📘 The tale of Jerod the unwise in the subtask maze

Once upon a time, there was a young farmer with the name @LEGGO . He was known as Jerod the unwise. Thirsty for adventure, he decided to go against all odds and to enter the subtask maze. Everyone advised against it, arguing he was not wise enough to navigate such a maze without a proper training.

He entered the maze, and as he was going deeper and deeper into the levels, he lost his way.

After years of errance he was finally able to find the exit the subtask maze. Below is what he learned. He is now known as Jerod the wise.


Limitations

  • subtasks are not part of their parent task project
  • subtasks do not appear on Calendar and Timeline
  • subtasks do not count in Workload
  • subtasks will soon be available in Flowsana
  • you can’t create subtasks by email

Visibility

  • by default, subtasks are not expanded in list view
  • as a result you don’t see overdue subtasks from the main list
  • you can’t expand and save as a default layout
  • if custom fields are used in the project, the subtasks will inherit them but values will be hidden by default in the task pane
  • in My Tasks, the project of the parent task is not shown
  • inside a task pane, subtasks do not disappear when completed
  • inside a task pane, in case of too many subtasks, they are hidden behind a « show more » button
  • subtasks show up in the Team calendar view

Search

  • advanced search can be used to search for subtask only, or filter out subtasks from the search

Guests

  • a guest added as a collaborator on a subtask will not see the parent task

Accessibility

  • subtasks are accessible from the list view, when a task is expanded, and can be opened like a regular task
  • when displayed in a task pane, subtasks can be opened by clicking on the small bubble on the right
  • only the first level of subtasks is visible in list view. Deeper levels are only accessible from each subtask

Relationship with parent

  • completing a task does not complete the subtasks
  • completing all the subtasks does not complete the task
  • the task due date is unrelated to the subtasks due dates

Possibilities

  • a subtask can be multi-homed into its parent task project (and then count in Workload, show on Calendar and Timeline)
  • you can automate the addition of subtasks through Rules
  • the tool Subtasks cleaner can complete subtasks from completed tasks automatically

School of thought

  • some organisations completely forbid subtasks
  • some organisations forbid more than 1 level of subtasks

Did I miss anything about subtasks?!
Kuddos to @Todd_Cavanaugh for writing the first big piece about subtasks

17 Likes

Great summary, @Bastien_Siebman.

Under Accessibility, I would suggest pointing out that you only get one level of subtasks:

  • the first level of subtasks are accessible from the list view, when a task is expanded, and can be opened like a regular task
  • additional levels of subtasks under the first level are not shown in list view

(Also one typo: “a subtask can me multi-homed”)

3 Likes

This is amazing. Thank you for putting all of this in one place, why you should NEVER use subtasks in Asana.

1 Like

This is not the conclusion of the post, but I like the spirit :rofl:

1 Like

The conclusion is Jerod is now (arguably) Wise, nothing more. :wink:

3 Likes

I disagree that subtasks shouldn’t be used. I’m not happy that Asana leaves them as a bastard child in the functionality. From experience, building all tasks at the top level make for a convoluted long mess and I generally ignore projects built as such. An organized structure rule for subtasks make a project easier to work through, defining the elements of an overriding set of tasks while also limiting how deep (and lost) they can go. For most timelines, I wouldn’t want to see every little task associated with a project. I’ve used MS Project and don’t want to make Asana that. It is unfortunate if Workload doesn’t roll up.

7 Likes

That is definitely a hot topic. My main point is not that subtasks are bad in essence, but rather that their various limitations makes them hard to use and I’d rather use workarounds to avoid them. But I agree in many cases they are quite handy. I don’t mind a very long project, if that matches the reality. Sometimes clients tell me “my project is so complicated” and that is almost always because their business is complicated :sweat_smile:

Thanks @Shawn_GDCC for pitching in, I definitely need to meet up with @lpb who is a bigger user of subtasks that I am. We’ll post back here if we end up doing a podcast episode or something!

2 Likes

I updated the post with two points:

  • because you don’t see subtasks in the list view by default, you don’t see overdue subtasks right away
  • thanks to a client I discovered that subtasks do show up in the Team calendar!
2 Likes

I’d be very interested in seeing how @lbp uses Asana. I’m doing a review and assessment of how the client users are interacting with Asana right now. We’ll address the challenges and revise the procedures and best practices.

Hi @Shawn_GDCC,

I happened to see your post even though I’m @lpb not @lbp!

You can see some of my thinking in:

but feel free to PM me here or at Contact Trilogi.

Thanks,

Larry

1 Like

This is so great and what a fun read! I’ve always struggled explaining how subtasks function to my team and this does such a wonderful job of laying it out so clearly. Definitely sharing this with them! :raised_hands:

Thanks @KelseyGoshko :heart:

I have updated the post to remove the limitation around automation since subtasks can now be created using Rules! Also removed the part about subtasks not counting in project Dashboard, since they do now :slight_smile:

@Bastien_Siebman We are hotly in this debate right now. We have a project where we have 2 other related projects through linear dependencies. So we created a Parent Task which is Dependent on Subtask A - Subtask A which is dependent on Subtask B.
We thought awesome the Parent project would keep track of when all the work is done! We used recurrence on the Parent so each time the 2 subtasks were complete the Parent was auto complete and the Parent would generate Next Month’s Task and Subtask.
Then we discovered so many issues with Subtask recurrence :hot_face::

  1. The subtasks do not get their dates updated
  2. The linkage the subtasks had to their previous projects are gone
  3. The file attachments on the subtasks we don’t want are the only thing copied over
    and many more
    So how does a department like an accounting company who wants to track monthly closes of various departments handle this in Asana? We are about to head down the path of coding in the API to do all the things we want in subtasks that Asana does not do today and remove some that we don’t want (e.g. attachments). Are we headed down a doomed path?

If that represents more than a dozen tasks, you should consider an entire project for this. You’ll archive it each month, and be comfortable working…

@Bastien_Siebman Just really 2 Tasks that get repeated about 100 times. It would be ideal for a Task template if Task Templates were dynamic (variables) and not manually kicked off. I found a beautiful way to automate this with Salesforce, but my project sponsor rejected the use of Salesforce to do the automation Asana cannot so we can only use Asana API

@Bastien_Siebman Also my use case was not really accurate. The real use case is a department that produces about 100 reports each month. Those reports have 2 main steps Step 1 - Report Creation, Step 2 - Report Sent out to Recipient. To track the status of all 100 reports the user wanted the 2 steps to be Subtasks of the Tracking task and each Task would contain the Name of the Report to make it easy to see which reports were done an which were not.

@Bastien_Siebman Also left 1 important point out. The people working on Step 1 and Step 2 wanted their own projects so they only have to see their own Tasks no the other departments Tasks

I believe your case needs a consultation to discuss your situation thoroughly, too hard on a forum like this.