How to Use Asana Effectively for Project Management in 2020

Asana is one of the best project management tools, but it might be tricky for new users to navigate its many features. This guide will show you how to use Asana effectively for project management, from creating your first Asana project to organizing tasks.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large)
— Last Updated: 2020-11-16T23:45:40+00:00 Facts checked by: Andrea Babic

Asana is among the best project management tools around, thanks to its ease of use and friendly pricing. We also like its many features, but for people new to the program, it can be a bit tricky to figure out how to use Asana effectively. This is where this guide comes in; for our opinion on the software, check out our Asana review.

We suspect much of Asana’s popularity is due to its excellent free tier (it’s one of the best free project management tools), which attracts a lot of people who are new to both Asana and project management in general to the program. As such, this is very much a step-by-step guide, though at a slightly higher level than our Asana tutorial.

Expect a lot of detail as we create a new project from scratch and hopefully get you started on getting the most out of Asana. If, for whatever reason, the app doesn’t scratch your itch, have a look at one of its main competitors in our monday.com review or our roundup of the best Asana alternatives.

  • Yes, very much so. Asana is definitely one of the easiest task managers out there, especially for people new to the field.

  • Yes, though there are better options for specific applications. If you just want a simple overview, Asana is a great project management tool.

How to Use Asana Effectively for Project Management

In this piece, we’ll go over the basics of project management with Asana: how to sign up for it, how to create projects and tasks and also how to organize all of them into handy views. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s get started.

How to Sign Up for Asana

Before we do anything else, let’s sign up for Asana. Doing so is easy — all you need to do is visit the website and go from there.

  1. Get a Free Trial of Asana

    On the site, at the top right you’ll find a button that says “try for free.” Click that, and you’ll go to a screen where you need to fill in your email address. Do so, then hit the big, blue bar below and you’ll receive an email.

    how to use asana try button
    You can try Asana for free for 30 days.

  2. Verify Your Email Address

    Go to your inbox, find the email that Asana sent you, open it and then click the big, blue button that says “verify email address.” That will automatically redirect you to the Asana site, where the next step of the sign-up process begins.

    how to use Asana verification email
    Asana sends a verification email when you register.

  3. Set Up Your Account

    The next step is filling in your full name and entering a password; make sure it’s a strong one — we recommend using our password generator for the job.

    how to use asana personal details
    A strong password will protect those personal details you’re filling in.

  4. Finish Up the Process

    The next few steps are similar: you’ll be asked if you’re starting from scratch or looking for existing teammates, what you’ll be using Asana for (we went with “general project management” to avoid templates) and also how you’re currently organizing your work. We went with “kanban” here, then went on to the next few steps.

    how to use asana current organization
    The last few questions before finalizing sign up.

How to Get Started With Asana

Right after the sign-up process, you’ll be brought straight into a screen where you can get started putting together your project. We like how the program wastes no time — you get an Asana account and immediately you’re in a hands-on tutorial that has you putting together your projects.

how to use asana sample project
Asana has a great built-in tutorial.

However, for the purposes of this guide we’re going to skip past it and get straight into the how of Asana. Once you’re past the tutorial, you’ll see the main screen from where you control things.

how to use asana home screen
Asana’s main screen is where the magic happens.

To get started, let’s take a look at how teams work in Asana.

Asana Teams

To change the composition of teams as well as a few other things, you need to head to the “teams” page, accessible via the big, black navigation bar on the left of the screen. In our case, it’s called “my first team.”

how to use asana team location
Access the team screen through the left-hand taskbar.

Just click on that, and you’ll be on the team screen.

how to use asana team screen
You’ll manage your teams from this screen.

From here, we can do a number of things, but first let’s take a look at the settings. For one, we want to change the name of the team.

How to Change Your Team Name

1. Go to the Team Settings Panel

You access the settings from the downward arrow next to the team name. 

how to use asana team settings
This is where you’ll change settings to do with your team.

2. Edit Team Settings

You have several options here: “upgrade” brings you to a payment portal, “start a conversation” we’ll ignore for now and “delete,” well, we’ll let you guess what that does. We’ll go to “edit team settings.”

how to use asana team options
You have several options for teams.

3. Change the Team Name

This panel has three menus: “members” lets you invite people, while “advanced” lets you choose whether anybody can invite new members or only admins. It also controls whether you want to use the Harvest app to keep track of team members’ time.

We’ll stick to the “general” tab and simply rename our team “Cloudwards.” We’ll also leave the privacy settings undisturbed.

Adding Team Members in Asana

Project management isn’t much use if you’re on your own, so we’re going to need a few more people to join us. Well, just one will do for our purposes: Cloudwards’ chief editor, Jackie Leavitt.

1. Click the Invitation Button

Plastered across every board you can find a button that lets you invite people to Asana. Below, we highlighted just four on the main team screen; there’s also one in the team settings screen and there’s probably a few more hidden around the app. There’s no real difference between them, as they all open the same pop-up.

how to use asana invite buttons
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to invite buttons.

2. Invite People

In the new pop-up, you can choose to invite people either by email or by link; we prefer email, so we’ll do that. However, you could just as easily copy and paste the link to your prospective team member. All you need to do is enter the email address of the people you want to invite, specify which team and project, hit “send” and Bob’s your uncle. (Note that for this to work, you don’t necessarily need to invite Jackie. She’s a busy woman.)

how to use asana invite people
Inviting people to Asana is pretty easy.

3. Have Your Teammate Sign In

After you hit “send,” you’ll see a small notification pop up at the bottom left of your screen saying people have been invited, and a small icon will appear below yours in the team overview. Until they sign into Asana and enter their full name, they won’t get the spiffy initials like you do, though.

how to use asana teammates
One teammate has been invited to this project.

