Asana – the future of team project work?

May 7, 2012

I recently discovered Asana. On their web site they say “We’re building the modern way to work together, a fast and versatile web application that connects everyone with what’s going on, their shared priorities, and who owns each part of the effort.

My one sentence summation is Asana is a revved up web based task list for teams. It’s simpler, but it also seems cleaner, than the 37signals Basecamp product. And you know I am a big fan of Basecamp.

Asana is fast and easy to use and anyone that can browse the web should be able to use Asana. Asana has made it very easy to create a work space then create projects under that work space. Under projects you create tasks. You can assign tasks to individuals (even if they haven’t signed up for Asana yet), assign due dates, attach files, assign followers of that task, and add notes. Assigned team members or followers can add comments to a task. And you can easily see the history of the task. You can create new tasks via email and the keyboard short cuts are a great time saver.

Asana also has apps for iOS and Android. I am using the iOS app on my iPhone and iPad and the apps give you all the functionality of the web based version.

I am using the standard (free) version of Asana which allows up to 30 members. For $100 a month you can upgrade to a premium workspace for up to 30 members that has project level features and priority support. For $300 a month you can have up to 50 member, $550 allows up to 75 members, and $800 a month allows up to 100 members.

Asana is missing some of the features of more mature products – you can’t assign a milestone date to a project (you may be able to do this with a paid plan?), you can’t see all late tasks for a project (you can see late tasks by person), no association of tasks to each other (IE predecessors), no threading of notes, no way to see all attached files across a workspace, etc.

And of course the big weakness of Asana, and honestly all project task lists, is you have to 1) put in all the tasks and then 2) maintain it. The tasks have to be actionable, but you don’t want to overwhelm the team members with minutia. Also, the team members have to agree to participate. A task list that never gets up dated isn’t helping the team get the project done. That was one of my biggest issues with Basecamp – getting all team members to consistently mark off the tasks they had done. Even with reminder emails, I ended up having to go over the tasks in our team meetings. With Basecamp, and I’m sure with Asana, it was quick and easy to walk through the open tasks, but still it wasted time in a meeting instead of freeing up that time to do “real” work.

Asana is cool, and they are getting a ton of buzz right now, but they are trying to break into a pretty crowded space. There are many other completing tools out there (Basecamp, Producteev, Zoho, Jira, even MS Project, etc). But if you are working on a team project with less than 30 members and want to improve your efficiency and communication I say try out the free version. There is very little to loose and maybe a lot to gain.


And, for my own personal task list, I still love Omnifocus.

I saw your email, but I didn’t read it.

March 13, 2012
That is a real quote someone had the nerve to say to me: “I saw your email, but I didn’t read it.” And this was while I was doing them the favor!
I tried to respect this persons time, so I had sat down before our meeting and wrote up a list of everything that needed to be done before our meeting to make us as efficient as possible.   I even put in details on what we would be doing and tried to answer questions and concerns I thought that might come up.  Then in the first 5 minutes of the meeting it became clear that the person hadn’t read my email.  Then he just fessed up with a “I saw your email, but I didn’t read it.”
Guess I have to respect the honesty, but needless to say our meeting took much longer than it needed to.  And I don’t know how many other “favors” I’ll do for him in the future.
Please don’t be that guy.

Should I even be doing this?

August 3, 2010
Everyone I know is too busy.  Work is crazy!  Too much to do and not enough time.  Heck, that is true for life in general now!

The question (that I don’t ask myself enough) to ask is “Should I even be doing this?”
Why am I doing this task in the first place?  Am I doing this because it is a habit now? Or, the last person in this job did it?
Who is consuming the output of the effort?  Do they derive a value equal or greater then the effort that goes into doing the task?  Or does it end up an unread email in someone’s inbox?
Is there someone better suited to do this?  Either better skilled? Or at a more appropriate pay grade (up or down)?
Can I make it more efficient?  Am I attending a regularly scheduled weekly hour long meeting? That is 50 + hours a year!  Can you honestly answer the question of “what is the value you bring to yourself, your team, or to the meeting?” Do you like the answer?  If not, why are you going?  Can you just stop going?  Will anyone notice?
Ok, maybe you can’t just stop going…  But is there an agenda?  I bet there isn’t.  Can you ask the leader to create one from now on?  Can you attend just part of the time? Or actually, do everyone a favor – is there a way to make the meeting only 30 minutes?  I have learned that meetings expand to fit the time allotted.  Allot less time!  Can you do the meeting in 15 minutes? How about 10?
I have said it before – email isn’t work.  Turn off your email client and get real work done!  You might be surprised at how much you can do when you aren’t distracted!  Try checking email just on scheduled intervals – maybe first thing in the morning, lunch, mid-afternoon and then right before you leave.  Instead of spending half your day on email, you are now only spending 30 minutes to an hour a day.  You just gained 2 – 3 hours!
Do you have an agenda of what you want to accomplish each day?  You are pretty much guaranteed not to get it done if you haven’t thought through what it is you need to accomplish.  It is easy to spend your day in endless meetings and checking email if you don’t have a clear picture of what you really need to accomplish.
So next time you think you are just too busy and it is impossible to do all the work you have, ask yourself “Should I even be doing this?”
Helpful external links:

Does your company have too many people paid to say “No?”

August 2, 2010
Does your company have too many people paid to say “No?”

Is it harder then it should be to get simple things done?  Have employees been trained that it is impossible (or at least hard) to make change or to improve things so they have given up (think most Federal Government jobs)?  Talk about killing innovation!  When it is hard to even get your job done and to make incremental change, why would anyone be crazy enough to try to innovate?
Some companies just seem to slide into a culture of No.   “No” is safe.  It is easy to say “No, you can’t do that. Convince me why we should.”  They exert their power.  They may even get patted on the back for saving the company money (at least in the short term).  Good thing you shut down that crazy idea.
Soon everyone becomes a road block. The company is able to cut short term expenditures, but there is no growth.  Even if the leadership talks about grand vision and goals, if they don’t change the culture of No it will never happen. That vision will be killed by 100 little No’s from everyone “just doing their job.”  Then management will wonder why that grand idea didn’t come to fruition. Must have been a failing on how it was implemented, right?

Maybe it’s time to convert some of those “No” people into “How can we do that?” people?

%d bloggers like this: