The teams in a growing company often find it difficult to stay aligned. Today, people working remotely need more digital tools than ever to complete their tasks, but often lack a central hub for coordinating their efforts and collaborating with colleagues and stakeholders.
Consequently, 60% of a typical remote worker’s time is spent doing tasks that aren’t part of the core work they’re hired to do, such as writing updates, attending never-ending virtual meetings, and micromanaging subordinates, rather than doing the strategic work they’re hired to do.
However, with new digital project management tools and technologies, employers can now manage remote teams for their businesses, one of such tools is Asana.
Even the free version of Asana is known for its many features, making it one of the most popular project management tools. The software can be a powerful tool for businesses with many employees, or for projects with complex workflows.
Here we’ve compiled a list of Asana’s most useful features. After you have mastered them, your project will almost manage itself. In this article, you will learn how to use Asana more effectively, whether you manage a large team or use it just for yourself.
If you read till the end of this article, you’ll become a pro in tasks, subtasks, and even the integrations many employers dread.
Table of Contents
- Getting Started with Asana
- Asana Organizations
- Asana Teams
- Asana Projects
- Asana Boards
- Asana Free Trial
- Asana Tasks
- Asana Integrations
- Communicating With Your Team on Asana
- What We Like About Asana (The Pros)
- Asana is Not for Everyone!
- Comparing Asana Basic and Premium
- Final Thoughts on Asana
Getting Started with Asana
In this section, we will cover some Asana beginner features, what they are, how we use them, and what they mean. You cannot fully grasp and use Asana without learning about these basic features;
This is the first thing you’d create when you create your Asana account. It takes just a few clicks to sign up for Asana, where you provide your work email address, name, and password. As opposed to forcing you to customize everything right away, it only asks about your goals and work. Asana doesn’t require you to sign up with a work email, but they strongly advise it. When a new user types in a personal email (such as Gmail or Yahoo), Asana presents the user with one last chance to change to a work email, illustrating why it’s better.
An Asana organization is a group of individuals who work at the same business. When you sign up for Asana using the official email of your company, Asana automatically adds you to your company’s Asana organization.
For instance, if your company’s email domain is @metricks.io, anyone who joins Asana with an email from the @metricks.io domain will automatically become a member of the Metricks.io organization.
What can an organization member do?
- Create a new team, organization project, task, and subtask
- View information about other members
- Request to join other teams within the organization
- Access projects and tasks that are public to the organization
You can also invite Organization Guests, these are Asana users who do not have your company’s official email address. These guests can create tasks, access projects tasks, and collaborate with other organization members.
Asana Teams are subsets of people in your Organization who collaborate on projects with each other. Each team has its own Members and projects, team conversations, and Team Calendar.
When a member first joins an organization, they are not automatically added to teams within that Organization; each person must create or join teams within the Organization.
You can only move a project to teams you’re a member of. You will not see the option to move private projects. A private project will need to be made public for the sole purpose of moving it between teams. Once moved, it can be made private again.
A project lets you manage all the tasks associated with a particular initiative, goal, department, or important piece of work into a list or board for easy tracking and ordering.
Here are some projects you can create for your organization with Asana;
- Product development: This project will be where all your boards and tasks related to the development of your product will exist.
- People or Human Resources: This project will contain tasks related to hiring and onboarding of new staff, training of old staff, salary tasks, etc.
- Website: This project will be where all your tasks related to your blog or website will be organized and managed such as income goals, blog subscribers, articles you are working on, published articles, etc.
- To-Do List: This project will be where you put all the different random tasks you need to do. Tasks like ‘take out the office trash’, ‘call a friend’, ‘purchase a present for the CEO’, etc may not fit into any of the more specific projects you have in your Asana organization but because you do not want to lose track of them, you should have them in a special project with boards like ‘To-Do’, ‘Completed’, ‘On-Hold’, etc.
- Someday/Maybe: This project will be where you put all your “next billion-dollar ideas.” This project would also be great for taking down notes during meetings and brainstorming sessions with colleagues and stakeholders.
Here is an Asana project we created at Metricks for our marketing and communications department.
Asana Boards let you organize your work like sticky notes that you can be moved across sections. They give you a clean, visual overview, with all the same power of a project in ListView. Add items to your board, then drag and drop to move work around or track it through multiple stages.
At Metricks, we use the following board pattern to create a journey for tasks and ultimately monitor progress.
- To-Do: This is the section containing tasks that haven’t been begun.
- In Progress: As soon as the task is started, the staff moves it from ‘To-Do’ to ‘In Progress’.
- Review: This section contains tasks that are ready for a supervisor’s review.
- Complete: When a task has been reviewed and approved by a supervisor, the assignee moves it to ‘Complete’.
- Ready to go live: This section is where we keep tasks that have been proofread and optimized for search engines and are now ready to be published, such as blog articles, social media posts, etc.
- Live!: The assignee moves the task to the section as soon as the blog article or social media article has been published and is now available to the public.
- On Hold: This is a section for low-priority tasks that could be completed anytime.
Asana Free Trial
If you decide to use Asana’s free trial, you will be asked to input your credit card details immediately which we think is a con that might discourage impatient users. You will be charged automatically after the 30-day free trial ends, so it is best you opt for the basic plan if you are not ready to make a commitment yet. The free plan offers just as much value as the premium plan.
You can create new projects, tasks, and teams when you subscribe to a plan or sign up for the trial. There is a wide variety of templates available when you start a new project to make it easier for you to set one up.
From this point, your template can be edited according to your project specifications.
The most fundamental component of project management is task management, making tasks Asana’s most predominant element. Asana tasks have a title, description, and due date. It is possible to assign tasks to team members as well as add subtasks. Remote workers and workers who work from their homes need tasks to monitor their productivity.
Some project management tools allow staff members to begin working on their tasks as soon as possible because tasks are straight to the point. In contrast, Asana’s task system comes with a ton of features densely packed within its tasks.
When you create Asana tasks, there are a few basic fields, such as “assignee” – the primary employee in charge of completing the task. Asana supports the creation of subtasks and dependencies. These are great for complex tasks or tasks that must be completed in phases or simply those that require splitting into smaller chunks. Each subtask is a full task on its own, with its own very due date, assignee, and can even have subtasks of its own.
One of the importance of adding due dates is so you can get email reminders to complete your task on or before the due date you have set.
The last step is to add collaborators and stakeholders to your tasks, they will also receive email updates on every progress or milestone your task makes or reaches.
Asana allows you to leave comments and tag your colleagues which is a great way to keep everyone in the know. Most of the interaction with your Asana task, once it has been created, will be editing, commenting, and moving your tasks around your project.
You may want to integrate Asana with Slack to have any business conversations automatically appear in the Asana project due to Asana’s wide integrations. For example, you may want all your business conversations automatically shown in the Asana project.
It is possible to integrate Asana with a file storage system, like Dropbox or Google Drive, so that the project documents are automatically displayed. This is essential because Asana’s file management is insufficient.
Communicating With Your Team on Asana
For communication within Asana, like most project management software, team members are assigned to tasks. Any changes or comments made regarding these tasks are notified to the assignee.
There is one exception, however. The Conversations view presents each post chronologically, like a Facebook timeline. This view allows for links and attachments to enhance the conversation.
Currently, Asana’s communication feature is a little underdeveloped. It doesn’t have a search function, an archive function, or a way to reorder conversations. The conversations cannot be linked to tasks or filed into categories. However, that’s still more than many other Asana-like software.
The communication needs of project management companies are typically handled by third-party integrations. While Asana includes some simple communication options, you may still need an integration for extensive communication within your projects.
What We Like About Asana (The Pros)
Clearly, no project management software can guarantee success if the human factor is ignored, after all, the software itself cannot complete projects and tasks for you, it only manages them.
There will be problems if members of your team cannot properly use Asana. You will still need to educate them to use Asana correctly. We’ve found that Asana is so intuitive, that onboarding was relatively easy among senior and new team members, for both in-house and outsourced tasks.
The first thing that users love about any digital product is the UX (User Experience) which is a direct result of the UI (User Interface). Asana’s layout is spacious and clean, the colour choices are cool and gentle on the eyes, and the animations and transitions are relaxed and don’t overwhelm the user.
Preventing this overwhelming feeling in the UX is exactly where so many other project management software fail, and Asana lives up to its name; Asana is a Sanskrit word used to refer to a Yoga pose used to establish a firm and relaxed posture. (In Persian, Āsān means “easy to do” or “easy to learn”).
The ease of access to every variable of a task with a single click, in any view or display, is something that makes a project manager’s job of re-organizing objectives, re-assigning tasks and rescheduling deadlines that much easier.
A Whole Lot of Integrations!
The list of software, apps, and services that can integrate with Asana, is mind-blowing.
Briefly overviewing the main integrations since we have discussed them in detail above, I would like to include all the popular services, such as Microsoft, Adobe and Google tools.
Asana also integrates with most of the modern digital marketing and communication tools such as MailChimp, and Hubspot Workflows. Slack. You can also integrate Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and CloudApp, among other cloud services, into your Asana organization.
