Asana is the free online project management software of choice for many small business owners. Learning how to use Asana effectively isn't without its challenges though and, like any tool, it benefits from a systematic approach.
Let's get to know Asana a little better.
There’s so much to love about Asana. . .
- The basic software is free
- You can collaborate with up to 15 people at no additional cost
- Setting up projects and tasks is straightforward
- The system notifies you of the items that are due
- There’s a phone app that allows you to add tasks on the go
However, this is just scratching the surface of Asana’s capacities.
Read on to find out how to use Asana to organize your business without spending money or time learning a whole bunch of new tools.
5 WAYS TO BEST UTILIZE THE ASANA PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
All businesses (yes, that includes yours) - require a set of essential systems for success.
1. CALENDAR, TASKS, & NEW IDEAS
Want a way out of that painful pressure you feel at the beginning of the day?
You know it well - it's the kind that comes from the long list of things that need your attention and leaves you feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start?
These are always among your least productive days! You end up checking your e-mail for new messages to “find” something to do or going on Facebook “for just a second,” only to get sucked into the black hole of pictures of happy people.
Put an end to the madness.
Create a list of core tasks that need to happen every week and create a rough schedule. It doesn’t need to be strict, but it needs to exist.
THEN, CREATE A TEMPLATE IN ASANA:
- Click on the “+” sign next to projects
- Name the project something like “Weekly Schedule Template”
- Start adding the tasks in the middle section
- If you add “:” after the title, Asana will make that title a new category (like “Top Priorities” or “Monday”). If you don’t put “:” the item will become a task.
- Save the project as a template
You can leave it at that and use it as a reference every week. Or, you can kick things up a notch by creating actual weekly schedules.
Adding the estimated amount of time it should take you to complete each task helps you stay realistic and avoid the problem of overcrowding your task list.
You can copy an Asana project the very same way you create a template.
Now you’ll be clear on your main tasks for the week AND have the most insightful weekly reviews.
EARN BONUS POINTS BY SETTING UP A “SOMEDAY MAYBE” PROJECT TO KEEP TRACK OF. . .
- New ideas
- Potential collaborations
- Improvements you want to make to your website
- Tactics to test
Revisit this project every few months to see if there’s something you’re ready to start working on. Don’t shy away from deleting something if you no longer think it belongs on the list.
We're big advocates of processing emails and getting their associated actions the hell out of your inbox as soon as humanly possible.
E-mails that require taking action don’t belong in your inbox. It’s too easy to forget about them, miss great opportunities, or wind up having to apologize for your delayed response.
Turn these emails into Asana tasks and avoid these situations. Set a deadline for responding and have the system alert you when the item is due.
Creating new tasks from your e-mails is as simple as emailing email@example.com. This e-mail is identical for all users of Asana. The way Asana knows that it’s you sending the e-mail is by associating your account with the e-mail(s) you’ve linked to Asana.
You can add as many emails as you’d like. Just remember to email tasks into Asana from an email address that's on the list.
The new tasks appear in the 'My Tasks' list of the specified Workspace or Organization. Once the e-mail (now turned into a task) is in your Asana, you can rename it, add it to a project, and assign deadlines.
Account Settings are found in the drop-down menu under your account name (found in the left lower corner of your screen).
Go create some room in your Inbox.
Building and maintaining relationships is absolutely essential to your success. We all know this, but we often get too busy to follow up and stay in touch with people.
Yes, there are lots of amazing CRM options out there, but who has time to get comfortable with yet another software and then regularly use it?
Adding roadblocks like learning new software is not the best way to stay on top of what’s most important.
You’ve got to take the most familiar route. So, why not use Asana to manage your relationships?
BEGIN WITH A “KEEP IN TOUCH” TEMPLATE. FROM NOW ON, EVERY NEW PERSON YOU WANT TO ADD TO YOUR “KEEP IN TOUCH” PROJECT CAN BE CREATED USING THE VERY SAME SETUP:
- Business: [website]
- E-mail: [e-mail address]
- Additional affiliations: [belongs/runs any other communities or businesses]
- Industry: [name of the industry]
- Additional info:
Create subtasks or pick a date from the calendar and set it up to repeat so that you don’t forget to follow up with people.
Pick a follow-up frequency that you feel comfortable with - there are certainly no hard-and-fast rules here.
So, no more forgetting to follow up with people!
Use Asana to manage your clients.
You can approach the process in a few ways depending on the type of work you do for your clients and how you work with them.
FOR LONG-TERM TIGHT COLLABORATIONS (COMMON FOR WEB DEVELOPERS AND COPY EDITORS):
it’s best to create an individual project and share it with your client.
The Asana project management platform then becomes your communication and project materials hub so that you don’t need to rely on your e-mail to keep up with things or waste time searching for the latest versions of your project documents.
FOR TRACKING CLIENT PROGRESS:
When keeping track of information related to how your clients are progressing, the project is really more for your internal use (a common situation for coaches, consultants, and social media specialists), then you can manage all your clients within a single project.
FOR KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH PAST CLIENTS:
Managing potential and past clients will be very similar to how you manage people in your network (see the previous section).
The only real difference will be the follow-up frequency. Your leads, for example, might need weekly follow ups while you might only need to check in with past clients every 30-45 days.
FOR ACTIVE CLIENTS:
As for your active clients, we'd suggest creating a template first. Call it laziness, call it efficiency, but templates are our absolute favorite time-saving shortcut.
What goes into your template depends on:
- your methodology
- the milestones you want your clients to reach
- topics you want to cover with them.
If you are just starting out, play with this structure as you work with your first clients. You can make changes as you go and perfect your methodology over time.
Use the area to the right to note where you left off the last time and the next thing you’ll be working on together. You can attach documents like your agreement or set dates to remind yourself to invoice the client.
You’re going to feel so much more in control and increase your confidence in your ability to deliver the results you’ve promised. In addition, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time someone starts working with you.
WHAT IF YOU RUN HIGH-END, HIGH-TOUCH GROUP PROGRAMS?
You can use Asana to manage them, too.
The Asana project management system is great for keeping track of your intake processes.
Create a template and copy it for every client joining your program. As each step of the process gets completed (by you or your team member), check it off and move on to the next step.
5. REPEATABLE PROCESSES
You can use Asana to manage ANY repeatable process:
- Start with a template
- Involve your team member(s) by assigning them tasks
- Make a copy of the process next time you need to go through it
- Update Asana in a timely manner as you work through the steps.
A bit of prep work, in the beginning, will save you a massive amount of time down the line.
It will also make you much more flexible and, as a result, you’ll no longer need to set aside large chunks of time to work on something.
From the moment your process is broken down into small steps, you can fit the work on those steps into your daily schedule.
Also, you won’t need to wonder if your team members have - or haven’t - done something. Just check if the item is checked off in Asana and you're good to go.
Asana is much more project management software. Approaches with systematic mindset, it can easily become your business management hub and an indispensable tool.
BACK TO YOU
Do you have any favorite uses of Asana? Which of the above suggestions do you find most useful?