Using Asana for Simple Project Management

Thursday, October 28, 2021


A few months ago, I was drowning underneath the deadlines and timelines of a few different clients that I write for and episodes and content for my true crime podcast. I shared this post with the readers of The Muffin and began exploring ways a virtual assistant could help my writing business and productivity. I put out a few feelers for virtual assistants, but then began noticing that most virtual assistants in the creative space also provide content, editing, social media help, etc. This is great, but those services also come at a premium. While I would eventually love to hire a few people to help me create content for my own personal projects and social media accounts, that’s not in my budget yet. What I needed was more an organizational tool or system that I could easily check in with each day and provide me with a set of deadlines. 

There are free project management tools out there that can be helpful. Some include Monday, Trello, and Basecamp. There are also helpful YouTube videos where vloggers break down the pros and cons of using these systems. After doing a little bit of research, I decided to check out Asana, because you can create a free version if you have a Gmail account, which of course, most of the world has at this point. (Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post; just sharing what has worked for me). 

I like that the software isn’t overwhelming. I set up “boards” for my various clients, and then added individual assignment descriptions and deadlines onto each board. Where I found this especially helpful was for magazine production deadlines. Each month, I develop concepts for at least 85 percent of the articles and 100 percent of the photography. I kept finding myself falling behind on the deadlines for assigning articles and photos. Then we would get a late start to the production cycle because everything starts with me. What I was able to do in Asana was look ahead on my master calendar and create deadlines for when I needed to have article ideas completed, assigned, and dates I needed to assign photographer to our freelance creatives. Breaking these tasks up into manageable chunks I could see visually on a board was the missing puzzle piece. 

Every day I open Asana and look in each project board to see what my daily tasks are. One thing I haven’t been able to figure out is if I can put ALL my deadlines on one master board/calendar so I have a bird's eye view of each month. If there’s a way to figure out how to do that, I haven’t discovered it yet. One thing that brings me a small bit of joy is that if I have a day where I’m jamming through my tasks and click several completed boxes, a rainbow unicorn or other animal will sort of float across my screen. I don’t know why, but that always makes me laugh and encourages me to keep checking off my boxes. I can continue using the free Asana version after my trial period, but teams can also use this software to collaborate for a small monthly fee. Because I’m a solo writer/editor at this point, the free version suits my needs. 

Here is one of the videos I watched that helped me land on using this particular type of software. 

I'd love to know if you've used this type of software for your own projects and if it has helped you.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more about her at


Angela Mackintosh said...

Thank you for this, Renee! I'm watching the video right now and it looks really helpful. Especially the rainbow unicorn! Seriously, that would make me smile, too. :)

I just use the Google suite, mostly Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and I live by the calendar. I have five calendars running at once for various departments/projects and check it for daily tasks. It's fine for all that, but the one thing I can't figure out is email. I receive so much email that it's overwhelming and some important email goes unanswered. If anyone knows a solution for that, I'd love to hear about it. :)

Keep us updated on this! I'm glad it's working out for you. :)

Renee Roberson said...

Ang--It's funny how much that floating unicorn makes me laugh. Daniel was even amazed at how much Asana helped me. I wrote two podcast scripts in one month, got them produced, and just finished a new short story that I'm going to use as a lead magnet. If I hadn't been so organized with my daily work tasks I wouldn't have had time to do that much research and writing. E-mail is something I have issues wrangling too, because we all have so many different accounts these days! I know some authors and bloggers who have a person to simply monitor social media questions/comments and triage e-mail messages. I do think there's a way you could "alleviate" that task but it would have to be through a human, even if they were just responding to certain messages and sending others on to you or other staff members.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I've used Asana, Renee, not in a personal capacity as writer but in my region with SCBWI. As you can imagine, the leadership team has LOTS of things going on to keep a region running smoothly and like you, some things were falling through the cracks using email.

But Asana is like anything else: you have to input for it to work. So there was training 7 to 8 people, getting them to put in their tasks, and keep up with all of it...and some people loved it and some, not so much. Eventually, we dropped Asana in favor of a different organizational model.

I use an old school system, with several calendars, where I write in everything first of the month. I use different colored pens and that's kind of like unicorns, right? I REALLY enjoy crossing off my tasks!

As for keeping up with email, yep, I use different accounts. But I agree with Renee, sometimes you need a human to step in and help!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I probably need something like this organizational program, but I will continue flying by the seat of my pants/loosey goosey style instead.

I am afraid I would never see a unicorn...
and that would make me very sad. :(

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