Tools of the Trade: Managing Production Schedules with Asana – Asana Review

What is our biggest business goal for 2018?

It’s not traffic or revenue. It’s process.

The biggest thing that I want to do in 2018 is to develop repeatable processes for everything in my business. As we grow and scale Jeffalytics, project management becomes vital. If you don't have processes in place before you start scaling, then the business will fall apart.

All the traffic and revenue in the world cannot save you if you don't have good, repeatable process. You don't really have much of a business if it's just you putting out fires. That's just not how a well-run business operates.

I will go as far as saying that I would sacrifice revenue in order to make sure that we have the right process in place for 2018. This will mean planting the seed for us to grow significantly more in the future.

I am the master of 55% complete projects. Many projects started off with great enthusiasm and were left at the “alpha” version once something else more urgent (like putting out fire) cropped up. But you can’t run a good business when everything is an “alpha” version. You need to ship, and ship consistently. So having process in place would also mean that we see projects to completion.

When I first got started, I managed my own schedule. It started out great, but over time, output suffered as there was no accountability for delivery. The only thing that held me accountable was whether I decided that I wanted to do something or not.

No schedule = No urgency = No accountability = No delivery

As the team at Jeffalytics grew, the need for process became more apparent. The first process that we perfected was our podcast process.

The beginning of a podcast process was really just an email. An email between me and Uros, a team member. Here's one of the earliest version of our process.

That email was from two years ago. The process was a bullet-point list of the steps needed to be taken to produce a podcast episode. Each week, Uros will go through each of the items on the list and check them off.

It worked well for us for a whole year, and the Jumpstart Podcast is still the most consistent piece of content we've ever produced.

Email as a project management tool

Email worked fine as a project management tool, but only if the steps never change. But the business continues to grow, and we have 6 people on the team now. We needed something that was more flexible and repeatable. We needed something in between an 800 pound gorilla of a project management tool and post-it notes.

The 800 pound gorilla was what we used in my agency days and it's just too much to handle. The adoption gets tough. And instead of solving problems for clients or creating something new, you end up spending all your time solving problems in the tool.

Asana to the rescue

Asana eventually came to the rescue. It is a very simple project and task management tool.

Asana is the central nervous system of the business. We started slow and gradually adopted Asana into our workflow. And in 2018, we're making it the central nervous system more than ever.

I grew to love this tool as we gain more confidence working with it. We get to know it better the more we use it. And so I want to talk to you about the things I love and hate about this project management tool.

10 things I really like about Asana

1. Board view great for content projects

If you're familiar with Trello, then you'll know what boards and cards are. A board has columns that you can attach cards to. You'll move the cards across or within the column as the project progresses.

I love the board view, it's clean and works great for content projects which have stages. Each stage will be a column, and each content piece will be a card.

2. List view for our step-based projects

You can do a list view if you have projects that are based on steps.

We used this view when we produced our Agency Jumpstart Course. We start by defining all the steps needed to produce the course. We work through the project and checked off tasks.

The list view is great for complex, one-off projects that need to progress chronologically. The board view is more suited for ongoing projects like producing articles for our blog post.

3. Calendar view of entire team projects

You can also use a calendar view.

This view shows you what's happening everyday within the team. But more importantly, you can see how busy each of your team members are. The tasks they're working on, and whether they're completing their tasks or having a backlog of unfinished tasks.

4. Keep meeting notes and assign tasks

Here's a cool tip for using Asana in meetings. We keep meeting notes and assigned tasks during the meeting right within Asana.

We start with scheduling the meeting, and then building out the meeting agenda in Asana. We'll talk through the agenda and identify who should do what. We'll discuss the due dates for when the tasks should be completed. So we're building and assigning tasks and due dates as we go along.

We use this method to inform and update team members who were not present at the meeting. We also do it to create reminders for team members, i.e. to share something they're working on.

This helps us to not let things slip through the cracks. If you say “yes, I'll do that” but didn't write it down, and if you're going from one meeting to another, things can easily slip through the cracks.

But if we assign names and due dates right away, the task/ reminder will show up in task list, and there's more accountability. This has helped me countless times and has worked really well for our team.

5. Tag tasks to easy organization

Tagging makes it easy to find things.

We do tagging for our 90 day challenge. As we have a different type of content for each day of the week, our tags reflects this.

By clicking on the tag, you can see everything with that tag.

6. Bulk edit due dates

You can bulk edit due dates by selecting multiple tasks and changing the date just once.

We build buffer in our schedules to accommodate for production bottlenecks.

