Hearing someone on your team complain that they are days behind on email is one of the most common complaints made in an office environment. Most people find that email is one of the biggest causes of lost time in an organization. In 2008, Dustin Moskovitz (of Facebook fame) and Justin Rosenstein launched a web and mobile application to allow teams to work together without wasting their time on email. They called their project Asana, and it has been adopted by some of the flashiest companies in tech. Asana works simultaneously as a communication tool and an organizer. It allows users to organize their tasks, schedule meetings and communicate with team members while simultaneously eliminating email.

A Guide to Using Asana for Increasing Your Team's Productivity

© Asana

This article will provide a brief introduction as to how Asana works and how your business can use Asana to increase its productivity. We will go through 1) what is Asana, 2) functions Asana provides that increase productivity, 3) how to use Asana for increasing your team’s productivity, and 4) examples of companies using Asana.

WHAT IS ASANA?

Asana is a software program that allows teamwork to happen in one setting. The goal of the program is to allow customers to set up independent workspaces where they can perform multiple tasks at once. By putting conversations and tasks in the same place, teams can avoid long email chains. To begin using Asana, all you need to do is sign up. To sign up, simply enter your email address or login with your Google account. Once you are registered, you can get familiar with the primary functions of Asana. There are four main programs in Asana:

  • Tasks: One of the primary functions of the app allows you to set up tasks. These tasks can be individual tasks, or they can be group tasks. You will have the option to work alone, with the people in your organization or with other collaborators who have the Asana app. To begin a new task, you need to type the task in the first line and to finish with a colon. The app will recognize that you want to start a new task and then will adjust itself accordingly. You can continue to add additional tasks within the first task you created. By clicking on each task, you can also add details and even assign it to other members in the group. Asana is a great way to alert a team member that a task needs to be completed without sending them an email.
  • Projects: Asana allows you to create projects in your workplace. Whether they are shared, or individual, the projects section of Asana allows you to access all of the details of your project in one place. Each project is assigned a color so that you can tell the difference between each project with one glance. This color also helps you organize the tasks that are in your task feed. You can assign tasks to more than one project. Tasks assigned to more than one project will be noted with two color codes- one for each project.
  • Comments: The comment feature of the application is another primary function of the software. With the comments feature, you can read and make comments on tasks and projects easily. They are all sorted into the relevant projects so you do not need to trawl through days worth of email to recall something that someone might have said.
  • Inbox: The inbox feature on Asana allows you to receive notifications and updates about the tasks that you are participating in. The inbox on Asana ensures that you are only getting the relevant notifications for your tasks and projects. This cuts down on status reports from projects that you are not associated with. In Asana’s mind, the less time you spend reading emails, the more time you can dedicate to being productive.

FUNCTIONS IN ASANA THAT INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

A new app or program that claims to increase your productivity is a tall order. For most people, a new software program is always great – but it is only great when you know how to use it effectively. Here are the five basic functions that you will embrace with Asana:

Eliminates back and forth emails. Asana’s entire ethos revolves around eliminating email from the equation. With Asana, you have the comment and inbox feature that allow you talk to the relevant parties about relevant subjects in one sacred space. Messages and comments are stored within the project. This means that you do not have to search through dozens of back and forth emails to find what you are looking for.

Organizes Tasks. Asana eliminates confusion about which tasks should be done for which project. It allows you to assign tasks to the projects they belong to. It also allows you to assign each task a completion date. If the task is to be completed by someone else, you can assign it to a colleague or collaborator through the app. You can view all of your tasks within your projects as well as in your task feed. This keeps your tasks both organized and accessible. You are also able to view your tasks by choosing one of several priorities. You can choose to view them by looking at a list of outstanding tasks or tasks that have been recently completed. You can also view tasks according to the project they are associated with. Finally, you can view tasks, according to their due date. With the day’s tasks at your fingertips, you can be assured that nothing will be left behind.

Advanced Search System. The search system on Asana allows you to find everything you need quickly. There is a search bar prominently placed on your dashboard. If you touch the arrow on the search bar, you will see the search functions. Asana allows you to search for content by assignment, by project, by tag or by keyword. They also set up suggested searches that they think might be useful. These searches include: tasks that you are not assigned to, tasks that you created or tasks that you assigned. Being able to search through tasks that you are unassociated with allows you to get a clear picture of what is happening at work without bogging you down with emails and status updates.

Sync Calendars. You can sync Asana with a variety of apps and features including your calendar. Whether you use Google Calendar, iCal or Outlook, Asana can sync itself with your calendar so that you can access both work and personal events in one place.

Focus Mode. Focus mode is a feature that many users love about Asana. If you touch the shortcut Tab X, your dashboard will show only the task you are working on. This is great for people who have several tasks on at once and feel overwhelmed. The focus mode will help you focus only on the task at hand, and once it is complete, you can mark it as finished. Then Asana will move you on to the next task.

USING ASANA FOR INCREASING YOUR TEAM’S PRODUCTIVITY

1) Making meetings more meaningful

If you have to have a meeting, you want it to be a productive one. With Asana, you can both schedule your meeting and organize it well in advance. When the objectives of the meeting are clear from the start, it is much easier to have a more meaningful, productive meeting.