At Metricks, we use Asana, and run the messaging and communications through Slack, using their own integration. The setup is slightly different in each department using it. For example, in the Content Department, we have projects set up so that they automatically require defining the content format.
Asana is Not for Everyone!
As I mentioned earlier, it is extremely important to find the Project Managing software that works best for you, your business, your team, your output, your clients and of course, your budget.
If you run a small business, you may find Asana too task-oriented for your business’ workflow.
Indeed, we all have to consider the pros and cons for quite some time before making the move and committing ourselves, and everyone we work with, to using Asana.
Comparing Asana Basic and Premium
If you’re unsure whether Asana Basic or Premium will be suitable for your business, here’s a detailed comparison of the two. We’ve been using Asana for a long time, so we’ll go over the features of both the basic and premium plans.
Asana Free is a great option for individuals and small businesses. It may be sufficient if you only intend to use it to manage a small team.
With a free Asana account, you can
- Create tasks and assign them to different members of your team.
- See your tasks in different layouts (list view, board view, and calendar view).
- Collaborate with up to 15 team members.
- Integrate with other apps, like Slack and Zapier.
- Access some free Asana project templates to outline tasks and projects faster.
- Set up your teams (e.g., HR, Marketing) and then invite the key people to each.
- Use Asana’s mobile app to manage projects while on the go (available for iOS and Android).
With Asana Basic, you can easily work with a small team, divide your projects into manageable tasks, and set deadlines for completing them. As the deadline approaches, Asana will send you email notifications to remind you to complete your tasks.
The biggest obstacle with Asana Basic is that you can’t work with a large team. You can only collaborate with a limited number of people, and you can’t create private projects.
This means that any project you create will be visible to everyone on your team. In essence, businesses with large groups or that need to create private projects and set task dependencies will find that the basic version of Asana is insufficient.
NB: The Available paid plans are Asana Premium Plan, Asana Business Plan, and Asana Enterprise Plan.
On Asana Premium, you get a host of additional features that allow more efficient management of a medium-sized team.
To help you decide if this plan is best for your business, take a look at some of the features on Asana Premium:
- Timeline: Asana Premium lets you create tasks with realistic deadlines, discover any time overlap, and make edits as needed. That means you can also see if (and where) your deadlines might coincide, which is great for planning your work.
- Forms: Forms let you collect data from team members, preventing the back-and-forth you’d have to do otherwise.
- Milestones: You can also set task milestones as important indicators of progress to help clarify project objectives and keep your team motivated. This is an important metric, considering how important it is to ensure that all team members have their eyes on the prize and understand the collective goals to work towards.
- Priority Support: Bypass the waiting line and receive the help you need if you have a query for Asana’s Support Team or need troubleshooting tips.
- Task Dependencies: Task dependencies are great for organizing projects that require a chain of tasks, as they let you indicate a task as dependent on another task and the order in which it must be completed.
- Dashboard: See a curated overview of the progress of your projects with the dashboard. This provides personalized real-time charts to help you see where work is getting stuck or off track, with the option to export to PNG and subsequently share it with stakeholders.
- Saved advanced searches: If you’re finding it difficult to sift through all your team’s projects in search of a specific entry, Advanced Search will allow you to find tasks with specific criteria and save them for future use.
Unsure if an upgrade is required for your business? Here are the most important factors to consider:
- The size of your team: Upgrade if you have projects that require more than 15 team members.
- The nature of your project: You’ll have to upgrade if your projects have task dependencies, sensitive information that needs to be kept private, or could benefit from priority support.
- The available alternatives: While Asana stock is great, you might want to check out other project management software that may serve your needs better. Give Trello a try if you think you’d be more productive with its layout and features.
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- Dashboard: See a curated overview of the progress of your projects with the dashboard. This provides personalized real-time charts to help you see where work is getting stuck, delayed or off track, with the option to export to PNG and subsequently share it with stakeholders.
- Saved advanced searches: If you’re finding it difficult to sift through all your team’s projects in search of a specific entry, Advanced Search will allow you to find tasks with specific criteria and save them for future use
Final Thoughts on Asana
At first, Asana can be overwhelming. Because there are so many default views and so many options on the menu, it’s difficult to navigate. Using the varied features available in the user interface can reduce the workload you have to do on projects, despite the UI’s many options.
The Asana review will hopefully help you get started without a problem, and you will now be able to utilize every feature to manage your projects better. If you’re still not convinced, please check out our list of Asana alternatives.
Henry is a marketing and communications specialist. He enjoys helping individuals and brands find answers to their marketing questions. He has spent the majority of his career in the SaaS industry, gaining experiences in areas such as corporate communications, digital marketing, branding, and community building.
Henry currently serves as the head of product marketing and comms at Metricks.