks by Tags you are able to add keywords to each of your tasks. Some tags that you might use could be:
- Difficulty of task (eg easy, medium, hard)
- Duration of task (quick, not-quick)
- Subproject of the project (eg admin section, guest section etc)
- Type of task (eg meeting, communication)
Apart from organizing tasks by sections and tags, you can always add subtasks for a specific task. For example, we wanted to introduce a new feature to visitors/users of our website that required changes both in the front end and in the back end. We named the main task as the new feature and created two subtasks: one for the front end and one for the back end.
Again with team transparency in mind, assigning tasks with Asana is extremely difficult. Assuming that each team member knows the skills of the other team members, everyone can assing tasks to everyone (using the free edition of Asana).
Tasks due date
Each task has a due date. The same can go for subtasks too. What is very important, is that Asana is very smart about email notifications. You get alerts at a normal pace if the due date has passed as a reminder. You also get alerts for same day tasks as a reminder too. I suppose that these alerts can be customized but we have found the defaults as very good to begin with. Also, there is always the Calendar view to quickly check what tasks should finish when and which are due.
Attaching info to a task
By default, a task has as a follower the creator and the assignee. However, you can add more followers to it (for example the team leader). So, whenever something changes about a specific task, everyone gets notified.
You can write as many comments as you want for each task
Asana can be very helpful if you want to attach information for specific tasks. You get four choices:
- Attaching files from your computer
- Attaching files from Google Drive (Google Docs)
- Attaching files from Dropbox
- Attaching files from Box
Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages, however, if you regularly update your documents you should go for the cloud solutions (Drive, Dropbox or Box)
Adding and managing tasks without a computer
If you do not carry a computer all the time and want to keep track of what is going on with your tasks, Asana has an Android and iPhone and iPad application that is extremely easy to use.
Also, if you want to add tasks by email you can always send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject as the Task name and body as the Task notes
Using a project as a template
Asana allows duplication of projects and tasks. That way you can create a master project that contains all the necessary tasks and subtasks and if you have repeated projects you can always duplicate that project.
The same can be done for tasks. You can create tasks and copy them if they are similar each time.
You can view more information about creating project and task templates here:
Asana support and using 3rd party templates
Asana has been widely accepted by a lot of organizations and other cloud services. You can view a list here.
Asana’s blog is constantly getting updated about advice on how to use it in order to be more productive and since a lot of people share their experiences and processes, you can get a lot of useful information about stuff that could be useful to your organization too. The online guide is also very easy to understand for everyone (even non tech stuff).
Also, a group of entrepreneurs have created http://templana.com that has a collection of Asana project templates for your projects and personal life too.
I have been using Asana for my software startup project for about 3 months and I am loving it more every day. Although in the beggining the easy user interface was a little strange to me (I am an engineer), I got used to it and have started using it with non tech people to. It seems like Asana is becoming an industry standard for task management software that would be hard to beet. The community and the integrations seem to be growing all the time making it a more confident choice for companies. The sharing of experiences and business processes through Asana, makes it a useful information pool for companies and individuals that are willing to improve their productivity.