There are many tools out there for project management and Asana is one of our favorites; it even made the top five in the roundup of the best project management software. Getting started with new software is easier if you have a few pointers, so we’ve put together this Asana beginner’s guide to help you on your way.
Asana gives you a simple way to organize your projects and keep your management-related information in one place. That information can be shared with everyone on your team, so they can see the big picture while getting the details on what they are doing themselves.
It allows you to manage the tasks that relate to your project, giving you a way to assign them to different team members, as well as keep tabs on what has been done and what still needs doing. You can also keep track of the discussion around a particular task.
You can manage project deadlines and view them on Asana’s timeline and calendar views, which give you a good overview of how your project is going. It can also help you figure out where improvements can be made and identify potential problems.
We’re going to go through the basics and explain how to do common tasks. We’ll also briefly explore what else is available and look at Asana’s more advanced features.
Getting Started with Asana
Signing up for Asana is a breeze. Click “start free trial” at the top right of its website and enter your email address. After a brief wait, you’ll get an email and can then sign up with your name and password. You can add a profile at that point if you like or wait until later.
One you’ve done that, you’ll be asked to enter your team name and details. Then, you get the option of inviting team members. Next, you’ll be sent to the credit card entry screen to set up payment for when your trial ends.
You don’t have to enter a credit card at this stage, though. You can click “continue” to go to the free version of the software. It pays to be careful when using your credit card online. Our feature on cybercrime can give you a few tips for staying safe on the web.
In addition to being available in the browser, you can use Asana on your Android or iOS device.
Once you’re in Asana, the first thing you’ll want to do is create a project.
To do that, click the big dotted square with “new project” below it and then fill in the form that appears. You have the choice of using a blank form and doing everything from scratch or picking one of several templates. You can also import a project from a .csv or Excel file, as well as connect Asana to another tool and import that way.
Setting up an Asana Project
To start from scratch, you need to give the project a name. Choose its layout, which can be a list or board. Then, set its privacy to be visible to you only, project members or the whole team.
The first time you create a blank project, you’ll see guidance text at the bottom of the screen that will take you through the basics of using Asana. It gives you tips on how to use its features, as well as more general advice on how to make your projects succeed.
If you want to start with a template, there are free options for regular users to choose from. Premium members get a wider selection, as well as the option to set up custom templates.
If you import, you can use a spreadsheet file as the source or connect Asana to a range of tools to share data with it.
Adding and Organizing Tasks and Sections
Asana’s lists are divided into sections that contain tasks. To add a task, click the blue “add task” button and give it a name. A box will then appear to let you add more details.
You can assign each task to a particular user. Users are color coded, so you can see who needs to do what. You can also add a due date and task description. Each task has a comments thread and you can tag users in these if you want them to get a notification when you make a comment.
Tasks are divided into sections. They can be added by clicking the “add section” button. As with tasks, you can assign someone to each section and add a due date or comments.
If you want to rearrange things, tasks can be dragged from section to section. They have a handle to the left of the tick icon that appears if you hover the mouse over it.
Mark a task as complete by clicking on the tick or “mark complete” in the detailed view that appears on the right when the task is highlighted. You can do the same with sections.
You can keep an eye on what has been done by clicking the task view icon at the top right of the list window. That lets you see all the tasks, whether complete or incomplete. They can be sorted by date or assignee. There are a few options in the dialogue to play around with, so you can control how the information is presented.
When you are working with Asana, you might experience an occasional surprise. Tick enough tasks off and you’ll see a colorful creature hurriedly scamper across your screen. That is one of Asana’s celebrations, which are a fun way to reward you for getting things done and give the tool a welcome injection of personality.
We’ve seen unicorns, a narwhal and something that looked like an exotic sheep so far, but there are surely more things to be found. It’s a bit silly, but will strike a chord for some.
Building Your Team
Once your project is set up, you can invite additional users by clicking the “share” button at the top of the screen. Enter the emails or names of users you want to add, then decide if they need to have edit access or just the ability to view and comment on the project.
If you’re new to using online tools to support your team, our article on the best virtual team software tools might be helpful, too.
Viewing Asana Tasks
Aside from the list view, there is a timeline view, though it is only available to premium users. You can move tasks around in it and check for dependency conflicts.
The calendar view gives you another way to see when things need to be done. Again, tasks can be dragged around as needed.
The conversations view allows you to keep track of the discussions taking place on each project. You can start new discussion threads there. Asana allows you to participate in its conversations directly from email, so you don’t have to visit the application.
The status view allows you to see how many tasks are getting finished, as well as the incomplete tasks that are left. The information is plotted on a graph, so you can see if the number of outstanding tasks is decreasing over time. That is a good way to get an idea of whether you are on target to hit your project goals.
You can set your project status to on track, at risk or off track. That means everyone on the team can see if you are concerned about not getting everything done on time.
Writing Reports, So You Don’t Have To
Asana can also generate reports for you. They are essentially lists of tasks and associated information. You can generate various types, such as tasks you’ve created, tasks you’ve assigned and tasks that have been completed recently.
If you have a lot of documents or reports to manage and are finding yourself in an awful mess, take a look at our five tools that make managing documentation less terrible article for helpful advice.
Getting the Support You Need
When you first use Asana, you’ll see a few pop-ups and on-screen guidance to help you get going. That should be enough to get up and running with the basics. If you want more help, though, you can click the question mark at the top right of the screen.
The quality of the tutorials is impressive. The first four options in the help menu give you detailed information on how to get started with Asana and explain what it can do. There are many pictures and animations to make things as clear as possible.
There are some good videos, too, as well as a handy pop-up that shows the keyboard shortcuts. They are a great way to improve the speed of your workflow.
If you need more hands-on support, there is an active community forum where you can discuss issues with other users, as well as Asana’s support team.
If you want to delve deep into Asana, there’s a developer’s guide, too, which explains how to integrate your own code with the platform. If coding isn’t your thing but you do want to use third-party apps, Asana integrates well with both IFTTT and Zapier.
Well Designed and Nice to Use
Asana has a nice design that manages to look professional without being boring. Its designers have used color and animation effectively to highlight the more commonly used buttons, as well as make the user interface easy to read. The celebrations are also a nice touch.
We suspect making a tool like this enjoyable to use isn’t just needless padding. Engaging users may well help them get more work done. If you want the kids to eat their vegetables, make them taste good.
Asana is free, but features a premium package for those who want to get more out of it. For $9.99 per month, you get many more features, such as the timeline, task dependencies and webinars. You also get priority support and unlimited team size.
Project management isn’t always fun or cool, but good software can make it quicker and easier, leaving you more time to focus on the enjoyable parts of your work – or just to get home earlier after everything is done.
Asana is easy to get started with, but includes plenty of powerful features to help you make sure your projects go smoothly. It is beautifully designed and has a lot of clever extras that help steer you in the right direction.
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It does a great job of being a useful business tool with plenty of features that still feels friendly and enjoyable. We hope this guide has shown you how to get the most out of it.
If you have anything to add to what we’ve explained here, or if you feel we’ve missed something important, tell us in the comments below. Thanks for reading.