Your Simple (or Advanced) Strategy for Asana’s Updated My Tasks
Larry Berger, Asana Certified Pro, Trilogi Solutions
This article is for both experienced and new Asana users. It will give you a quick, simple playbook to restore the lost functionality (automatic task promotion) you’ve been used to (or, for newer users, that you’ll want to add) and leverage the new customizations available. After that, some suggestions for more advanced and alternative My Tasks approaches are offered.
For additional information on the new My Tasks see My Tasks in the Asana Guide.
Let’s start with a view of where we’re going: a simple but highly functional structure to keep track of your work in an approach similar to the original Asana My Tasks before the 2021 update. (Just read through this Overview for now; set-up instructions are supplied after.) All the My Tasks sections needed for this simple approach are:
Asana will place here all your tasks that are newly assigned by others along with tasks you create using the Omnibutton Quick Add or by your sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your goal is to regularly triage those tasks into the sections below. Certain tasks will automatically be triaged for you as explained later.
Use this section for tasks you’d like to work on today (regardless of their ultimate due date; a large assignment might be due in two weeks but you’ll need to work on it daily until then). If you don’t finish a task today, you’re covered — it simply remains in Today ready for you when tomorrow arrives.
Use this section for tasks you want to work on tomorrow or soon (perhaps over the next week; define this near-term duration however you’d like to), or that you want to keep an eye on beyond today.
Keep this section collapsed (Asana will remember your preference) so you are never distracted by the many tasks found here. Note: Always assign a Due date of tomorrow or later to tasks you move here unless you never want to be reminded of them again. Just after midnight, any task due today or in a week automatically will be moved to Today or Upcoming to remind you (more on this in a moment).
To implement the simple approach just outlined above, do the following one-time setup to customize your My Tasks:
- Update your My Tasks view settings, if necessary
At the top-right of My Tasks, if you don’t already see Incomplete tasks then click to change it. If you don’t see Sort then click to select a sort of None. In the Customize menu, make sure Due date is toggled on so you’ll see that column.
- Rename Recently assigned to New
Since this section will be ever-present and usually empty, a short title is less obtrusive and more accurate for both our simple and more advanced My Tasks workflow approaches.
- Adjust remaining sections
Rename, create, move, and/or delete all other sections so you are left only with the following sections in your My Tasks: New, Today, Upcoming, Later.
Note: If you’ve created other sections in the past and no longer need them, you’ll find you can’t delete sections still containing tasks — even completed tasks — without either a) moving them to another section (see Moving Tasks Between Sections in My Tasks below for tips), b) unassigning yourself first, or c) confirming the warning and allowing them to be deleted. You may prefer simply to keep these sections collapsed and drag them below Later.
- Add a Due today Rule
a) Click the Customize button and then click Add Rule
b) Click Due date is approaching → Move task to a certain section
c) Click the title and rename to Due today
d) Click Due date is approaching and choose Due today
e) Click Move task to a certain section and choose Today
f) Click the Create Rule button
- Add a Due in a week Rule
Repeat (a) through (f) above, but:
- in (c) rename title to Due in a week
- in (d) choose 1 week before
- in (e) choose Upcoming
Note: If you prefer, consider changing this rule to two weeks instead of one week, or even to three days. Another option is to have two rules here: Due in a week and also Due in two weeks instead of just this one rule for extra, early notice.
Using My Tasks
Let’s now see how to use My Tasks day-to-day in practice. We’ll proceed section by section:
Has Asana placed any tasks here in this section for you? Move each of those (that you can’t complete immediately) to either Today (intend to work on today), Upcoming (intend to work on soon), or Later (but first be sure to set a Due date of tomorrow or beyond). Don’t add any new tasks here yourself so that you can clearly distinguish new tasks automatically added by Asana.
Add tasks here that you intend to work on today. Manually order tasks here by time of day or priority, perhaps.
Add tasks here that you intend to work on tomorrow or soon, or that you want to keep an eye on beyond today. Perhaps manually order by date or priority.
Always assign a Due date of tomorrow or later to tasks you move here. Remember, this stays collapsed so when you move a task here it will seem to disappear but it’s just hidden.
Moving Tasks Between Sections in My Tasks
Besides adding task details, and marking tasks complete when you finish them, you’ll be moving tasks among these sections as mentioned above.
The new flexible sections have made obsolete the concept of “Mark for” Today/Upcoming/Later and their corresponding shortcuts (which have been repurposed), but a nice set of new shortcuts has been added (see below).
