Productivity Apps: Asana

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No secret, I have ADHD. One of the best things to ever happen to my poor working memory was making a habit of externalizing information. This keeps me from needing to remember things that might be easily forgotten. It’s not as though it’s easy to train the brain of a 38 year old to have better executive functioning skills, so it makes more sense to externalize the information that I need to use in order to manage my life.

Asana helps with that BIG TIME. I’m using the free version, which is all I really need. Even though I’m a “team” of one person, I’m using Asana as the project management tool to manage my life as one big project. And to be transparent, I do not have any affiliations with Asana. This is an honest, unbiased testimonial that I have not been incentivized to write beyond the desire to share something that’s helping me.

I have “Teams” set up for each of the areas of my life. One for home management things, one for client videos, one for beta teams, one for The Noise Floor, one for Office Management tasks, and I create a new “team” for each recording/mixing project I take on. While I’m the only member of most of those “teams”, I do invite clients to be part of the “team” pertaining to their specific project. That way they can follow my progress as I navigate through their project, and they can leave notes and feedback in the one centralized place that I’m already using to track all of the things I need to do. Most of the clients don’t feel the need to follow along, but I give them access anyway. It’s up to them.

Inside of these “teams” are projects. These projects are used as checklists and idea boards, depending on the nature of the project. For example, inside of a creative project I have a visual board that represents all of the things I need to do during certain phases of a project.

For example, I’ll have a board for a record that shows things to do during pre-production. In that list will be finding out the tempo, getting the lyrics, meeting with the band before studio day to discuss their vision, finding out what accomodations need to be made for the artist before studio day, etc. I’ll have similar lists for things to do once we’re finished with our studio day, which would include making backups, organizing and archiving, making any necessary recall sheets, taking notes of what the next steps should be, etc.

I’ll also use checklists to keep track of projects that don’t have as much complexity. A record is many steps and phases that are taken toward one goal. But remembering which awesome blog article idea I had last night at 3am is a smaller thing that makes more sense to put in a checklist. In that checklist, I can group things in whatever fashion I see fit, and when I’m running out of blog article ideas I can just head to that list and pick the one that inspires me to write.

Since Asana works similarly via the web interface on a desktop, I can actually use the notes section of a task as the place to write the blog post. That’s what I’m doing right now, writing this text in Asana. It’s easy to share with someone who might need to proofread it, and it’s stored in the cloud for me to access anywhere. All I need to do is log on to Asana from the app on a mobile device, or log on to the website from any computer, and everything is right where I left it.

I also use Asana to manage appointments, family to-do lists, creating itemized lists of specific routines I’m trying to form habits around, and organizing my day overall. While externalizing information is important, it’s equally important that I simplify where that information is kept. So instead of having a separate app to track home tasks vs work tasks, it’s all kept in one place that’s easy to access. The “My Tasks” view is helpful here because it allows you to view the things you have scheduled for today, any tasks that are coming up in the next week, and anything you have that’s scheduled more than a week out.

And that’s probably the most helpful part of Asana for me. You can schedule when something needs to be done, and when it’s time it moves itself into your “today” field. I was on the phone with a potential client last night who wanted me to get in touch with them in one month after they’ve finished recording the songs they want me to mix. I asked them for a specific day and time, and then created a new task in Asana to remind me on that day that I need to call that person at the specified time. When that task is a week away, it’ll move to the “upcoming” column. That puts the task on my time horizon, which helps me start thinking about what needs to happen during that call so I’ll be prepared when the time comes. And on that day, when I check my daily list in Asana, that phone call reminder will be in there!

In other words, Asana helps me compensate for time blindness related to ADHD. It does so by automatically moving upcoming events into “Upcoming”, which helps me realize that this important task is coming up and I need to start thinking about it. And when it’s time to attack it, Asana moves that task to “Today” for me. All I have to remember to do is put my tasks into Asana, and schedule it. It does the rest automatically…Remember what I said about Task Automation?

I’ve tried several similar apps. Asana was the right combination of price, features, and acccess. was awesome, but costs more than I can justify for a one person “team”. I tried Wrike and Trello, and I even was using the “reminders” app on my iPhone for a time. The one that I’ve been able to make a habit of using was Asana. While it was a bit confusing at first, once I figured out the best way to impliment it I was able to stick to it.