Subtask panel concept


#1

I have a lot of issues using subtasks, they have power, but also limit me in many ways. I’m just throwing an idea out there, not sure if it will be popular or even a good idea.

My biggest beef with the subtask section is how it functions along with the main task panel. For example, in the main task panel, I can scroll down and see my tasks, I can select them all and perform changes to custom fields, etc.

This is where the subtask panel fails.

Couldn’t the system be programmed so the panels shift to the right as you want to drill down into subtask areas? For example: I have the main task list showing, then I click (in a special way, maybe a certain part of the task field) the task that has subtasks and the entire subtask list opens up in the main list, essentially pushing the main list to the left (hidden if you will). Now, I can operate on the subtask list just like I would on the main list, by selecting multiple items, changing custom fields, etc…

From what I have been told is that subtasks aren’t really in the project, and you have to promote them to the project (add to project) which is a huge pain when you have a bunch. I have used advanced searches, etc, and promoted that way, but again big pain. So if this is the case and this part can’t be fixed so the subtask is always part of the project. Then maybe when you drill down into the subtasks and thus they show up where the main panel was, then maybe the system can temporarily promote them to the project, so we can add change custom fields, then when we push them back to the subtask area, they would auto-demote from the project.

As we drill down, each level should provide essentially a breadcrumb trail, like you do in the task info panel, but this probably would need to happen above below the List, Timeline, Calendar, etc. tabs.

If possible, rather than drilling down, it may be better to click level buttons that would show up depending on how many levels of subtasks there are. So say the main task panel is the Primary Level… then if I have 3 nested subtask levels, it would show Level 2, Level 3, Level 4. And when I click on Level 2, it shows me all subtasks at this level, and sectioned by the original task they belong to. This would allow us to work on many subtasks across multiple primary tasks at once, without doing advanced searches.

Another thing that would make this nice is if the tasks would show how many subtasks are under them… some sort of indication like (3/6, 7,20), where the first one indicates the next subtask level how many done out of how many total (or left), and the next set of numbers would be how many total subtasks (no matter how far nested they are) completed and how many total (or left to do)

I’m not sure if this can even be done, but I figured I would share the idea anyway. I attached an example of what I was thinking visually. See how each subtask level replaces the main list.


#2

Great post @Francesco_Alessi well thought out and some great ideas…

Jason.


#3

My understanding is that subtasks are simple, and probably will stay this way. If you have many subtasks, maybe what you need is actually a project, because indeed subtasks are too simple. But if they become more complex, that will motivate people to start using subtasks everywhere, and overall Asana will become very hard to navigate. @Todd_Cavanaugh made a great summary To Subtask or not to Subtask


#4

Thanks for the reply Bastien, but I think Todd’s issues are not about the concept of the subtasks, but Asana’s implementation of them. Which is why I proposed some changes. The issue people have is that things are hidden in the subtasks, which is why I suggested some kind of count to let people know there are subtasks on a main tasks. The level indicator (breadcrumbs) would also indicate that there were subtask levels and make it easy to navigate to them. Finally, showing subtasks in the main task window, would eliminate virtually all the issues people have with them. It would open them up to using custom fields and performing mass changes to them.

The biggest problem subtasks have is the concept of having to promote them to the project, I doubt most users would understand this process even doing a few subtasks, but when you talk about doing 5+ subtasks, you have to do advanced searches to pullout these subtasks and then mass add them to the project. If they made this process better/easier, more people would use subtasks. And you have to promote them to the project in order to use custom fields.

I personally HATE sections, I think they are one of the worst implemented items in Asana, they only work if your task list is sorted one way and rarely do you change that. As soon as you change something in your sorting, it can throw off the sections. With the new Timeline section feature, it does make sections more worth using, but I still shy away from them.

The biggest problem with not using subtasks, is you end up having to name every task the name of the project/task item. Because when the team looks at their tasks due in their My Tasks list, it doesn’t given them any indication as to what the task belongs to other than the project. And we aren’t creating projects for various deliverables, that completely kills the concept of project management.

Here is an image showing the issue with using sections over subtasks, and how it shows in a user’s task list. There’s no indication as to what the task is for when you have multiple tasks… So if my users have 3 “shoot/record” tasks, there’s nothing that will say what main task (in our case, deliverables) the task is for. Making them subtasks without promoting them to the project also has issues, because it doesn’t show the project bubble at the end of the line. Finally, the best way I have found is to use subtasks and promote them to the project, so that shows the subtask right after the action words (shoot/record), so I know what main task it belongs to, finally adding it to the project, it shows me the project bubble at the end of the line. I find this to be the best way as I can create templates for various team types, each one having 1 task with a bunch of subtasks, then I just need to copy that 1 task to the new project, and then promote the subtasks to the project, so the show up in the main display/timeline, etc. If we employ a different method such as “adding the deliverable name and/or project name” to the task to give it context, it would create way too much text, and require people to do that to each task.

Just to explain what you are seeing in the image. This is my “My Tasks” list, in this case, i’m only showing 1 project worth of data, and I have multiple entries (just for this example) showing how things would look with and without subtasks. Sections seem to have no baring in here. The 3 tasks (9 total) I’m talking about are “Write Script,” “Shoot/Record,” and “Edit Final Cut.”
The first instance of each of these is a task in a section in the main task list.
The second instance is a subtask that isn’t promoted to the project (thus missing the project bubble at then end of the line)
The third instance is one where the subtask is promoted to the project, thus giving users full context without bloating the task name or requiring a lot of repeat entries to add the same main task (in our case a deliverable) name/project name to each task.

So this all comes down to, Asana has a great system with a lot of limitations. Can these limitations be fixed, or will we have to always work around them. The concept of subtasks is great, Asana just needs to address the issues and limitations in order to open this up to really shine.


#5

Thanks for the details. I totally understand, my point being: if Asana does not improve subtasks, it is probably because they don’t want people to use them! :grimacing: because introducing one more level of collaboration can be complicated to grasp


#6

I hope that’s not the case. Because the subtasks are powerful if they would unlock the power. I have read through a lot of posts, and many of them say pretty much same 3 or 4 things regarding subtasks. Sure there may be 20 other suggestions/feedback, but I think it can be boiled down to 3-4 that need to be fixed.


#7

Great idea. I used to use a product called EccoPro, decades ago, that let you have multiple levels of nested tasks/sub-tasks/sub-sub tasks etc. in an outline format. The usefulness of sub-sub tasks in Asana is extremely limited and what you are suggesting could go a long way to fixing it…