I’m often asked how I stay so organized. And when I get this question, I can’t help but smile… and think back to a time when I wasn’t.
The truth is, I am very proud of the systems I’ve developed and the reputation I’ve built. My core brand values position me as dependable, discerning, and truly invested in the businesses and successes of my clients and students.
The only way to deliver upon these brand promises is by always doing what I say I will do… when I say I will do it.
Of course, when I first got started as a virtual assistant and Pinterest strategist, I was not as organized as I am now. And, that was one of the more challenging aspects of starting a service-based business. Because, instead of keeping the goals and deliverables of one company (my employer) in mind, I was now juggling (mentally and literally) strategies, tasks, and expectations of multiple clients.
And, seriously… true confession time: This used to keep me awake at night.
I’d try to settle in to relaxation and sleep… and all of a sudden a task I said I would complete would creep in to my subconscious.. and then into my consciousness. And, bam! – I was awake. And I was going to my Macbook to add a reminder to my calendar… or grabbing my phone and emailing myself a prompt to do it tomorrow… And this was not good. Turning on a glowing screen at 2am is simply not desirable. And my husband and dog didn’t find it conducive to rest, either.
I knew I needed a better system. The ragtag collection of paper notebooks, flagging emails for follow-up, and excel sheets with steps in a process… it just wasn’t going to cut it.
Enter Asana, stage right. (The crowd goes wild.)
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My friend and amazing business woman / lawyer Jennifer Cunha had mentioned Asana in passing before. She had used it at one point to manage cases in her legal practice. So, when I started to hear other online entrepreneurs mentioning it in forums… I took note. And, then, as I was taking the Bucketlist Bombshells Tech Skills courses, (the fantastic) Shay and Cassie recommended Asana for project management.
As soon as I started seeing how it worked for the BB gals, I was sold.
But here’s the thing – when I say “sold,” I use that term quite figuratively. Because (are you ready for this?)
Asana is FREE.
Whaaaaat? Yes, you read that right. The project management software that I use to manage EVERY SINGLE THING in my business is free for me to use. And, you can use it for free too.
A few basic things to know about Asana:
1. The hierarchy of levels in Asana goes: Organization or Workspace; Team; Project; Task; Subtask.
If the email you use when setting up your account has your custom url (like Jana@JanaOMedia.com), you will automatically be creating an “organization.” If you set up your account with a gmail, yahoo, or other type of non-branded account, you will automatically be creating an “organization.” These two are very similar, but there are a few differences.
2. Asana is a project management software.
To get the best from it, it’s important to give most of your tasks due dates, and to assign tasks to yourself, even if you are a solopreneur and not using it to collaborate.
3. If you choose to, you can invite clients and/or collaborators to your Asana.
Invite them (based on who needs to see what) to be on “teams” in your Asana. This can be really awesome for staying organized and keeping your communication on a project all in one place.
4. Just like with any system, Asana will only work for you if you are consistent about using it.
But, if you invest a little bit of time here and there to add your projects, tasks, and more – your investment will pay dividends because your productivity will increase significantly.
Okay, so now that I’ve prepped you with a few of the nuts and bolts… I’m going to share a few of my favorite ways to use Asana in my business.:
I love to document the steps of a repeatable process.
This has been a huge time saver for me. For any process that I complete regularly (examples: new client onboarding, setting up a new client Pinterest profile, running the monthly P&L statement for my company), I get all the steps into tasks and subtasks.
Before Asana, I would start – BY MEMORY – a multi-step task that needs to happen, say, once per month… and without fail, I’d forget a step in the middle and have to go back and re-do steps that were dependent upon that one… or I’d forget exactly how to update an image in a client’s uncommon WordPress theme and spend 20 minutes googling it… again.
No more. Now, I have tasks with subtasks. They are all in the right order, and I sail through each step like Ginger Rogers.
And here’s an Asana super-power: It allows you to set repeating deadlines for tasks.
So, if you set up a task to be due on September 2, and then set it to repeat each month on the 2nd of the month, it will automatically generate a new task (with the new due date) when you mark the first one as complete. The frequency of the repetition is totally flexible – there are options to set tasks to repeat weekly, monthly, every 5 days… I haven’t seen a scenario that this function can’t accommodate.
Here’s a screenshot of my new Pinterest client profile onboarding process, for your reference as an example of a repeatable process.
And here is a second example… this one is a simple task, with subtasks, to guide me through the process of light editing on a client’s videos. She creates them once a quarter or so, and these are the basic steps I follow to edit and brand them.
I paste links to each of the websites I’ll need to complete a recurring task.
Again, HUGE time saver! An example: When I process and distribute a monthly branded market report for my Realtor client, I need to open several websites: The professional association site where the market numbers can be accessed; my Canva account to add the client branding to the reports; the back-ends of three different websites, including file managers and blog post entries; our email marketing platform; social media accounts to post the report… there’s more, but I think you get the point!
