Today, business systems pro Indigo Colton is here to teach you how to use Asana's custom fields and task dependencies to stay on top of your design projects!
Setting up a system to get your projects organized can be hard, but all you have to do is set aside some time to get it done. As Nike says, just do it. Today's post will help you see how to get started!
If you’ve read Nesha’s blog for a while, I’m sure that you’re familiar with Asana! But just in case you’re new to it, here is a very quick overview for you: Asana is a project management software that lets you keep track of your tasks, deadlines, and other pieces of the multiple projects I know you’re working on. You can easily collaborate with clients, team members, and business besties. They have an incredible free version, and an even more incredible paid version.
I personally use Asana to manage my entire life (business and personal!) because it works the same way that my brain does, and it makes working with my quickly-growing team a breeze. And you can use it with its most basic functions and be completely taken care of. But what happens when you want to dive further into what Asana is capable of?
Today, I want to get into the more advanced ways you can use Asana, and show you how to use two of Asana’s very powerful built-in capabilities to truly stay on top of your design projects. These are more advanced functionalities, but once you master them you’ll never go back!
In Asana, you can build custom fields for projects. That sounds super fancy, right? But what does it actually mean for you and what you can do? Essentially, you can create custom entries to track where pieces of your project are in the overall roadmap.
While you can get an overview of where your projects stand by using the 'Dashboards' in Asana, or by simply clicking into that specific client’s project and looking at what still needs to be done, custom fields make things even more easy to understand. Because you’re able to customize your fields to fit your specific process, you can get an even deeper understanding of your projects at a quick glance that you can with just using Asana’s standard features.
If you’re not sure what you’re doing with your design process, or how to make it work with Asana, be sure to check out Nesha’s course, Organize & Automate! She teaches you so many valuable things in the course that you can use to improve, organize, and automate your design process.
Within the custom fields, you have a few different options. You can create a text field (where you type text into a box), a number field (where you can select 1, 2, 3, etc from a dropdown), or a drop-down (where you can create a dropdown with a list of options to choose from).
The type of field you create will really depend on what you’re tracking and how you want it to look and function within Asana. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the dropdown option, but I encourage you to play around with the other two options as well!
For example, you could have a dropdown custom field with the following options:
- Pre-Design Homework
- Logo Creation
- Brand Elements / Collateral
- Website Draft
- Finalized Site Design
Then when your client moves from one phase to the next, you would go into the project and update which phase they’re in. You can even color code the different options, so say red always means you’re waiting for the client to finish their homework, blue always means you’re in the moodboard creation phase, etc.
This feature is incredibly beneficial because it allows you to see where that specific project is at a glance.
And you can even take it further into your design phases! Within each task you have to complete for your client (create a moodboard, design a logo, etc) you can create custom fields that track if you’re working on it, when it’s sent to the client for feedback/review, your revision stage (round 1, round 2, etc), and when it’s finalized.
That way you can easily see exactly where you are in each phase without having to hunt in your inbox or try and remember where that piece was last left.
Here is an example of what that might look like in Asana:
Here's how you do it:
- Click into your design project
- Click the icon next to the project’s name
- Select “Manage Custom Fields…”
- Click “+ Add Field to Project”
- Click “+ Create New Field”
- Enter the field name (You might say something like “Stage,” “Phase,” or “Step”)
- Click the field type dropdown and select “Drop-down”
- Enter your option names (Feel free to use what I have in the screencap above!)
- If you want to add a color to that option, click “Add color” and select the color you want from the choices that appear
- Click “Create Field”
Another really powerful feature of Asana is the ability to assign task dependencies. That basically means that you will be able to say task x is waiting on task y, and you’ll get a notification when task y is completed.
This can be easily implemented in your design projects, and help you keep track of when things are done.
If you invite your clients into your Asana organization/team for their design projects, you can actually assign them tasks! But what happens when you need that task to be completed by your client before you can do anything else, and you don’t want to continually check their assigned tasks to see if they’ve done their piece yet?
Set up task dependencies!
Using task dependencies lets your clients see that they need to do their part so you can do yours, and it lets you know when it’s time to move onto the next part of a project.
When I set my task as waiting on a client’s task, that gets added to the task history, like this:
And it looks like this in the task that I’m assigned, that is depending on the client’s task:
So now, when the client marks their task as complete, I’ll be automatically notified and can start working on my task.
Take Action: Set up your first task dependency!
Here’s how to do it:
- Click into the task you want to make dependent on another task
- Click the three dots from the top navigation inside of the task
- Select “Mark as waiting on..”
- Select the task your task is waiting on
In an ideal world, all of your clients would finish their assigned tasks by the deadline you give them to keep their project on track. But we all know that it doesn’t always work out that way. Using the task dependencies allows you to stay up to date with clients who might take longer than you anticipate to get their pieces done, or to be notified if your client is way ahead of their deadline and you can start on your piece earlier.
All of this really helps you create a very smooth design process for your clients, but also for you. Because when you know everything that’s happening in your projects, and where everything is, you are able to stay on top of it all without having anything slip through the cracks.
And when your clients experience your smooth process, they will be even more in love with everything you do for them! Which means glowing testimonials, referrals, and repeat business down the line.
You’re also bringing them into the process and making it feel incredibly collaborative, which fosters trust and really cements you as the expert in your client’s eyes. Because you’re able to give them an overview of where each phase of their project is in the process, and what things you need to do that are waiting on them, you’re making them an active participant. They’re going to be much more likely to work to meet the deadlines you set, and will enjoy getting to see the custom fields on their project pieces change as you move further through the process.
I’m sure that once you start playing around with both of these features, you’ll see a lot of other ways you can use them in your design projects! The two ways I’ve outlined in this post are really jumping off points so you can get familiar with them, get your feet wet, and to help you think about how else you can use these features to continue to improve and streamline your design process.
If this got your wheels spinning, and you want to see where else in your business your systems could use improvement, I’ve got just the thing for you! Take my free, week-long Business Systems Audit Challenge and see where your systems are helping you and where they’re hurting you. I would love to see you in the challenge and help you systemize your business even more!
Now, I’d love to hear from you!
Are you going to start using Asana’s custom fields and task dependencies? Do you already use them with your clients? Let me know in the comments!
Guest Post by Indigo Colton
My name is Indigo Colton and I am here to help you create empowering strategies for your creative online business. I work with business owners just like you who are struggling in the day-to-day operations of their businesses.
I help you create simple strategies that make you feel empowered and like you can conquer the world means that you can (finally) move past those feelings of doubt, frustration, and stress that have become second nature. Because when you feel supported by your strategies, instead of lost and confused, your entire business feels different. Instead of feeling constantly behind, you’re ahead on your work.
My mission to create empowering strategies all began when I started my virtual assistant business. I saw first-hand how many creative business owners were struggling with their systems, and felt like everything was slipping through the cracks.
Now, I'm here to take what I've learned from empowering my clients with simple strategies over two years and help you achieve the same results. I've even put together a FREE business systems audit challenge for you! Click here to take it!