How I Use: Asana

Out of any type of application, task/project management apps seem to have the most variety. Everything from color styles, to major functions, and even to minor things such as swiping a task as done or checking a box - there are endless features to choose from!

When I could have any app under the sun, I went with Things. After trying dozens of apps, I decided that I liked the flexibility and layout of that one the most. However, recently I had to find an app that allows me to collaborate with others for tasks and projects (which Things does not). After a lot of searching I settled on Asana. The two main runners up were Trello and Producteev. You’ll see below why those didn’t make the cut.

Before getting into my Asana system, here’s a basic list of features that made Asana the best choice for me and might make it the best choice for you as well:

  • Collaborative (obviously)
  • Updated Often/Innovative (why I didn’t choose Producteev)
  • Repeating Tasks (why I didn’t choose Trello)
  • Saved Searches
  • Good Task Organization
  • View tasks per project or altogether

I love the concept of Trello, but not having repeating tasks was a deal breaker for me. I have a lot of weekly tasks, and a few monthly tasks and I wasn’t willing to dive into a system that I couldn’t just tell to repeat a task without some complicated 3rd party additions (I considered Zapier until I realized how much I was working to make this app work instead of it working for me).

I also really liked, and even started using Producteev, but then I realized how infrequently they update their app and how they hadn’t been keeping up with current trends. For example, they still don’t show up in the share menu for iOS, which most apps integrated over a year ago. It’s not a huge deal for now, but I personally don't want to get invested into an app that could be slowly becoming outdated. I was also finding inconsistency with receiving notifications when I was assigned a task by someone else and I cannot have an app that frequently "drops the ball”. I do really miss how Producteev handles subtasks though and wish Asana would follow suit (which they’ve made clear they won’t).

Now let’s take a look at how I use Asana. Hopefully a look at my systems will be helpful to you if you’re using, or are considering using, Asana.

GTD In Asana:

I loved using the GTD method with Things, however, I haven’t used that since switching to Asana. For those of you who use GTD, Asana does work fairly well with GTD if you have projects or tags be your context (you can assign multiple projects) and then use Saved Searches to organize context and priority.

However, for the rest of us who don’t use a true GTD method, here is my task management system using Asana.


Processing Tasks:

Even though I don’t use a true GTD method anymore, processing tasks is something EVERYONE should do. Without this step, tasks become overwhelming and you don’t know what you should focus on.

Asana handles this step perfectly because even if the task is tagged, in a project, and has a due date, it will still show up in your “New Tasks” section under your “My Tasks” until you move it to one of 3 other sections: Today, Upcoming, or Later.

NOTE: As you can see, my “Today” section is ABOVE the “New” section. This isn’t the default view but is one of their allowed “HACKS” titled “Today Above New.” (found under My Profile Settings, under “HACKS”.) I like this option because I feel like the things I’ve already decided to do today should take precedence over new tasks.

My Setup:

The way I’ve laid out my tasks is by having subsections inside the upcoming section. You can do so by hovering over the “Add Task” button which then gives an “Add Section” button. Doing this gives the “My Tasks” view this breakdown:

  • Today
  • Upcoming
    • 1st
    • 2nd
    • 3rd
    • Someday
    • Waiting
  • Later

My Setup Explanation:

Today:

Tasks that I’ve decided to do today. Some of these pop up automatically at the beginning of the day because they were scheduled using the “Due Date” feature, while others are dragged there at the beginning of the day from another section if I think I can do more at the start of a day than is currently listed.

1st, 2nd, 3rd Sub Sections:

These breakdowns are based on priority (1st being the highest priority) after what is scheduled for today. They are all my current tasks I can start without having to wait for information from someone else. I refer to these as I look to plan my week of things to do, or if I end up having a little extra time.

Someday:

These are not normally true “tasks” but more like ideas/lists I don’t want to forget, but I’m not going to get to anytime soon. Some examples would be a gift idea list for my wife or friend.

Waiting:

These are tasks that I’m waiting to accomplish for 1 of 2 reasons. One reason is that I am actually waiting to hear back someone and I want to followup with them on a specific day, but not sooner. I’ll schedule the task for a specific day, put it in waiting and will forget about it until that day when it’ll show up in my “Today” section. The second reason is for tasks that happen recurring but I want to wait till a specific day to deal with it. An example of this would be handling monthly financial tasks (bills, reports, etc) for my business, Redemption Church, or even my personal bills. Overall, everything in the “Waiting” section has a date and is not looked at until it shows up on the day I told it to.

Later:

I’ve been hesitant to use the “Later” section because it doesn’t show up on the mobile apps (iOS and Android). This bothers me because I don’t like having something unavailable to me on one platform that is available on another. Until now, I’ve used the “Recurring Tasks in LATER” hack, which would put every recurring task in, you guessed it, the Later section until it’s date came up. After posting this, and rethinking it though, I think I will be removing this setting and having ALL of my scheduled tasks (recurring, and non) in the Waiting section so that I don’t run into the issue of not being able to access scheduled tasks on my phone.

My Projects:

In general, I use projects for different sections of life, and rarely use them for true “projects”. For now, my projects consist of:

If I end up having more people join for collaboration, I would add more projects, but for the most part, I like keeping them as few as necessary.

My Favorites (AKA: Saved Searches)

One of the things I liked about Asana was it’s ability to save searches as a way to filter down to specific tasks. It’s through saved searches that you could use Asana with GTD if you wanted, but I mainly use saved searches to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Asana has an awesome search feature on the web version where you can filter tasks and conversations (task communication) by people assigned, date due, projects, tags, attachments, and more!

Although you can get endlessly complicated with how you use this feature, here are the saved searches I’ve created on the web version so that they’ll show up on my iPhone:

  • Due in 3 Days
  • Due This Week
  • Due This Month
  • Unassigned
  • No Project

These options allow me to see the short, mid, and long-term as well as make sure that every task is assigned to someone, and is properly categorized so that nothing falls through the cracks.

I make a habit of checking “Due in 3 Days” once a day to make sure that nothing will catch me by surprise, and also checking for Unassigned tasks and tasks with No Project.

Creating these searches is very easy, you just click the requirements you want to search and you’re done. Just make sure that you click the option to search ONLY incomplete tasks, otherwise you’ll search ALL tasks by default (which is not useful for most searches). The only complicated part is creating the Unassigned and No Project searches. You need to type “Nobody” or “No Project” into the “Assigned To” and “Projects and Sections” searches, which isn’t very intuitive.

The last step to save your search is to save it as a “Favorite” by clicking the clock icon, as seen below.

Last, you can rename a favorite by clicking on the arrow next to it’s name.

And there you have it! This search will show up on your mobile device!

I hope you have found this summary of how I use Asana useful. What what task management system do you use? What do you find most useful about it? If you have any questions about why I use Asana or more about how I use it, let me know. I’d love to help!

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