I was a long time user of Basecamp. I like the ethos of 37 signals and still do. However I don’t need a project management tool on an ongoing basis since most of the time I’m a one woman show. The $50 monthly fee was like the gym membership one pays for and never uses. So earlier this year I moved the remaining content I had stored in it (how-to guides, to-dos) into Google Drive and closed my account.

I’ve mentioned that I’m in the middle of switching my e-commerce platform. This requires a team. I’m working with a developer in the Czech Republic and virtual assistant in the Philippines. I knew I would need to reboot some kind of collaboration tool. I was thinking of using Google Drive and Trello, which is basically a free Kanban chart

‘Have you heard of Asana‘ the developer I’m working with asked. Why, yes, I had heard of Asana, I had a task in my list somewhere to check it out. I did so online, and since it offers a free version (you can also order premium) set up account and started fooling around with it.

I’ve been using it for about a month now and here are some of the things I’m really liking:

  • It’s basically a system of lists and lists within lists in the form of tasks and sub-tasks and sub-sub-tasks
  • You can break tasks down into sub-tasks and sub-sub-tasks
  • It syncs with an Outlook calendar (although I haven’t been able to get that to work yet)
  • Email threads related to tasks are saved as comments associated with the task so you have a history of discussions, decisions, etc. made around a certain task or sub-task
  • You can assign owners, attach files, add comments, set due dates and more at every task level
  • Pasting a screen shot into an email response and having it show up in the tool task comments as well
  • It plugs into Dropbox, Google Docs and more so it’s easy to attach documents and files to tasks
  • There are a ton of plug-ins you can sign up for (time tracking, gantt or kanban charts, etc.)

Some of the things I’m not digging:

  • The interface is generally easy to use, but it’s complex. It takes some time to get used to
  • No ‘at a glance’ calendar view. Due dates show up, but you can’t add milestones
  • I was irritated that I had to sign up for yet another service  – Harvest – to install time tracking, which so far hasn’t been super intuitive. Also, all of the ‘just $10 a month!’ services add up after awhile (but Asana is free, so I guess I can’t complain)
  • Being able to set due dates at every task level can be confusing. For example, I set the due date of a meta task for August 1st, but I started drilling down and setting many of the sub-tasks later so team members working on sub tasks get started until past the due date, and then the overall task is late. This was a user error on my part, but it’s easy to get lost in the levels upon levels of tasks and lose sight of the big picture

Despite the things I’m not digging, I would highly recommend trying out this well thought out tool for your next team project. If you look through the team members you’ll see the team  is a bunch of super smarty pants; this doesn’t always guarantee a great product or outcome, but in Asana’s case it does.

I can already see that everything would come to a screeching halt without it!

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