In my Asana task for this deliverable, I pasted the links to each site. And – (THIS is the awesome part!) – they aren’t just the general links – they are as targeted as possible, which allows me to skip lots of clicks. So, for example, instead of just opening Facebook, the link goes to the “scheduled posts” section of the “publishing tools” page of my client’s Facebook page. Instead of just going to Canva.com, the link is for the folder in Canva where I keep the templates for that particular client.
So, now, when I begin this task, I can simply right click on each of these hyper-specific links and open each in a new tab. It used to take five minutes of my life each time I had to navigate to all these pages… now it takes about ten seconds. (And, hey, those minutes all add up, right?)
Here’s a screenshot to show you where and how I paste all the links.
3) I use the color-coded calendar in Asana.
To say that I “use” it is an understatement… I pretty much live and die by it.
And this is the true time management game-changer. I don’t know about you, but the main reason I started my service-based business was to be able to create my own schedule and direct my own activities.
The calendar in Asana is the best tool I’ve found to plan and manage my workflow.
I have chosen to set Asana up so that each of my clients is a “team.” Each client also has a color that I’ve assigned them. So, each project and task that I add under that team will bare the color of that client.
Every task I create has a deadline, and I assign myself to every task I create. (Some of my subtasks have deadlines, and others don’t. If I’m just documenting the nitty-gritty steps of a task using subtasks, they generally don’t each need their own due dates.) By getting into this easy habit, and doing it consistently, I can trust that everything I need to do will show up on my (gorgeous, colorful) calendar in Asana.
The very best thing about the calendar view in Asana is that you can then drag and drop your tasks around on your calendar. I use this to organize my work in a few different ways:
a. I’ll often look at my work week on a Sunday night or Monday morning and drag tasks with the same color to days where there are like colors. By doing this, I can easily haul through the deliverables for ONE client in a sitting… which I like. (It saves me the mental energy of having to jump back and forth between clients, and transitioning / adjusting mentally to his/her brand voice, strategy, goals, etc.) To me, this just makes the best sense. Except…
b. Sometimes, if I have like tasks for multiple clients, I may choose to group those. For example, if I’m designing Pinterest pins for multiple clients this week, I may choose to do them all in one day to stay in the design flow (and possibly be able to modify templates for more than one clients, which saves me time, too.)
And here’s the most magical part… the part helps me feel like the CEO that I am:
c. If I know I’ll be particularly busy on a certain day (with personal errands, an out-of-town visitor, or even a big client project), I’ll strategize in advance, and drag the tasks off of that day to the day before or day after (or even the week after if it’s not time-sensitive). Or, if I’m going to be traveling and want to complete tasks in advance so I have more free time at my destination, I’ll drag tasks to the week before I go to get ahead.
(There is productivity and strategy here, no doubt. But there is also a mindset benefit. Every time I do this re-organization of tasks, it reminds me who’s boss in my business. For me, this is an important reminder.)
Here’s a screenshot of my color-coded Asana calendar… ahhhh… isn’t it beautiful? (I had to blur it in consideration of the confidentiality of my clients – sorry! Yours won’t be blurry! 🙂
Want to shorten your learning curve with Asana and get productive with it FASTER?
About a month after I started using Asana, I decided I was in love with it. I wanted to invest in learning how to optimize it for my business. So, I did some research and decided to buy Megan Minns’ course Asana HQ.
Megan is a premier project manager for six and seven figure online entrepreneurs. In her course, she provides three modules of game-changing Asana video tutorials.
Module 1 is the basics (and more): How to Use Asana.
Module 2 offers Megan’s personal Asana project templates for all kinds of service-based business owners.
Module 3 takes you through all of her best tips and tricks for using this uber-powerful (and FREE! just in case you missed that part!) software.
You can access Megan’s course here. I HIGHLY recommend it. I personally binge-watched it in one sitting. I go back to it often to get refreshed on tips and ideas about how to structure the projects and tasks for all my deliverables.
*Note, this is an Affiliate link, which means I earn a few dollars if you purchase the course (but it does NOT affect the price you pay). I recommend Megan’s course because it has literally transformed my workflows and shortened my learning curve considerably with Asana.
Now, keep in mind that Asana is a very comprehensive, robust, and customizable tool. I have not even started to describe many of its best functions and features…
(Delegating tasks to a VA or working in a team? It’s perfect… Want to forward emails to your Asana and have them convert to tasks? It can easily be done… Prefer the “board” format that Trello offers? Guess what? Asana can do that, too… Seriously, it’s a miracle tool.)
But, I digress. This is simply a post about how I use Asana in my Virtual Assistant and Pinterest Manager business.
In conclusion, if you are looking for the end-all-be-all tool that will get you organized, Asana is the one!
And, if you want to:
- stop combing through blog posts and watching videos about how to get your business organized…
- stop worrying that something will slip through the cracks…
- stop lugging around paper notebooks…
- stop using Excel to try to document workflows…
- stop sending yourself reminder emails at 2am…
… check out Megan’s course – here! I promise it’s the best money you could spend to get yourself in order.