For example, due to an emergency, I wouldn't be able to complete the 4 tasks on Monday. I'll select all 4 of the tasks and move them to Wednesday. It helps that we've built bugger in our schedules to accommodate for small shifts like this. With this nifty trick, I'll be able to keep honest with the team with the schedule.

7. Integrated time tracking available

If you want to do time tracking, you can put it right into Asana. You can track how much time is needed for the tasks and will be use that information to plan and manage resources for future projects.

Tracking time also lets you know what it's profitable and what's not, and you can do that right within Asana.

8.Integrates with Zapier – 1,000+ Zaps!

Asana also integrates with Zapier, which is one of my favorite tools of all time.

With this integration, the possibilities are endless with what action happens in your business. Zapier allows Asana to communicate with 1,000+ apps, with limitless

9. Tons of App Integrations

On top of the Zapier integration, there are many native app integrations in Asana as well.

There's an app directory that you can search and tap into all these native apps. We've used many of these integrations to connect different apps in our business. It really works well for us.

10. Easily attach files to projects

You can attach files to your projects from any online drive.

When we produce video-based content, we'll attach raw and in-progress video files in Asana. Team members will be able to quickly identify the files related, instead of ploughing through Dropbox folders to find it.

If you're attaching the files from an online drive, Dropbox for example, you're not uploading it to Asana's servers. But instead, the attachment about linking the task up with the file. This is great as you're not wasting bandwidth uploading the files twice.

Another great thing is that the files (from online drive) attached are automatically synced and are kept up to date.

The 6 things about Asana that frustrates me

Not everything is great about Asana. Some features annoyed me and my team almost on a daily basis. Many are easy, no-brainer fixes. And it frustrates us further that Asana is unable to provide these fixes.

I genuinely hope that Asana will read this and offer some solution.

1. Notifications for everything

Asana has one of the worst notification systems ever.

I often get 99+ notifications. Why?

Every time a due date is changed, a card is moved, a task is completed, or other actions that don't affect my task much is taken, I'll get a notification.

It's frustrating because I can get 100+ messages in my Asana inbox overnight if we're in a project planning phase. We move things around frequently as we're developing the plans.

2. Over communication on tasks

Asana, I really don't need or want to know everything. Just tell me the important stuff.

The problem with Asana's over communication is we get extremely overwhelmed as we cannot possibility work through 100+ messages. So we end up archiving everything just to get it over with.

If everything is important, then nothing actually is.

3. No way to see just @jeffsauer messages

As my Asana inbox gets flooded with 100+ message, I can't see messages that genuinely concerns me like a mention. A mention that need my attention and response.

There's no filter, no tabs, no switch to turn on/ off based on the type of messages and get only those that actually matters.

4. Limited email notification settings

As for email notifications, there are some settings to tinker with. But it is very limited.

Again, because the system cannot classify types of messages more granularly, I've turned off the notifications altogether to avoid the 100+ messages flooding my actual inbox.

This also means that I'm missing out on messages that mentions me. I want to know if a team member is talking directly to me, and I want to be notified for that.

5. Can’t prioritize tasks easily

You can't prioritize your own tasks in the task list.

Prioritizing is how we get things done, and how we get through our work days.

With Asana, I can have 20 tasks that need to be checked off in particular day, but I have no say in organizing which needs to be tended to first.

It's odd that there's no option to mark priority in a tool that is aimed to help you get things done.

There's no sense of which task is the most important, and needs to be done first. Everything gets treated the same and it becomes overwhelming.

6. Can’t use relative dates in templates

The last thing I don't like about Asana is that you can't set relative dates in a template.

We usually create task or card templates for repetitive tasks like producing blog posts or weekly podcast episodes. Asana doesn't allow you to add relative due dates in the templates.

So in order to create a new task from the template, we need to add new due dates for each of the subtasks every single time.

I can only imagine that this is a standard enough option in project management tools, but Asana just doesn't do it.

This is again a pretty easy feature to fix. It would save us maybe a 100 hours a year if we could do relative due dates.

So please fix that, Asana.

I love Asana, but there are some lacking features that I'm very hopeful they can fix.

But with it's limitation, I still do recommend that you give Asana a try. It doesn't matter where you are in your project management process. We started our process with just emailing and graduated to a lightweight yet robust project management tool. If I had known about Asana from the beginning, then I would've skipped the email step and progressed even faster.

It's that good. Try it now.

This video was episode 21 in our 90 Day Challenge digital marketing series.

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