I don’t know about you, but as soon as I get a lot of tasks assigned to me or my email inbox is overloaded, my anxiety level spikes. This is just aggravated by the feeling of always being on the clock and always being available. In this post I’m going to share some steps that I hope will help you to reduce this anxiety of always being on the clock and how to avoid the delays. Most of the first steps can be used with the basic package, but I’m also going to use some premium and business features like rules. Let’s start with the “My Tasks” view where you can see all tasks and subtasks assigned to you.
By default you will have some sections in this view but probably this view is part of the reason you feel anxious.
Some people just click on sort by due date and then stare at the list of read dates without any sections. Start by sorting your My Tasks to None.
The top section is called “ recently assigned”. This section is special and all new tasks will drop in here. I suggest renaming it to “ Task Inbox”. To make sure this is the correct section, click the more menu and make sure the “Delete section” is grayed out.
Next I suggest dragging this section to be below the “Today” section. All new tasks will still appear in this second section. Add a rule to “Today” as follow:
At midnight Asana will check when tasks are due and all that are due for today will be placed in this section. But you do not have to wait for midnight, go ahead and move all the tasks with today as the deadline to this section. Tip: Use multi-select to move up to 50 tasks at a time.
Create another section called: Upcoming if it does not exist and create a similar rule as follow:
This will also move all tasks at midnight according to the rule. Again we do not have to wait. Move all the tasks that are upcoming (Due in less than 7 days) to this section.
Create the Last section (If its not there yet) called “Later”
This is the home of all tasks that are assigned to you and have a due date that’s more than a week out. I keep this section collapsed. You know the drill. Go ahead and move all the tasks with due dates longer than 7 days out into this section.
You should now be left with unscheduled tasks and overdue tasks.
Create a section below the “Upcoming” section and call it Unscheduled, move any unscheduled tasks to this section and prioritize them manually by dragging them in the desired order.
Now for the big one. All that remains in your “ Task Inbox” is the overdue tasks. Go through them and renegotiate each task. Is this a real deadline or can I adjust the deadline. If not, place it at the top of “Today”. Some tasks you can clarify with a question and some are outdated and already done. Take your time doing this step. After this you will be tired but your anxiety level will be lower!
Create a rule that looks as follow:
You can now place any blocked tasks in a separate section or in upcoming and then as soon as the dependencies are gone, the task will automatically move to your Task Inbox.
Congratulations! You made it! This is like a muscle to train, the more you do this, the less time it will take and you will feel on top of your game.
If you want to take it one step further you can look at your calendar and block time out for each task on your list (starting with the “Today” section). You could even use a great integration called Clockwise to help you with this.
What do you do if it’s not just your tasks that creates anxiety? Then you need to capture, prioritize, clarify and repeat Phase 1
The first thing that I suggest is to have a way to capture tasks in one central place. The easiest way is to create a project and then just dump all of the tasks that’s in your head or in that document called meeting notes or in your emails into this project (see email-to-asana). I called my project “Task Triage”. When the anxiety then spikes, take a few minutes to sit down and do a brain dump of all the things that are inside of your head into this project. You don’t have to assign any task or put a date on anything if it’s not needed. We’ll do that on the next step when we prioritize. Bonus tip: Add a rule to your “My Tasks” to add any new task to this project.
Now let’s start prioritizing these tasks. Open up this project and start adding sections with answers to the question: What is the next step? (I renamed my first section “Clarify next action”) After adding sections for some common next steps, create rules for these sections that will just execute when moving tasks to this section. For example I have a section called “add to project X” When a task is then moved to this section it is automatically moved to the new project. Note that I move the task to the new project and not just add it to the new project.
After adding some rules. Add some Custom fields that could further help with prioritizing. For example adding an estimate on how many hours this task will take.
Now go through the project and clarify the task by adding more context like:
Adding start and due dates, assigning them to yourself or to other members, asking clarifying questions in the comments of the task, adding to other projects or even putting them in a “someday/ maybe” section. (Use rules or the workflow builder to make this even easier)
You should now have a system to also triage future tasks and adopt this project as needed.
After this step you can then change your focus back to all the tasks assigned to you.
Tip: You do not have to start with Phase 1. Block out an hour or more and get everything out of your head, do Phase 2 and only then go to Phase 1. But remember to take a break! You deserve it