Asana is Why Blu's task management platform. We use it to create, track, assign, discuss and complete every task. Asana is flexible and feature rich which makes it intimidating at first. There's no definite way to use Asana correctly. To get full value requires upfront effort and a willingness to agree on conventions to standardize it's use.
We wrote this guide to explain how we use Asana and designed it as a reference for our team. We have published it for other firms that may find it useful. We integrate Asana with Slack, HourStack, and Google.
Table of Contents
3 Key Take-Aways
1. Watch the intro video
Watch the intro video from Scott for how we use Asana within Why Blu.
2. Turn off email notifications
To speed up Asana adoption, everyone to turn off email notifications to get used to relying on the Asana inbox.
3. Attach documents from Drive
Never attach files from your computer, always attach from Google Drive.
How we organize tasks in Asana
It doesn't make sense for us to create hundreds of projects so we redefined Asana's conventions. Projects are used to slice tasks into multiple views to help team members complete tasks and team leaders manage projects. Tasks represent client engagements (e.g., tax returns) and sub-tasks are the steps needed for each engagement. Each task is often times placed into multiple projects. Projects are placed under one of four different teams outlined below:
The heart and soul of the firm is kept here in team #why-blu. We have our manifesto, permanent information, resources, tax knowledge databases, and SOPs. All are important and I want to focus on "Meet the team" (MTT). MTT is a wonderful project to make the remote world more personable and humanize our digital bodies. Every new team member completes a column of the MTT as part of their new hire onboarding template (see #wb-hr). We also diligently update profile photos across all platforms (Slack, Asana, Google, etc) and meet in person annually.
wb-management is the major "day-to-day" team for our Asana projects and tasks. All accounting and tax work is in this team. Projects here allow us to slice and dice how we see tasks into multiple views. Projects are:
we also manage tax returns from a board view, we can see the ultimate due date of the project as well as it's current status from a high level.
Our templates are listed out and also linked to their corresponding project (tax template also sites in #wb-taxes under section "templates"). You'll notice the two tax templates here are also at the bottom of #wb-taxes pictured above.
Every client has their own project here. The client project is broken into three sections: background information, accounting, and tax. A team member can go to any client and instantly have background notes on the client and know what accounting and/or tax projects are active. Every task inside a client project is assigned to another project as well (e.g., #wb-taxes). The client project's view is a way to see all types of projects by client name where as the #wb-taxes project is a way to see all tax projects across clients.
The client project naming convention is all lower case if one word. Or if two words, the first word is lower case and second is upper (e.g., whyBlu).
Under background is a task "#team-client's slack channel name" which is the same name as their slack channel. In that task are background notes and contact information for the client. That task is also linked to project "Clients (Consolidated)", under team #wb-clients. The consolidated project shows us all clients and their background task on one project screen (instead of having to go through each client project to access).
The human resources team holds our project template for onboarding new team members, project templates for firing (make sure everything is turned in and turned off), and projects for our team member's 1:1 meetings with Scott. I Included a screenshot of a template 1:1 Agenda. You will add items to "Discuss this week" often by adding a task in another project also to this project so we can discuss together (if not time urgent).
Notifications, assignees and followers
Turn off email notifications
To speed up Asana adoption we encourage everyone to turn off email notifications to get used to relying on the Asana inbox. Go to Asana's Guide and search CTRL+F "Turn off Notifications" and follow their instructions.
Your Asana inbox
You can see all activity related to your tasks in the “Inbox” view. When you limit email notifications, you need to be very conscientious to check your Inbox view on a regular basis - at least a few times per day - to make sure you don’t miss anything.
The primary person responsible for a task.
People who want to / should be notified of changes to a task and/or comments added. They will get notifications via their Asana inbox (because email notifications should be disabled).
Who receives task notifications
Only the assignee and any followers will receive updates made on the task.
Workplace organization by color
Color Code Projects
We use color codes to make it easier to identify project categories. Our four color codes match our firm colors (with one exception for gold): blue, gold, orange, green. All projects under #why-blu are blue, #wb-mgmt is a mix, #wb-clients is primarily blue (one gold for the consolidated list), and #wb-hr is all blue.
Staying on top of your responsibilities
Mark tasks with deadlines as complete when done
Asana is the place where Scott and team leaders go to see the big picture of what’s being worked on and what has been completed. We go to HourStack to see what each individual has scheduled. Make sure to mark tasks complete in Asana as you finish them, so it’s apparent the task has been completed.
This is the best place to see all of the tasks / responsibilities assigned to you.
“To-Do” and “By Due Date” views
These are the best two ways to use your “My Tasks” inbox to prioritize your work: “To-Do” View - Let’s you drag and drop all tasks in an order of your preference to prioritize as you see fit. Remembers your task order the next time you sign in to Asana. “By Due Date” View - Shows all your tasks that have due dates, prioritized by the soonest due task.
Use our timesheet to schedule your week based on your Asana tasks. This is great for daily checklists and keeping productive. See our blog post guide to HourStack.
Add due dates - Even if not time sensitive
Because there are “As-Needed” SOPs that can clutter up your My Task view, sorting by date to see what tasks you really need to get done can be very helpful in prioritizing.
You can also use Asana for personal tasks, but please create your own personal workspace for that. To do that, click on “Why Blu” at the very top right of the screen, then select “Personal Projects”.
Asana tips & tricks
Shortcuts are your friend
Tab+backspace quickly deletes a task.
Tab+T to add a tag.
Check out more shortcuts from Asana.
Assign tasks during onboarding
We give everyone Asana tasks as part of their onboarding so they start using the platform immediately. Example onboarding tasks we'll assign include "Review and sign company handbook" and "Turn off email notifications in Asana".
Tasks should belong to multiple projects
We often put tasks in multiple projects. Most team members only care about a limited set of projects (i.e. tax tasks). To better coordinate and manage tasks, we categorize tasks in multiple projects so that relevant people can quickly view them. For example, a tax task would be in "#wb-projects" and "#wb-taxes" and "client project". A team member looking at all open projects across tax, accounting, and clients would see it in "#wb-projects" and someone looking at tax tasks only in "wb-taxes" sees the task, or a new team member reviewing a client's open tasks can see it in the client project.
Encourage task creation via other channels (e.g., Slack)
We encourage each other to create tasks Asana when they're identified via another channel (i.e. in person or Slack). Usually, this is as simple as saying "Can you make a task in Asana and assign it to (me, yourself, another person)" or use /asana slash command in Slack’s message input box to perform quick actions in Asana from Slack:
Hacks allow you to try out experimental features that may or may not stick around. Check them out in Asana. Go to the Hacks tab of your Profile Settings to enable or disable any Hack. Click the Reload to Apply Changes button to save your changes.
Since Asana is more complex than other task management platforms, it's common for new team members to embrace it reluctantly only to become emphatic proponents within a few weeks. Without Asana, and our conventions for using it, we wouldn't be able to gracefully coordinate and grow a remote team. As we continue to grow a our documentation and conventions will continue evolving. While Asana is a big help, it can just as easily become a big mess without care to keep it well organized.
Get started with Asana by Asana
Asana Hacks by Asana
How to ease your team into Asana with Paul Minors by Asana
How Individuals Can Get Started with Asana by Paul Minors
Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
E-Myth by Michael Gerber
Built to Sell by John Warrillow
Work The System by Sam Carpenter