  • Create Projects Dedicated to Meetings: With Asana, you can create a new project that is dedicated to your next meeting. All you need to do is create a new project and then share it will everyone who will be attending the meeting so that they can take part.
  • Create Tasks for the Meetings (Before They Happen): Instead of setting the agenda at the start of your next meeting, you can establish the desired outcomes of the meeting well in advance. This gives the organizer enough time to realistically plan the meeting. It also gives the attendees enough to give the goals consideration before the meeting begins. Creating tasks in advance will not only make meetings more productive. It will also free up the time before and after the meeting that is usually dedicated to wondering what is about to happen and what will happen next.
  • Create Notes for Different Meetings in One Space: Asana provides a new way to keep the notes from your meetings organized in one space. It keeps them organized by assigning them to an individual meeting. By keeping meeting notes together in one area, you can quickly find the notes that you are looking for.
  • Schedule Check-In Meetings: Check-in meetings can be painful but by taking the time to assess where you are, where you’re going and where you would like to be, you can use your time more productively. You can use Asana to schedule the meetings as well as post the results of each meeting so that they are available for everyone to see.
  • Schedule One-on-One Meetings: If your team is using Asana to communicate and collaborate then, you also need to make an effort to remember the importance of face time. Asana is a great way to schedule important one on one meetings. Many people dread face to face communication, but if the meeting is scheduled in Asana, then you are more likely to be prepared for the meeting.

2) Creating new projects with Asana

Creating projects for everything you do will not only help keep your organized but also help your team communicate more effectively. By creating projects for discussion, education, and inspiration, your team will find that their productivity soars.

Create Projects for Discussion and Review

  • With Asana, you can create projects for any opportunity. But these projects do not just act as a to-do list, they are also ideal for discussion and reviews.
  • If you are troubleshooting a project and you come across a viable solution, you can share this on Asana. By sharing it on Asana, you can make sure that it gets to the relevant people. Then, you can discuss its viability and even add it to the project tasks if you decide to move forward.

Create Projects to Keep Up With Competitors

You can create projects that are designed specifically to keep up with your competitors. You can consider doing this one of two ways:

  • First, you can create a project that is comprised of the latest market trends. Add articles and webpages to keep abreast of what your competitors are up to. This will allow you to gain new ideas as well as a new perspective on your business.
  • You can also use this space to work on projects or communicate with competitors. Most people have a lot to learn from their competition. Just because you work in the same area does not mean that you cannot support each other and build positive relationships.

Create Areas for Education

  • Projects do not just need to be about completing tasks in the workplace. Asana is a great place to share educational materials. Whether they are articles, videos or infographics, you can share education tools with the relevant people on Asana. With Asana, education will not get lost in an email chain. It is available at the touch of a button. You can even tag people in posts so that they can come back to the article later.
  • You might consider creating a project devoted solely to education. Whether it is general education or in a specific area, it will place learning at the forefront of your mind.

Integrate Asana with Other Products

  • One of the best tools available with Asana is the way you can integrate it with other applications and products. There are plenty of ways that you can increase your productivity by connecting your Asana account to a file storage service, your calendar, Chrome, development, and marketing programs.
  • Try connecting your Asana to HipChat, a chat room that allows you to speak to colleagues in real time. You can map your projects on Asana to chats on HipChat and keep everything organized.
  • Dropbox is built-in to Asana so you can grab files to attach to tasks easily.

EXAMPLES OF COMPANIES USING ASANA

Asana has become the productivity software of choice with the Silicon Valley tech crowd. Only a few years old, Asana has become the go-to product for some of the fastest growing tech companies in America. Uber, Twitter, Airbnb, LinkedIn Rdio and Foursquare all use Asana to keep their projects on track. Asana has an impressive retention rate – 75% of the people who take on Asana continue to use the program. Furthermore, 25% of the customers who use Asana every week also use it every day. Asana was created to slay the chain email dragon and many of the most exciting tech companies, like Udacity and Pagelines lines have hopped on board. These tech companies have also adopted new uses for their new productivity tool:

Udacity

  • Udacity‘s goal is to bring affordable higher education to the world through the Internet. Udacity is one of the champions of the MOOC (massive open online course). Udacity began by offering online courses taught by brick and mortar universities. Now, they offer vocational courses in web development, mobile development, programming and data analysis.
  • Udacity is just one of the tech companies that believe in the power of Asana. They use the program to increase their productivity, but they also use it for team bonding. Some employees use Asana to schedule mid-day exercise breaks. These breaks promote team bonding, health, and general productivity. Udacity also uses Asana to schedule fun group events like their ‘Fancy Fridays’. Fancy Fridays at Udacity happen every other week and members of the team dress up according to a pre-established theme. Scheduling Fancy Fridays in Asana lets the whole team know what next week’s theme is so they can prepare their costumes. Having it in the schedule also allows team members to anticipate it everytime they look at their task flow.

Pagelines

  • Pagelines is a web development and design agency that sells high-quality WordPress themes and plugins. In addition to selling unique, premade designs, they also teach web design to aspiring students.
  • The entire Pagelines team works remotely. Having an entire team working remotely requires serious organization to maintain productivity. This is why Pagelines adopted Asana. Pageline’s lives and breathes Asana’s mantra, and they follow one rule: if it has not been scheduled in Asana, it does not exist. They utilize the task function for all of their meetings, and they continue to add tasks at the end of their meetings.

Asana is not only a productivity tool. It is a very versatile program that helps teams work and play. You can adopt Asana to fulfill the functions of your unique tasks and projects. Whether you are an individual working with collaborators or part of a 20 person team, you can use Asana to eliminate email and get back to work.

Image credit: Asana.

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Where do you actually keep your meeting notes? Are they taken as comments on agenda items / tasks within a given meeting or as a separate document which is then linked into the meeting comments? This is an area of Asana which I am not finding very intuitive.