💡 Subtasks: when to use them, when not to use them

This is clearly a very hot topic in the community. Yes, subtasks are imperfect. No, Asana does not have to change the way it was built just because you want to. Does Asana wish it was easy to change the way subtasks work but does the legacy they have prevent them from doing so? Probably.

The community never fully agreed on best practices and bad practices. What I know is that many people are unhappy, and millions of others use subtasks every day and get along with it.

According to me, when to use subtasks safely:

:+1: personal checklist for the assignee to remember all the steps to go through in order to complete a task. e.g. Organizing a meeting requires booking a room, create a calendar invite, and prepare an agenda.

:+1: store an action directly related to a task. e.g. A meeting task could have a subtask « Send the recording to everyone ».

When not to use subtasks, or at least be aware you’ll probably run into issues:

:-1: store tasks that should count in terms of work being done. e.g. Workload does not show subtasks.

:-1: create subtasks assigned to different people with different due dates. Over time, this will make it harder to understand, and projects will lose clarity because work is hidden.

:-1: use a subtask instead of a task in a regular project. e.g. requesting a design as a subtask rather than going through the design request process (using a Form for example)

:-1: use subtasks instead of turning tasks into projects, because you fear having too many projects. My opinion is that many projects are better than many subtasks.

:rotating_light: In some cases, using subtasks is just waaaay easier. For example, if you want to request marketing material, a task could be created for each request and subtasks used for Create, Review, Publish… You just need to know what are the limits!

Did I miss anything? Does anyone disagree? :grimacing:

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Thanks @Bastien_Siebman,

A post like this is super helpful for incoming Asana users as it sets expectations. When I first joined Asana, my expectation was that subtasks would be the catalyst that drove my team. However, that is not the case and I believe there are MANY workarounds to achieve an organization’s goals without utilizing subtasks as an imperative source of workload.

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Well summarized @Bastien_Siebman!

One thing I also notice often is that people have a task with 30+ subtasks, then they also add new ones on the bottom and not the top and wonder why so much scrolling is needed :joy:

I agree to rather have more projects as well because it is more organized + easier to create reports as well.

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This is a very helpful thread. We are new, and just starting down the road of too many subtasks. BUT, we need a way to look at multitple projects at the same time (lots of courses that we offer, all on different timelines, and in different formats). Multiple projects won’t let us do this, so we have this set up:

  • 2022 Programs as the project
  • each course as a task
  • and all the tasks we need to do for each course as subtasks.

It’s unwieldly. Any suggestions? Should we look into Portfolios?
We’d appreciate any thoughts!

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Can you define “look at multiple projects at the same time”? What do you need to see? Tasks? Project statuses?

Hey @Bastien_Siebman I guess incorrect quoting here.

@Christine_Ahern this question is for you :wink:

Yes thanks :hugs:

Thanks for your reply! I found another thread that looks like it’s addressing what I want to see. I was trying to get around this with subtasks, but it’s not working well so far.

Yes the only way to have a timeline of multiple projects is to multi-home all tasks into the same project…

What I love about Sub Tasks, is taking Meeting Minutes. I just make one task of Minutes for [Date] and under that, I start creating minutes / action items. Those items could be easily to assigned to any other person for doing the next actions. This part is, I think the shining, awesome feature of Sub Tasks.

One could always search for Minutes and figure out the tasks which are stemming from those minutes.

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We use a combination of subtasks and project views at the moment and it works quite well. For say a single product launch that has multiple components those subtasks also live as a standalone task in a different project. It’s the best of both worlds as an individual can see all the tasks relating to this single product in the product launch project (design, web, social etc) but the individuals responsible also have their individual projects. Hasn’t gotten unwieldy yet but there is time :smiley:

Hi Christine, something you can do with the basic version of Asana is to assign tasks to multiple projects. Any change you make to a task will be reflected in all projects.
In your case you would then have a project for the 2022 program and also projects for each course. Any tasks you need to do for each course would be assigned to both the course project and also to the 2022 program project. Customize your list view for the 2022 program project to show the project field and then you will see which course the task belongs to. In this way you can use the 2022 program project to give you an overview of all projects or you can look at each course individually by looking at the course project.

Do you mean you multi-home into the project “Bryan’s tasks” all the tasks assigned to Bryan?

In the example I provided of a product release - the subtasks are automated into multi-home projects as you mention (using flowsana) - So if the Release requires Graphic Design, an email and a landing page those subtasks are created as well as being multi-homed into the “Graphic Design”, “Email” and “Web” Briefing projects (assigned to the relevant staff).

Recent updates in Flowsana that allow for trickle down date changes is super useful for this setup as when the product launch date changes (happens regularly) all subtasks date change relative to it.

We are still working on optimising the setup but for now it has been very useful

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I added a section starting with :rotating_light: because after some feedback I realised my position was too extreme: subtasks are great and the solution to many use cases.

I am just a bit provocative and extreme hoping people would find a way to do the same thing without subtasks. Because when they do, we usually end up helping them in workshops and that is hard :sweat_smile: But I use subtasks every day!

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