(Learn to) Use Subtasks!

“Never use subtasks!”

“Use subtasks but never more than 12 subtasks per task.” (I’ve even heard “never more than 5 subtasks.”)

“Don’t be afraid to use subtasks.”

What subtasks faction do you belong to? Or is there even a subtasks controversy after all?

Bastien (@bastien_siebman) and Larry (@lpb) seemed to be sending different subtask signals. But at our recent “Subtasks Summit” (err…, a casual Slack DM, actually), we realized that we see far more eye-to-eye on subtasks usage than it may have outwardly appeared. We realized we vehemently agreed with each other and are collaborating on this post. We both encourage you to 1) learn about subtasks, and 2) use subtasks!

Larry encourages you to watch his free workshop video Tackle (almost) anything in Asana: Step-by-step in order to gain the sufficient perspective needed to make decisions about when to use subtasks. Although the workshop’s main topic is broader, in the first section (“Asana’s building blocks”), one slide specifically addresses his take on the dos and don’ts of subtasks. But subtasks come up again and again in the remaining two sections and in the substantial Q&A after the presentation. So the video in its entirety provides both subtask best practices and several contexts in which to consider their use and the nuances thereof that can otherwise be hard to portray.

Bastien encourages you to read his take in the reply post below for his best “subtasks summation.”

And we’re both looking forward to the ensuing dialog . . .

Thanks,

Larry and Bastien

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:laughing: I love it.

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Thanks Larry, here’s indeed my own take on the situation after our summit :mount_fuji: :slight_smile:


I want to clarify something with the Asana Community. Based on feedbacks I received, it looks like I became the “Don’t ever use subtasks” guy. My intentions have been misunderstood, my point did not come across and the misalignment between my own use and what I preach have bothered some of the Community members.

Let me start by saying: I love subtasks, I am very successful at using them, and use them a lot.

That being said, I am also helping clients on a daily basis struggling with subtasks. They usually rush into subtasks, use them everywhere, and then come to us for help. “We don’t see the project in My Tasks”, “Workload does not work”, “We don’t see subtasks in Calendar or Timeline” are a daily complaint we hear during sessions.

So a long time ago I decided to adopt this attitude of “Don’t use subtasks”, which in my opinion was easier to explain and more impactful than explaining all the ins and outs of subtasks. I felt I had to simplify my position in order to be heard, at the risk of over-simplifying or even be wrong.

My goal remains the same: make sure every Asana user understands how subtasks work, and use them in a way that works for them. We’ll keep helping the ones running into issues with subtasks to the best of our ability.

The forum is full of heated discussions around subtasks, and my attitude probably did not help. It still remains uncertainty around whether or not Asana considers the way subtasks work to be “normal”, or “buggy”, and if it should be “fixed”.

So, from now on, I’d like to be the “Subtasks are awesome if you know how to use them” guy :wave:, agreed?

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Thanks, @Bastien_Siebman, for the thoughtful subtasks summit summary! (And I just edited the OP to link to yours.)

Larry

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Thanks for the information @lpb and @Bastien_Siebman. I too struggle with implementing subtasks in the right way, but this is super helpful!

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Hi @Bastien_Siebman,

I’ve participated in one of those many threads on subtasks (eg. Subtasks being duplicated at task level) and its fascinating to see that there is still some ‘pain’ around the subject that’s keeping the debate going.

I always think that if the use of any software feature is unclear, then either its not been implemented well enough or else not explained well enough by those that have actually carefully considered its design and implementation.

Unfortunately many people immediately take the first opinon and then think that because they haven’t had the explanation, that the software developer isn’t listening or caring. Its important they counter these concerns with clear and timely responses.

You and Larry are doing a great job in helping us there and its important to understand how experts are working quite successfuly with the features as they are implemented.

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Thanks, @Alex_Bailey1, for your thoughtful comments.

Another point: I’m not sure there’s any precedent for some of the design and behavior issues and choices surrounding the mix of features like subtasks, custom fields, multi-homing, etc. and the interrelationships among them.

So, I don’t disagree with you, just highlighting that there’s a lot of complexity, and not sure any design/implementation that would be seen by most as perfect.

Larry

I use subtasks and even sub-subtasks. An incredibly helpful tip is to manually create “breadcrumbs” for your naming conventions. For example, my parent task includes the task name and the project name. A sub-task would include the sub-task name, task name, and project name. This is especially helpful if you are looking at your MyTasks section, calendar, or daily breakdown. With notifications on subtasks such as “follow up with the vendor”, I know what task and project I am following up on without having to navigate to asana. It makes the tool much easier to manage. It is also really helpful if you are managing multiple projects or delegating work.

Project: Using Asana Subtasks
Task: Create the Subtask | Using Asana Subtasks
Subtask: Apply Naming Conventions | Create the Subtask | Using Asana Subtasks.