“Did you have a chance to look at that email?”
Unsure of where to go next, my pointer hovered over my inbox.
The email my boss was referring to was a collateral piece she wanted my opinion on. I know I’d received it, but who sent it? One of the designers? Did my boss forward it? My mind went blank.
After digging through various inbox folders, I finally laid eyes on the most recent version, and we were able to continue our conversation.
If that sounds familiar, then you know the frustration of using email as a project management and collaboration tool. So stop already.
Author Robert Fritz teaches that every moment you realize you are unhappy or frustrated with a situation is “your point of power”, for now you have a clear Picture of how you don’t want things to be. Imagine the exact opposite of that frustrating situation and there you have the makings of your vision. – The Path
I imagined a tool where conversations existed in one place, instead of scattered across a dozen “reply all” emails. But does such a tool exist?
Of course it does. But the problem wasn’t finding one as much as choosing from the dozens available.
I’d used Asana a few years back and upon revisiting it, I was pleasantly surprised with the improvements they’d made. So here’s an inside look at how our team of two marketers, two designers, a copywriter, a sales director, my boss and myself use it to collaborate on marketing projects.
Setting Up Asana
The first step was deciding on the organizational structure. Asana uses the following hierarchy:
- Sub Tasks
Asana’s free version allows 15 members per Workspace. Each Workspace is a self-contained unit, so Projects and Tasks from one Workspace won’t appear in another.
This is important because if you have too many Workspaces, you’ll have to jump back and forth between each to manage all your projects. So rather than creating multiple Workspaces, I made a single Workspace called “Marketing.”
Next, I added our current projects. These appear on the left sidebar:
Setting up an inbound campaign requires the same steps every time. So I created a reusable Project named “Template” that included each of those steps as Tasks.
You duplicate the template by choosing “Use as Template (Copy Project)” from the Project menu drop down.
Tasks and Sub Tasks
Within each Project, you have the ability to create Tasks and Sub Tasks. In the next section, I’ll use a real world example to show you how that works.
Managing Campaigns with Asana
The following Project was a campaign for a webinar we offered in April. It involved five people and multiple steps. Here’s how we set it up in Asana:
You’ll notice completed Tasks are grayed out. Asana defaults to showing incomplete tasks only. But by changing the view to “All Tasks,” I’m able to see both.
On the right, you can see which team member each Task is assigned to, along with the due date.
You can also view a graph of the Project’s progress and notify your team if it’s off track.
Managing Assets with Asana
Most campaigns require assets like an ebook, CTA button or infographic. Asana integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive and Box, so attaching files from a shared folder in one of these services simplifies asset management.
Unlike images, files like PowerPoint or Word don’t display a preview. So unless you keep them in a shared Box, Drive or Dropbox folder, you’ll have to download the attached file to view it.
Using a shared folder has the added advantage of showing the most recent version.
Managing Team Members with Asana
I can view each team member’s Tasks by clicking on their icon:
This helps keep our weekly meeting to around 15 minutes, which leads into the next item.
Managing Meetings with Asana
One of Asana’s best features is its ability to associate a Task to more than one Project. This lets me create instant meeting agendas. Here’s how.
Every two weeks, I have a Smarketing meeting with our sales director to collaborate on sales and marketing initiatives. So I created a Project called Smarketing.
Tasks from other Projects that need to be discussed at that meeting are associated with the Smarketing Project:
And I have an instant agenda:
Managing Editorial Content with Asana
Here’s an example of our email marketing schedule, set up as Tasks:
The Task pane allows me to add details like an outline or notes. I can also create Sub Tasks, which I can assign to other team members.
I can view Tasks as a calendar:
Maintaining a Content Library with Asana
Asana is a great place to host an internal library of internal resources or reference materials. For example, I created a Project called “Learning Asana” to help onboard new team members. Under “Do These,” I assign tasks for new members to complete.
The remaining items are reference materials linking to pages on the Asana User Guide.
Managing Yourself with Asana
Managing yourself in Asana requires that you monitor My Tasks and My Inbox as closely as you monitor your email inbox.
Using My Tasks
In My Tasks, you’ll see all tasks assigned to you, with new tasks at the top. You can mark these for Today, Upcoming (for another day this week) or Later (for next week or after).
When managing yourself and others, keep these two points in mind:
Try not to schedule more than five tasks a day, unless they’re very minor. Otherwise, My Tasks will look like a 15-car pileup on the 101 freeway, and you’ll spend most of your time revising due dates.
Delegate if Possible
Sometimes I forget I have a team and assign too many tasks to myself, and not enough to others.
Using My Inbox
In My Inbox, you’ll see notifications and comments on all tasks or projects you’re involved in:
Just like email, you can archive these when you’re done with them.
So What’s the ROI?
By now you’re wondering if Asana’s learning curve is worth the time and effort. I don’t blame you. I’m a firm believer that any activity you commit to should produce a return on investment.
I tend to geek out over productivity hacks, so I probably spent more time in the user guide than most people need to.
But I found that the time and frustration I saved myself was worth the investment. It’s been said that the juice is well worth the squeeze.
That concludes my peek behind the curtain. Now that everyone I collaborate with is using Asana, I spend less time managing my email.
And that’s a beautiful place to be.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.