Getting Organized in Asana

Get a team of hardworking people together and one of the first major debates will be What project management tool should we use?

Well, let's start with the things we do know...

  • We need to collaborate.
  • We need to create a list of trackable tasks.
  • We need to know who's doing what.
  • We need a repeatable process.

    And then the things our team tells us...

  • It needs to be visual.
  • It needs to be simple to understand.
  • We should feel like we know what needs to be done and in what order.
  • It definitely shouldn't be ugly.

    OK, team, we are still pretty much nowhere. We'll google it. We'll ask all the folks on our community answer forums and Slack channels. We'll tweet it. But at some point, we're going to have to just try something.

    Productivity and project management tools never feel intuitive until after you've spent some time actually using them. And that makes it tough on the team leader who is working hard to deliver to her crew all the tools to feel supported, directed, and accomplished.

    Friend, I've used a lot of productivity tools and they all have their benefits. But today, I want to help you get your team organized on Asana. And I'm not going to bury the lede: the secret to understanding Asana is to understand the Workspace.

    Get Started: Set up your Workspaces

    In this example, AD Consulting has gotten started on Asana. Psst: Asana offers a default additional Workspace called "Personal Projects" to help you understand that you could also use this to get your personal life or household in order. To be honest, I think this adds confusion in the initial setup. I suggest you ignore that section until you become an Asana Power User.

    1. Create a New Workspace. AD Consulting needs to manage a lot of different moving parts: requesting upgrades and bug reports on the website, managing outside sales contracts, creating marketing intiatives, and managing the various social accounts for their clients. It would be confusing to see projects and tasks that involve the dev team, the PR team, and the sales team all in one place.

    Hence, the Workspace.

    Create a Workspace that gives a name to a particular group of people who have a common goal. Maybe this is the Sales Team, the Marketing Department, or the Engineering Circle. This Workspace will gather all possible Projects folks with those roles will participate in. (Here, AD Consulting created a Product Workspace where it will track website updates and bug reports.)
    It's very common that multiple members of your team will participate in multiple Workspaces, however, there will also be some folks who don't need to be added to certain Workspaces. Invite those who need to get started right away. You can always add folks later, or invite guests during special projects.

    This is a little different than advice you might see in other tutorials. It's true that you can create additional Workspaces to manage different companies you work with. But that's not the only benefit of Workspaces. I believe that organizing all of the Projects that fall under just one of the business's major priority areas separately from each other is what keeps folks efficient and productive while working in Asana.

    NOTE: Asana offers the option of Workspaces or Organizations. You can opt to utilize an Organization, which means that anyone who has your organization's email domain will also be able to be a member of your Asana setup.

    You can still invite guests and vendors in to collaborate with your Organization on Asana. Your individual units will then be called Teams, and not Workspaces. You'll toggle between Teams on your Dashboard as in the image above (You're looking at the Marketing Team and its Projects.) All of these tips will still apply; just swap the title "Workspace" for "Team". Personally, I like the Workspace setup. (Yes, I still personally prefer the "Workspace" option even when the bulk of the team has the same email domain.)

    2.Create More Workspaces and Customize them. Your workflow might mean that different Workspaces operate and appear a little differently from each other. The manager or team leader for that group should decide how best to organize their Workspace.

    By the way, you might realize that... Wait, there really is no reason to have an entire Workspace named "AD Consulting" (or insert name of your company here.) That's weird. Let's rename that "Operations", and we will manage the financial, legal, and HR type items there.

    To change the name of a Workspace, follow the Workspace menu down to Settings (in this example, AD Consulting Settings), and change the name of the Workspace. You can manage the members here too.

    So, back to the Workspaces you're creating. What else will you need? Product, Marketing, what about Sales? The Sales team probably manages their pipeline with a CRM tool, but what happens once they need the rest of the company to deliver on whatever they've sold?

    Let's get the Sales team set up with a Sales Workspace, and maybe they will want this space organized by creating a new Project for each lead. So, perhaps as they close each deal with that lead, the Task area will give them a step-by-step checklist for uploading the contract, the brand assets, and the deliverables before assigning them to other folks within the company.

    Keep going and create a new Workspace for each organizational unit.

    Look at You! Now Add Projects

    Remember, the names of Projects will vary depending on what makes the most sense for this particular collaborative unit. In this example, we are assuming the Sales team is going to organize by client or lead.

    1. Create a Project. In the left dashboard, go ahead and use the + to add in the names of all the different Projects that will provide the hierarchy and context for further tasks within them. And if you want to organize them by importance, date, or alphabet, just grab the name of the Project and move it where you want it in the stack.

    Project names can be whatever makes the most sense for that team.

