Architectural Balance in Asana (Ebook Chapter)

Larry Berger, Asana Certified Pro, Trilogi Solutions

Secrets of Successful Teams in Asana

Asana’s Available Hierarchy

We must work within the structure Asana provides, which is:

Achieving Balance: Building Blocks

We’ll start with suggestions for each of the constituent parts individually before treating them holistically further below.


Your single Organization should encompass all the related work you and your colleagues do. Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, I think you’ll find it much easier to operate within one Organization than multiple Organizations (or multiple Workspaces).

Teams and Projects

Our natural thought process when we’re ready to begin something new is to create a Project. But in an Asana Organization, Projects can only exist within a Team, so instead, you should first consider your approach to Teams and at least create the key initial ones and have a clear plan for how that will evolve.

  • All: Everyone in the Organization
  • Department1: Everyone in Department1
  • SubDepartmentA: Everyone in SubDepartmentA
  • BigInitiative: Everyone working on BigInitiative (which is cross-discipline/department)
  • AInitiative: Everyone working on AInitiative (even if the members list currently happens to be the same as those for SubDepartmentA)
  • Me+Person1: One-on-one with Person1 (if you expect to have more than one shared project)
  • Me: Just you (for your private Projects)

Sections and Tasks

Sections in List View (which appear as Columns in Board View) group related tasks, so you should use them if your Project is comprised of different collections of Tasks; otherwise, your Project may not need them. If you’re using a paid version of Asana, consider as an alternative to Sections a dropdown Custom Field and sorting (grouping) by that Custom Field as a potentially more flexible solution.

Subsections and Subtasks

The textual content of a Task, beyond its Title, can be specified in the Task’s Description, Subsections/Subtasks, or a combination of both. (Usually, you’d only use Comments for ongoing dialog, not persistent, task-defining information.) Among other pros and cons, the Description offers rich text whereas Subsections/Subtasks offer a built-in two-level structure, drag-and-drop reordering, Assignee, Due Date, and Completion checkmark. Although Sub-Subtasks (up to several levels deep) are supported, I’d recommend their use only in very specific circumstances.

Achieving Balance: Putting It All Together

In addition to the above rules of thumb for using each element in the Asana hierarchy, there’s one more key concept to bear in mind: Balance. To answer the question “Should I make this a Project or a Team?” it’s important to take stock of the volume and scope of your active content (non-archived Projects and incomplete Tasks) now and with a view toward scaling.

Architecting Anything New in Asana: Step by Step

Here’s a step-by-step approach you can follow whenever you tackle something new and somewhat complex in Asana:

  1. Briefly envision the amount and complexity of your work’s content now and as it scales
  2. Draw a simple outline (hierarchy) depicting each logical grouping of content, e.g.:
    Monthly Meetup
    Jan 2020
    . . ToDo1
    . . ToDo2
    . . ToDo3
    Feb 2020
    . . ToDo1
    . . ToDo2
  3. Choose a starting point for your topmost box from the prior step: For more complex and/or high volume groupings consider starting at the Team/Project levels of the Asana hierarchy; otherwise, consider starting at the Section/Task levels
  4. Sketch (crudely, with a Sharpie, boxes, and lines) what the following parts of Asana would look like given your chosen starting point from above:
    a) Left sidebar: Rough indication of quantity of Teams and Projects added
    b) Tasks List: Rough indication of quantity of Sections and Tasks in each new Project
    c) Task Detail: Rough indication of quantity of Subsections/Subtasks across all the Tasks
  5. If it appears manageable with neither a), b), nor c) too overwhelming, and you’ve generally achieved some balance across Teams, Projects, and Tasks, and Subtasks, proceed.
  6. If you fear running out of room or risk violating the Subtasks guidelines, try “left-shifting:” In your sketch, use Sections/Tasks instead of Subsections/Subtasks, use multiple Projects instead of a single Project with Sections, and use a Team instead of Project.
  7. If you have a sparse layout — perhaps multiple Projects but each with very few Tasks, or similar imbalances — try “right-shifting:” In your sketch, use a Project instead of a Team, use one Project with Sections instead of multiple Projects, use Subsections/Subtasks instead of Sections/Tasks.

Keep in Mind . . .

Some brief, additional considerations on your path to architectural balance in Asana:

  • Think Big, Start Small. In order to correctly architect your structure, envision the big picture of how your work will look once you get going. As long as you have thought ahead and know the correct entities that you’ll need (Teams, Projects) you can wait to create the bulk of them only when required.
  • Many Teams and Projects. As you grow, you’ll add Projects, and maybe Teams too, naturally. Large or active Asana Organizations may have a lot of Projects and Teams.
  • Archive Projects and Teams. Archive Projects when they become inactive. For Teams, consider faking a Team archive (not a feature in Asana) at the bottom of the left sidebar by creating a dummy Team called 🗄️ Teams Archive and positioning it after your last active Team. Drag Teams there that you no longer use (but don’t yet want to delete).
  • Permissions. Get familiar with permissions since there are multiple ways to handle access rights at the Team, Project and Task levels. By starting with a sensible Team structure as above, it will simplify your work here.
  • Advanced Search. If you are on a paid Asana plan, Advanced Search / Saved Reports can simplify your work and potentially reduce the number of Projects you need.
  • Subtasks Undergoing Change. As of this writing, Asana is known to be improving the Subtasks feature but it’s not known specifically what is changing.



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