I’ve always been intrigued by the productivity app Asana but I’ve never invested any substantial time in it due to it’s perceved complexity and it’s ‘team based’ focus. My own Productivity management needs are at a single user level 95% of the time and Asana seemed overkill for my own day to-day use when I last looked at it. I always thought that the time I would need to invest into mastering Asana would be greater than the perceived improvements it would bring. When I read that Mike Vardy and Jeremy Roberts were creating their Do Better with Asana book I hoped it would help me find a a shortcut on getting to grips with Asana, reducing the time investment I thought it would need. So does it?
After reading Do Better with Asana the book has positively impacted the learning curve for Asana and I am looking at Asana with fresh eyes. I am sure I could run my personal productivity system within Asana if needed, but more importantly for those occasions where I do need to collaborate with others Asana would be the perfect tool as thanks to the Do Better with Asana book it’s no longer as complex as I thought!
What follows is a quick run down of the books contents and my personal thoughts.
The book is divided into 3 main parts ’The Basics’, ‘Everyday Use’ and ‘Advanced Techniques’
‘The Basics’ section helps you decide which Asana version is right for you and walks you through your Asana Account Settings covering a lot of ground from how to set up the notification emails and what they are, how to setup email address’s per Workspace, right through to the best size for your Asana profile photo.
The ‘Everyday Use’ section is where the action really begins and covers how you will use Asana on a day-to-day basis;
Workspaces – How to set them up, invite others and an overview of each screen section. There is also some details of Premium Workspaces and what the extra paid costs will bring.
My Tasks – a detailed run through how to quickly process your tasks using Today, Upcoming or Later. Finding ‘What Next’ things to do and the importance to ‘Review Regularly’
Accessibility and Adoption – How to approach Asana for the 1st time and how to engage other team members to use Asana if you need to. Some very good practical advice on becoming the Asana evangelist for your team!
Tasks, Sub Tasks, Projects and Views – Here the authors discuss what makes a Task and how to create, delete, organise and assign them. Subtasks, Projects, Tags and the many Views available are also covered in some depth.
Collaboration – This section was the moment that Asana really started to make sense to me, it really shows the power that Asana can bring to a project in a team environment. What I originally thought was information overkill in Asana now makes perfect logical sense to anyone who is part of Asana using team.
Asana Inbox – The differences between your email inbox and the Asana inbox. Details of what arrives into your Asana Inbox, Why and how to deal with items quickly and easily.
Common Use Cases and Scenarios – The book gives some common uses for Asana and then a number of Asana success stories, mini interviews with a number of Asana users detailing what they get out of Asana.
Calendar – How the Calendar in Asana works and ways to use it beyond a reminder system including reviews and long-term planning.
Personal Projects – Discusses the differences between Personal Projects and other Workspaces and gives you some project ideas that you would find really useful,
Brainstorming – An overview of how best to approach brainstorming and getting that info into Asana.
Mobility – Asana’s mobile app used to be sticking point for many people, thankfully the new apps are a great improvement and this part of the books gives a great walk-through of how to use the mobile app. Detailed with iOS 8 enhancements and briefly covers the newly released Android App.
The next section, Advanced Techniques dives into some of the more complex ways Asana works.
Organisations – Workspaces or Organisations? It was a question that crossed my mind when I 1st setup Asana, this section goes a great way in explaining the differences and how each will affect the way you will work.
Project and Task Templates – How to set up templates of Projects or Tasks and some useful examples of what you could achieve.
Divide and Conquer – Assigning tasks and projects to others.
Tracking Dashboards – How to read the dashboard for each Project.
Third Party Apps and Integrations – A look at some 3rd party client apps for Asana and web services that work well with Asana.
I always viewed Asana as a complex tool, Do Better with Asana has helped remove some of this complexity in a well written and informative way. Yet it’s not just a guidebook on how to use Asana, it also helps you understand the bigger picture of how a productivity tool like Asana works and how you can make it work for you and your team. The excellent real-life examples really help prompt you to use Asana in your own workflows. If you want to reduce the learning curve of getting and get to grips with Asana it offers a lot more than the online instructions alone.
My only negative comment is the book is a little light on graphics, there is the occasional screenshot of the Asana interface but personally I would have welcomed a few more to help cement the instruction and guidance in some areas. The fast pace of Asana’s development could be an influence in this design direction perhaps?
So will I be moving my productivity system from Nozbe to Asana? Not yet.
Whilst there is a lot to like in Asana, it is probably one of the best productivity collaboration tools for teams around, a lot of it’s power is focused on helping you manage team based projects and as stated earlier this is overkill for my own productivity needs.
That said, I could see myself using Asana in the future for some collaborative projects, as Do Better with Asana has removed enough of Asana’s complexity to reveal a very useful tool.
Bottom line – If you are looking to push your Asana knowledge, Do Better with Asana is worthy investment. New and existing users will find useful instruction and theory throughout. From the Asana basics to more advanced techniques, along with some great real world examples on how to the most from Asana.
Note – This review is based purely on Basic Do Better with Asana package, i.e. just the book. The other packages, Essentials and Premium offer a number extra’s including screen casts and interviews that accompany the book. The book will be updated as new features are added to Asana which adds to the value of packages.