    2. Organize Tasks in each Project. OK, check out some magic here. You can Add a Task or Add a Section to break up the tasks within a project a bit. Sections can organize Tasks within a project by timeline, small group, idea type, or whatever you can dream up.

    The default view when you click a Project will show what looks like a blank notepad with the option to Add Task. If you hover to the right of Add Task, Add Section will appear. You can click either of those buttons or you can just start typing on one of the lines.

    Start typing. Typing anything and hitting "enter" will create a task. It will have the same effect as if you clicked "Add Task." But, typing something and finishing it with a colon will create a Section when you hit "enter". (If you really wanted a colon in your task, all you have to do is enter "space" and it will obey.) Notice below that "Contract" "Assets" and "Deliverables" are each Sections, and you can add Tasks that are organized underneath them accordingly (just hit "enter" to create some space.)

    The Sales team has come to agreeable contract terms with Microsoft, so now it's time for Greg to add his signature. Sales will attach the contract to this Task and give Greg a due date. When he checks this Task as complete, it can move forward through the rest of the process. This process can be exactly duplicated for every single Project by clicking on the Project and opting Use as Template (Copy Project) in the Dashboard. Cool, huh?

    Step it Up and Really Hack those Tasks

    Look into the roles that everyone was hired to do. Let that inspire you to think of the ways that Workspaces, Projects, and Tasks can be organized. I like keeping all of these things siloed in different Workspaces so that they don't distract from productivity. Even if you're wearing a ton of hats, you can put just one of them on by selecting a specific Workspace and checking your Asana Inbox (it's at the top of your Asana screen) for updates before prioritizing your work.

    Deciding on how to organize Workspaces, Projects, and Tasks should be inspired by the roles that you've identified within your organization.

    Example: Your team of content creators can get organized in their own Workspace if they are really working on varied types of Projects, or maybe they will have one Project within the Marketing Workspace that's simply organized with Sections. You can add your own flair in a lot of ways. And speaking of personalization, you don't have to utilize the Personal Projects Workspace in order to manage stuff that's on your own radar.

    1. Add a Description. So you've created a task. Click on that Task and your view will switch to show a pane that displays a place to enter context around this assignment. Give the assignee everything they need to complete this task, whether it's an attachment, a link, or what it was you were thinking when you created this task.

    The content team is really thinking up some crazy stuff.

    2. Complete and Assign the Task. You can assign the task to the person who needs to complete it, or, you can hack this process for your own needs and come up with your own process for assignment. Asana gives you the option to add both a due date AND the time that it's due, if needed. And, you can add Followers to the Task so that other folks can chime in to help or follow up with their teams to keep this Task on track. Scroll down below the Comments field on the Task pane and you can click to add followers from your organization.

    3. Manage People. Speaking of managing your own radar, here are a few options for creating a taskmaster space for yourself, your team, or others who may not actually be part of your organization. This is another example of how the content creation team might get organized.

    Perhaps they manage guest posting for folks who aren't actually in their organization, and they are in charge of managing their own time. Maybe they create one-off items or are only occasionally available. The content team is still going to keep track of what they've been assigned and how well they are producing. Or, imagine this is a list of social media accounts being managed for several different corporate clients. This is a good way to keep it all sorted.

    For a team of staff writers, however, they might like to have a combination of their own ideas to manage in addition to assignments that come from management. No reason not to simply create Projects with each of those writers' names, where Sections and Tasks can still be used together to organize and prioritize what they're going to do! So, in addition to the other Projects that need managing in the content and editorial department, the staff can manage their own ideas too. Within Janet's Project, she might organize her tasks according to topic. Within Chris's project, he might manage according to day. Harriet might be the writer who creates all of the sponsored content, so her Project space will be organized by client. All of this can be done by referring back to Sections and ordering Tasks under each Section.

    It's Time for Magic

    You're all ready to get going on Asana. There are still plenty of amazing things to discover within the product. Keyboard shortcuts, tagging (of people or topics!), subtasks, attachment search, assignee search, notification management, unicorns, and rainbows are all waiting to help you unlock productivity. (Try it - I'm not kidding, and that's an actual promise.)

    As your team is adopting any new collaboration tool, do as your tenth grade Spanish teacher did, and reply to all requests to go to the bathroom with "En EspaƱol, por favor." No wait, not that. Have a kickoff meeting and agree upon the best way to remind each other not to send task requests via Email, Slack, text message, G-Chat, post-it note, or any other of the tools you relied on previously.

    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Will Durant

    In order to get in the habit, it's got to be in Asana. That way, No Task is Left Behind! So, try it out, and then please tell me! Did you find any new ways to organize your team? What other collaboration tools do you use? Did you opt for the Organization format rather than the Workspace format? Are you still getting too many Asana emails? Let me know! I can help with that.

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