I’ve used Asana to manage my tasks for a couple of years now, but I’ve only recently stumbled upon the perfect way to use it to manage my time.
Since starting my own business, I’ve tried my fair share of time saving techniques and apps. Despite my best efforts to stay on top of everything, there are always things that fall by the wayside. More often than not, it’s something to do with my own business or my personal health. When you lose track of tasks or fall behind on what needs to be done, it gets you down for a number of reasons. You feel like you’re not achieving anything and you’re paralysed by task overwhelm, not knowing where to start to claw your way back. My time management technique that uses Asana and Toggl, can help combat both of these consequences of time mismanagement.
Set It Up
First, you’ll have to set up your Asana with Projects in a way that makes sense to you and the work you do. For example, my projects are split up as follows:
- Blog Post Ideas
- Business Development
- Admin / General Tasks
- Personal Tasks
- Client A
- Client B (etc)
I prefer to use the List type for my projects, though this is of course a personal preference. I give each project their own highlight colour by clicking on the three dots next to the project name.
Add every single task you have to do for each of these under their respective Project. You can also split them up by Section to make it easier to look at. For example, under Blog Post Ideas, I have sections for each broad topic (Blogging, WordPress, Marketing, Social Media, etc). Do this by clicking the drop down arrow next to “Add Task” and select “Add Section”. You can drag the tasks up and down to arrange them how you like!
When creating a task that needs a document to work off, like a Word doc or a PDF, you can attach the file to the task using the little paperclip icon. This works with Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and your local files as well. I always create a document and attach it, even when I'm not ready to work on it. That way, when I come to the task, I have everything I need right in front me, ready to go.
Now you’ll need to head to Toggl and sign up for an account if you don’t already have one. Run through these steps to sync your Toggl with Asana.
- In the left sidebar under “Manage”, click “Show More”
- Click “Import/Export”
- Click “Integrations” and scroll down to Asana
- Click “Enable” and accept the permissions
- After your page has refreshed, return to the “Integrations” page in step 3
- Scroll back down to Asana
- Click “Sync Now” for Projects
If you use Google Chrome, install the Toggl button to time and manage your tasks inside Asana. I also recommend downloading the Asana app for your iPhone or Android phone. I use the app to add tasks to projects as I think of them when I’m away from my computer. This way I never forget a blog post idea!
Now we’re ready to start organising your day!
Start planning your day by looking through each project and deciding what you have to do as a priority. Remember that all meetings and appointments should be in a project somewhere with the date and time already entered.
Assign the tasks for tomorrow to yourself and add tomorrow’s date to due date. Now click on “My Tasks” in the top left sidebar and look at the spread of colours. Have you prioritised projects evenly and according to workload? The project colours help visualise where you’re putting most of your effort. Add or remove the due date as needed to evenly spread your focus.
Now, I have a number of rules to follow for these tasks, which can help maximise your productivity and your sense of achievement. By following these rules I find I am able to:
- Stay on task
- Split up my time fairly between clients, business related tasks and personal tasks
- Avoid task overwhelm
- Achieve a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day
Rule number 1: Never add a due date more than 2 days in advance
Unless it's a hard deadline, a meeting or an appointment, there's really not much point to trying to schedule your life so far ahead. Things change all the time - projects fall through, urgent things pop up, sick days happen.
I find that planning my tasks a max of 2 days in advance is the most effective way for me to keep on top of things. You may prefer 1 day or a week - up to you!
You can view all your scheduled tasks through the “My Tasks” menu in the left sidebar of Asana. A long list of tasks all with due dates, can be overwhelming and prompt feelings of hopelessness: “how will I ever get this all done?”. For me, by making sure I’m only looking at a bite size list of what I have to do, I’m able to focus and work methodically through what needs to be done.
At the end of each day I’ll look through what tasks I still have active in every project, decide what I want to do (or need to do) tomorrow and the day after, then add a due date accordingly.
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Rule number 2: Set a due time
For each task I decide to do tomorrow, I will set a due time for when I’d like to start that task. I even schedule time for tasks like “Lunch” and “Yoga Practice”. This prevents me from languishing too long on something I’m not in the right headspace for. Plus, it means I’m forced to allow time for personal moments during the day (lunch, yoga etc) - otherwise I end up with an overdue task (and probably a headache from no breaks).
So say I scheduled writing a blog post for 10am, but by 11am I have only written a paragraph or two. By having another task scheduled to start at 11am, I can stop writing and move on to what’s next. If I end up having time to come back to to the blog post later in the day I will. But for now I’ve stopped wasting time on a task I clearly didn’t feel like doing.
Rule number 3: Never change the date on a task you started but didn’t finish
OK so I started the blog post I had scheduled for 10am, but I still have work to do on it. Instead of changing the due date to tomorrow, I’ll instead duplicate the task by clicking on the three dots at the top of the task. Then I’ll tick the original task off as complete.
Why? Well because you only set a due time for when you wanted to start the task, not when you wanted to finish it. Have you ever got to the end of the day and felt like you haven’t achieved anything because you didn’t get to tick anything off your to do list? This way you still get that sense of accomplishment of having done something, even though it’s not everything. The duplicated incomplete task will return to the right project for you to review and schedule for a future date when you have more time.
Rule number 4: Time everything in Toggl
If you have the Toggl Chrome extension, each task on Asana will now have a little power button next to the X. Click on this button when you start, pause and finish working on a task. Because you synced your projects with Toggl, it’ll automatically allocate this task to the right project.
If the project is for a client, this will help when it comes time to invoice for your hours. Head to Toggl, select Reports in the left sidebar and filter by the project to view your active hours. You can download these hours as a PDF or CSV file to attach to your invoice if you need to provide evidence.
If the project is a personal one, you can review at the end of the week or even end of the month to see what your biggest time-sucks are. Can you manage that task better? Can you outsource it if you don’t like it? If you love it, what do you need to cut out to focus closer on it?
For me, it’s important that I can see how much time I spend writing blogs. Blogs are something I notoriously waste time perfecting and editing, and I’m actively trying to improve my blogging time. This year I’m also intentionally focussing on developing my professional skills, so I try to make sure I’m spending a certain number of hours a month on learning and researching.
Rule number 5: Never end the day with an overdue task
If you started the task, follow rule number three: duplicate it then tick it complete. If you didn’t start the task, change or remove the due date. Don’t start the next day with that accusatory red date staring at you, telling you that you weren’t as productive as you planned!
Rule number 6: Reflect on what you’ve achieved
Before you turn off your laptop at the end of the day, change your tasks view to Calendar. To do this, click My Tasks in the left sidebar of Asana, then Calendar under the words “My Tasks in -----”. Here you can see all the tasks you’ve completed today and reflect on all the good work you did. Never get to the end of the day and feel like you’ve done nothing, ever again!
And there you have it. I've been following this method of planning my time for several weeks now. Not only have I stuck with it (unprecedented) but my mood and motivation is through the roof.
I no longer feel overwhelmed by what I need to do, and I have time every day to appreciate everything I've achieved. I'd love to know if this works for you as well. Get in touch to let me know!
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