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19 de julio de 2015

GTD with Asana

Asana is a task tracking tool allowing people to collaborate easily on tasks. In Asana, every user can share workspaces with other people. In workspaces you have tasks, which are the basic information unit in Asana.

Each task may have an assignee, several followers, a description, a due date and a section for comments. Maybe the best benefit of using Asana is that you can share comments on tasks: Everything that may be discussed around a task can be tracked in this comments section, so you don't have to send emails, or searching later in order to know who said what, when, etc.

Tasks can be grouped by projects. In task tracking tools, the word project means “a set of related tasks”. Any task can belong to no project, just one project or several projects simultaneously. Moreover, any task may have subtasks.

My own experience with Asana has been evolving since I first used it for the in this volunteering project. From using it only to manage tasks for project team members, I recently started using it to improve my personal productivity with GTD® methodology.

David Allen wrote his famous book Getting Things Done in 2002. If you don't know David Allen, then you can see him in this video: this is a TED conference entitled The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It is 22 minutes long, but I think it is worth watching it.

For those that are not familiar with GTD®, here is a short description following:

GTD® is a 5 step system for 1) collecting, 2) processing, 3) organizing, 4) reviewing and 5) doing tasks. It is also applied to sets of related tasks, that is, projects. These 5 steps will get all to-do-things (files, papers, projects, tasks and ideas) into an organized set of lists, allowing effective and efficient task/project execution.

First step consists of collecting all your files, papers, projects, tasks and ideas. This frees up your mind from having to remember so many things and eliminates the guilt of unprocessed inbox items by clarifying the work choices you are making.

Next step is proccessing each inbox item and determine if it is actionable in the short term and who will perform it and when. Depending on your evaluation, put the item in the appropriate list.

Next step is organizing each list and file in a manner that will facilitate performing the items they contain. For example, identify the next action and the context. The next action clarifies what has to be done to move a task or project forward. The context is where you'll be and what tools are needed to complete the item.

Step 4 consists of reviewing your Calendar, Next Action list and Daily Ticklers on a daily basis, your Waiting For list and your Projects a few times a week, and your Someday/Maybe & Monthly Ticklers periodically to keep them up to date. Empty your head and put new items onto the correct list or file.

Finally, step 5 consists of doing your actions using your lists and these processes:
  • Choose actions based on context, time available, energy available and priority.
  • Process unexpected items. 
  • Define your work by processing your inbox.
  • Set long term (1-3 years), mid-terms (3-12 months) and short time priorities in your areas of responsibility, your current projects and your current actions.

As I mentioned in a previous post, in the official website of Asana there is a short guide on how to use GTD in Asana, but I'm not comfortable with the idea of separating tasks in the blocks named Today / Upcoming / Later. Instead, I prefer to follow more closely David Allen's advice using Next / Calendar / Waiting / Someday-Maybe / Reference, which can be easily implemented with Asana sections.

For instance, you can see here a screenshot of one of my workspaces:

For me it is very easy to enter any workspace, which gets me to MY TASKS, and there it is my structure on GTD. Every task here has me as assignee. If I don't want this task to be seen by any other person, then I don't put it on any project (or I put it on a private one, see Asana permissions).

Each morning I process my email inbox converting emails into Asana tasks. Each context is a different workspace. I put the task in the appropriate section: Next / Calendar / Waiting / Someday-Maybe / Reference. If I create a new task from any Asana project, since this task has me as the assignee, it will be on top when I go to MY TASKS (it is not classified into any section, but it doesn't take me long to move the task to the proper section). By transforming actionable emails into Asana sections, I get my email inbox almost clean every day.

Each morning I have to process any other actuable information not coming by email, as well. When I'm errand then I use Google Keep to take note of new ideas (I generally dictate it to my smartphone). I could use Asana app to do that, but it would take me longer, so I prefer Google Keep. Early in the morning, before doing any other thing, I take out of my mind any thing that shoud be organized as Asana tasks. Once a week (Sunday morning) I process my weekly planning.

While I'm working with my laptop I usually receive a lot of emails, and have a lot of ideas. I think it is not effective collecting them all the time, I prefer doing that early in the morning, as I mentioned. If a new idea gets to me while I'm at my laptop then I don't use Google Keep, instead I put it on a Windows sticky note (just one long note at the right of my Windows Desktop, see the figure below).

In Asana it is quite simple moving tasks above or below according to their priority, changing their due dates, section, etc. When I'm done with a task, then I complete it on Asana (then it is no longer on the to-do-list, but I'm always able to revew it: completed tasks are not deleted).

Another useful feature for me is ordering tasks by due date. This is very productive for me because I am a tutor at many e-learning courses, so in certain dates I need to attend some discussion forums. It saves me much time if I plan this as calendar tasks. Besides, I can see the plan represented in a calendar like this:

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