Click here for a checklist of the team resources mentioned in this post!
Post-it notes. Good ol’ pen & paper. Spreadsheets. Everyone has their own system for how they manage their business.
Today, I’m gifting you with a look at how my business and team is run behind-the-scenes. Hint: It’s all thanks to the online project management tool Asana and my amazing, fantastic (there’s really not enough adjectives to describe her) Brand Director, Sarah O’Malley.
Sarah’s created a super system in Asana that helps take the stress out of managing the business, and a large team—everyone knows what they’re meant to be doing, how they’re meant to be doing it, and when it needs to be done by. She also uses Asana to set out long-term business goals and map out project timelines so that we’re always staying on track.
She is simply magic and, combined with Asana, she makes all of our lives (read: my life) 10,000 times easier.
Ok, that’s enough gushing from me. Sarah’s here to give you the low-down on all things Asana: How she uses it, why it’s her favorite project management tool, and how it adds that little bit of fun in our daily work life.
Sarah, at what point in joining Christina’s team did you realize that you needed a tool like Asana?
Sarah: It was immediately apparent when I joined Christina’s team that we would need some kind of project management system to function well and keep everyone on the same page. We tried Basecamp, Trello, and even a Google Sheet until we switched everything to Asana. It’s the only one that has stuck and continues to work really well for the team.
What kinds of projects do you manage through Asana?
Sarah: We have our (massive) Editorial Calendar, but we also use it for Strategy, Graphics, Public Relations, and Instagram planning. We also have some projects specifically for certain team members as a catch-all if tasks come up that might not fit into one of the bigger project categories.
Have you tried other project management tools like Trello or Basecamp? Why do you prefer Asana?
Sarah: We tried it all! We started with Google Sheets, moved to Basecamp, tried Trello, then finally switched to Asana. But even when we were using the Google Sheets, tasks were being assigned by email and were easily lost in the shuffle with no way to track progress or follow up.
It all came down to finding the project management structure that worked best for what our team had going on. We love the way it allows you to see all of your projects at a glance in the sidebar. It’s easy to switch back and forth between the list view and calendar view, and you can see all of the tasks assigned to you in one place when you click “My Tasks” on the top toolbar. Also, from an interface design standpoint, Asana is the prettiest to look at in my opinion 🙂 I have a lot of fun with color coding!
Do you use templates in Asana? And if so, how and how do they make your life easier?
Sarah: Templates are a lifesaver. We rely on them in our Editorial Calendar project to make a copy of all of the tasks that need to get done for each blog post when we schedule a new one. Every single blog post has a dozen sub-tasks (some of which have sub-tasks), so we’d be lost if we didn’t use templates.
Do you use Asana to communicate on projects, etc?
Sarah: Yes! You have the ability to comment and tag people on specific tasks and subtasks. However, if it’s something that requires more than one or two sentences I suggest that our team members put it in Slack instead. It’s easy for those comments to get lost in Asana, especially for the team members that have multiple projects going on.
Do you use any of the fun hacks (ex. Unicorns floating across the screen when you mark a task as completed) If so, which is your favorite and what has been the reaction of your team?
Sarah: Of course! They make checking off tasks even more rewarding. I love hearing reactions from people who see the unicorn for the first time after checking several tasks off in a row. Another fun one: Press TAB+B when in Asana next time, that’s one of my faves! (You need to enable it in your settings.)
What 3 (or more!) features in Asana could you not live without?
Sarah: Calendar view, color coding, the new board feature (very similar to Trello) that we now use for the Blog Editorial Calendar. Oh and tags! Tags in Asana allow you to color code specific tasks or projects. We use this specifically to be able to see at a glance where a blog post is progress-wise. I know that when I see blue I am clear to schedule the post!
Has Asana been successful in cutting down email within your team?
Sarah: Yes! But I attribute a lot of this to Slack as well. We try to not use email unless absolutely necessary, especially when some members have an @christinascalera email and others don’t.
What changes have you seen within your business and teams, in terms of overall productivity and efficiency, since starting to use a tool like Asana?
Sarah: It took a while for everyone to get the hang of Asana, but we would be a mess without it. You’ll never have a flawlessly organized project management system, we are still working out the kinks as our team grows and goals shift. Apps and software can’t solve all the problems and last minute things will come up that might not ever make it into your PMS.
For someone who has scraps of paper lying all over the desk and a mental To-Do list, what would you recommend as their first baby step to getting started in Asana?
Sarah: Pick a tool and commit. If you’re a paper gal, that’s fine! But pick ONE notebook instead of 10 with the first few pages filled in each. I tend to use a hybrid method of both, I prefer to take notes on paper but make sure they get turned into tasks in Asana that same day. Obviously, I would encourage you to check out Asana, but some people prefer Trello, and that’s okay too! Now that Asana has Trello style boards I am totally and completely convinced it’s the winner.
My biggest tip is to have grace with yourself and your team! Creating an Asana or Trello account is not going to solve your problems. Utilizing it and looking at it everyday will! Also, what works for us might not work for you. It’s all about finding 1) what you need and 2) what works and helps you be the most productive.