I’ve decided to run this as a video series, similar to my speed reading one. Why? Because it’s easier for me and you. But for those who don’t like watching videos, I’ve also included a standard text/image post explaining how things are done.
Disclaimer: Asana is completely free and I make no money off it by publishing this video/post. The only affiliate link in this post is the link to David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which I earn a small commission from.
If you want to listen to music while learning how to use Asana with GTD – then just read the post.
One of the best things about Asana is its lightning fast sign-up process. If you’re like me and you hate long sign-up forms, then you’ll love Asana.
When you visit the homepage you’ll be presented with a nice captivating image, but the only important part is where you enter your email.
After clicking the confirmation link in the email you’ll be directed to a page asking for your name and password. You can also add a photo if you’d like (as said in the video – this is more important if you’re using Asana as part of a team).
The next page will give you the option to add team members. At the moment we’re just using Asana for self-management and don’t need to worry about this.
Finally you’ll be asked to name your workspace. Go ahead and name it anything you like (I named mine “ME”)
First Impressions and My Tasks
After completing the sign-up process you’ll be presented with the Asana interface. Of course, it’ll be empty, deserted… cue tumbleweed
The section you’re looking at in the middle of the screen is called My Tasks, and it’s the thing you’ll want to keep an eye on the most when using Asana to improve time management.
As you can see in the image above, there’s 4 different sections: New Tasks, Today, Upcoming, and Later.
These all pay respect to the GTD methodology, and if you’ve used Evernote in the past then you’ll find this type of organization familiar.
NOTE: Below the My Tasks tab is Inbox. For what we’re doing this isn’t too important as the inbox is typically used for messages and tasks being assigned to us from someone else.
Keep in mind that a lot of these ‘projects’ aren’t necessarily ‘projects.’ Calls is not a project, and neither is At Home - they’re simply ways of organizing your tasks in Asana.
I encourage you copy all the projects shown in this screencap (apart from PassiveProductive and Music Production, sorry…) I’ll just run through them briefly:
At Home - This project only contains tasks that are to be done at home. If you work from home that’s no excuse to put work-related tasks in here. Example Task: Wash Dishes
Errands: Tasks that need to be done away from home and usually require travelling. Example Task: Buy Milk
Agendas: Meetings, events, etc. These should be put on your calendar as you can’t make something time-specific in Asana – you can only give it a due date. Example Task: Business Meeting
Calls: People you need to call. You know, on the phone (you could also use this as a call/email project, or just contact in general). Example Task: Do I really need to give an example?
Someday/Maybe: These are tasks that you’d like to do sometime but they have to take the backseat as they’re not vitally important. Example Task: Visit Restaurant X
Small Tasks: These are items that don’t require more than one task to complete (aka, not a project). Example Task: Clean out email inbox
Projects List: These are items that take more than one task to complete and are NOT ongoing (if they take more than a month then I’d make a complete separate project). Example Task: Write two posts for Elance job
At Work: I’d actually recommend making a new workspace if you have a job outside of home (depending on the job of course), but this project is for all work-related tasks. Example Task: Hand in report to Boss
The bottom two are unique to each individual. I’ve included PassiveProductive and music production as I don’t consider them to be short term projects; they’re ongoing. These will generally be hobbies or side projects/businesses.
You shouldn’t really need any other projects apart from these!
One thing I’m not a huge fan of in Asana is the fact that it doesn’t automatically assign tasks to yourself, it’s more aimed at companies so it makes sense that this is the case.
If you create a task in any of your project, for example At Home, and then go into your My Tasks section – it won’t be there. The reason for this is because only the tasks that are assigned to you appear in that section.
So start building the habit of assigning tasks to your name. It’s fairly simple, all you need to do is click the little person icon to the right of the check-box, and then click ‘Assign to Me.’
After you’ve done that it’ll be in your My Tasks section, ready for you to organize it!
Description, Sub-tasks, and the Rest
This is where Asana takes lead in my opinion. The amount of information you can have for one task is amazing – of course, you could do the same in Evernote, but it’s nowhere near as good.
In this section you’ll see a number of things:
- Assign Tab
- Due Date
We can make use of all of them apart from the support and assign tab (again, really only useful for teams).
Due Date: Deadlines are important, we all know that. Make use of the deadline tool but use the today/next/upcoming/later technique where appropriate. Like I said above, Asana does not provide time-specific deadlines, start/end times, or anything else. Only due dates.
Sub-tasks: If you use a master project (which I’ll be explaining in another post) then this isn’t as important. There’s still many uses for it though!
Tags: I like to tag my tasks with various words such as: PC, Email, Home, Writing, and Research. This way if I feel like writing then I’ll click on the Writing tag and see what needs to be done.
Description: It is what it is… There’s actually another use for this which we’ll go into in another part.
Attachment: I don’t actually use the attachment function. If I need to access any other sort of material such as a video, I’ll link to an Evernote note via the description.
Comments: These are great for keeping a journal of sorts on your tasks, almost like giving yourself feedback.
You can also comment on sub-tasks, which may come in handy.
Get Organized by Marking Your Tasks
Don’t worry – you’re close to the end of the article. No point giving up now!
The last thing you’ll want to do is to put your tasks in their respective time categories: Today, Upcoming, or Later.
This is really easy to do, in fact you’ve probably already figured it out. Click the blue button to the left of a task allows you to mark it.
I like to do this at the end of the evening OR first thing in the morning. Having at least 3 decent tasks to do for Today is a good starting point.
Summary + a Few Tips
So you’ve got the basics down, now leave it. Why? Asana is a tool to help you become more productive, you shouldn’t be spending copious amounts of time on the application – just enough.
In the next couple of videos I’ll be covering more specific techniques I use to organize myself better and increase my productivity with Asana. So have a look out for those!
Below are a few tips regarding what was mentioned in this post:
- Don’t let tasks stay in your New Tasks section – you want to organize them at least once a day.
- Use an app like LastPass to automatically log yourself into Asana when you visit it.
- Make Asana your homepage
- Get Asana on your mobile
- Asana doesn’t actually make you work, so stop wasting your time when you’ve got everything sorted (yes, I know it looks nice, just go do some work).
Do you use Asana? Omnifocus? Something else? Let me know in the comments box below!