Asana Projects

With the team sorted, it’s time to turn our attention to projects, which are the overarching system where we’ll put our tasks. 

Create Your First Asana Project

Creating a project is a matter of just a few simple steps. You can create multiple projects if you want, though here we’ll stick to just one.

1. Hit the “Create Project” Button

There are two options to set up a project from Asana’s main screen, and both do exactly the same thing.

how to use asana create project button
You have two different buttons to create a project; both are exactly the same.

2. Choose How to Build Your Project

You are given three options: to use a blank project, a template offered by Asana (or one you created earlier) or an Excel sheet. For our purposes, a blank project is better, so we went with that.

how to use asana project options
You have plenty of different options when creating a project.

3. Name Your Project and Pick a Default View

The last part of project creation is picking a name — we’re creating an editorial calendar, so that’s what we’ll call ours — and picking a default view. Though a kanban view is better for an editorial calendar, we’ll go with a list here as that makes things easier to explain.

Note that all views are accessible at all times — you’re just picking the one Asana reverts to. 

how to use asana new project
Even more project options.

4. Create Your Project

Once you’re done, just hit “create project.” Presto! One completed project. You can access your project by clicking on it in the left-hand sidebar at any time.

how to use asana project start
You handle most project-related tasks from this screen.

How to Create a Task

With your project set up, let’s take a look at tasks, which will make up the parts of the project. For this example, we’ll make each task an article that needs to be written.

1. Add Tasks

To create tasks, simply hit “add task” at the top right of the screen or under “task name” in the main field below it.

how to use asana add task button
There are two “add task” buttons to pick from.

2. Enter the Task’s Name

Next, you enter the name of the task in the field provided. We’ve filled one out in the example below, and we’ll add one named “Trello guide,” a wink to our Trello tutorial.

how to use asana task name
Name your task, and make it a good one.

3. Add People to the Task

You also need to add people to the task from the first column on the right, labelled “assignee.” You can either add existing members of the team, or people from your address book. Note that you can only add one person per task, which makes for some creative juggling when you need several people on a job.

how to use asana task members

4. Set Due Dates

In what might be considered the most important step, you also need to add a due date for the task. You do this from the column to the right of “assignee,” labelled, unsurprisingly, “due date.”

how to use asana task due date
Adding the due date to a task will make sure team members stay on task.

5. Add Priority, Stage and Status

Lastly, you can add priority to a task (the defaults are “low,” “medium” and “high,” though you can create custom fields) by clicking on the plus icon at the very end of the row. If you’re a premium subscriber, you can also add the stage a task is in and its status.

These are all pretty handy features, but as this is a basic guide, we’re only going to add priority and leave it at that.

how to use asana task priority
Adding a priority to tasks will help team members decide what needs to be done first.

A Closer Look at Cards

Before we move on to how we can organize our project, let’s take a quick look at the details you can add to a task. To do so, you need to click on a task and a detailed sheet will pop up on the right of the screen.

change task in real time
Once you’ve created new tasks, you can easily change any of their details, like reassigning team members.

This is where you can provide details on what needs to be done, where people can ask questions about the task, as well as where you can create subtasks, which are a great way of dividing a task into bite-sized chunks. We recommend filling out at least the description for each task so people know what each item is.

Organize Your Project

With the new tasks in the list, this is what we’re looking at.

board vs asana trello
Asana lets you keep track of tasks and projects in a lot less linear fashion.

This doesn’t actually help you much, as there’s not much of an overview here. You could switch to different views than the list view we’re using, but it’s still going to be a hodgepodge. To fix that and add some organization, we’re going to have to add sections, which other programs would call columns or stages.

1. Create Sections

To keep things simple, we’ll create three sections — the classic “to-do,” “doing” and “done” — and go from there. To do so, click on “add section” and fill out the name.

how to use asana add section
Adding sections will help you keep things straight as the board fills up.

2. Move Cards Into the New Sections

Next, we need to move our existing tasks into the new sections. There’s a hard way and an easy way. We’ll show you the hard way first: click on the task in the list so you get the details pane, then under “projects,” click “untitled section” and a dropdown menu will pop up with your options.

how to use asana move task
Moving a card in the list view is a laborious process.

Asana Views

With that done, the list looks like this. It’s better, but doesn’t give you a lot of information at a glance, which is what you need.

task list asana
The list view lets you see all tasks in one place, though it’s trickier to move them around in this view.

Kanban View

Instead, let’s move over to the kanban view, which you can find by clicking on the “board” tab just above the list. If you don’t know what a kanban board is, we have a guide to help you out.

how to use asana kanban
Asana’s kanban view is great if you need a quick overview.

Now, this is much better. It’s also easier to move cards between sections (kanban veterans would call them “columns”) as you can simply drag and drop.

Calendar View

Besides the kanban view, there’s also a handy calendar in Asana’s free version (unlike Trello, which we complain about in our Asana vs Trello piece), which gives you a good overview of when things need to be finished.

how to use asana calendar
Asana’s calendar makes it easy to keep track of what is due when.

There are plenty of other views, like the timeline, which lets you set goals and milestones, but those are for premium subscribers and thus out of the scope of this article.

Final Thoughts

With that, we’ll finish this guide on how to use Asana effectively. Task management is a tricky thing to get used to, but programs like this make it a lot easier. Check out our Asana vs monday.com article to see a real powerhouse at work.

Do you understand how Asana works a bit better now, or are you still stuck? Let us know whether this guide helped you in the comments below, or leave any points that need clarification. Thank you for reading.