Here are ways to move tasks between sections::
- New shortcuts! Tab+1, Tab+2, ..., Tab+9 move your selected task(s) to your first section, second section, …, ninth section in your My Tasks. For example, if your sections are New, Today, Upcoming, Later, then selecting task(s) and typing Tab+4 will move them to Later. These shortcuts provide quick access to each of your My Tasks sections (assuming you don’t have more than nine). And they also work outside of My Tasks when you have the Task Detail pane open with a task assigned to you, for example in any project, in Inbox, and in Search Results, though it does not work in List View in projects and Search Results.
- To move tasks while in the tasks list you can select one or more and drag and drop with the drag handles at the far left of each task.
- Alternately, you can select one or more tasks (even more than 50) and click the up/down arrows icon near the right edge of each task and select the destination section. (Alternately, instead of clicking the icon you can use the repurposed Tab+U shortcut to open the sections mover dropdown, up/down arrows to select one, then Enter make the change, but this will only work for 50 or fewer selections):
- When in the task detail right-side pane, you can use the Tab+1, Tab+2, etc. shortcuts as explained above to change that one task’s section. You also can move that one task to another section by clicking the section name as shown below or with the repurposed Tab+Y shortcut to open the dropdown, up/down arrows to select one, then Enter make the change:
- Also available are the Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Up and Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Down shortcuts to move one or more selected tasks up and down by section. So, to triage a set of tasks from New into Upcoming, select them, then do Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Down two times. But I prefer the faster-to-use, direct-access shortcuts Tab+1, Tab+2, etc. instead of the other shortcut options mentioned here.
What Happens Automatically due to your Rules?
Just after midnight daily local time (in the rule creator’s browser’s time zone at the time they created the rule), Asana will move tasks due today to Today and tasks due in a week to Upcoming. This will occur regardless of the section in which the task is currently found; generally, this will apply to tasks found in Later, but it also applies to tasks found in New that you haven’t triaged yourself, so you get a little help there!
Note: Don’t expect any rule activity to occur at other times for these particular rules; for example, the Due today rule will not fire immediately upon creation, nor when you change a task’s Due date to today. Also, these rules only operate on incomplete tasks.
Alternative and More Advanced Approaches
Each person has their own task management to-do list approach, and My Tasks is flexible enough to support your preferred workflow. Let’s explore one comprehensive example in detail and then survey a handful of key alternatives.
My Own Approach to My Tasks
Over the years I’ve honed an approach by expanding the default Asana configuration. I’m not saying this will work for you, but perhaps you’ll see a tactic or two that you like which you can easily add to your own My Tasks setup and start using right away.
- Now: This section is similar to the previously-described New but subtly renamed to Now for a reason: Any task here should be triaged or worked on as soon as you can. This section is used for two very different sets of “now” tasks: 1) Those Asana places here automatically, and 2) your hottest, do-right-now tasks so that they stand out from the other sections below. I keep a permanent “ — “ divider line in place to clearly distinguish between the two groupings. For (1), Asana automatically-placed tasks appear above the divider and consist of both of newly-assigned-to-you tasks and also those that are the result of your Due today and Due in a week rule actions. For (2), your hot tasks, add new entries below the divider, and also possibly triage hot tasks that just arrived by dragging them below the divider.
- Today: As described previously.
- Upcoming: As described previously.
- Later: As described previously; keep collapsed.
- Daily/Reference: Tasks to be done daily or needed often for quick reference.
- Pending: Tasks awaiting action by others.
- Agenda: My key calendar entries sorted by Start/Due date. I haven’t relied on a separate calendar app for years (though I don’t advocate this approach for those with tons of calendar appointments). All of my calendar entries are in Asana, but what appears here are only those that I want to see at a glance and in advance; the rest are in Later until the week prior (though occasionally I’ll temporarily sort by Due date to see all dated entries). It’s worth a bit of extra effort to not have to use another app and for the luxury of having my calendar housed right below my to-dos and just a short scroll away. To be clear, I’m using My Tasks List view, not Calendar view. (It would be nice if I could use Sort > Due date > Sort within sections just for this Agenda section alone but Sort only applies to all sections and I don’t want the other sections sorted that way so I just use Sort > None.)
Alternative Approaches to My Tasks
But enough about my own My Tasks! Let’s take a quick tour of other common alternative approaches for your My Tasks:
Use two-hour-block sections like 8–10a, 10a-12p, 12–2p, 2–4p, 4–6p, or sections for every hour, or perhaps Morning, Afternoon, Evening.
- By Day of Week
Use sections like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Weekend.
- By Priority
Use sections like High, Medium, Low.
- By Work Type
Use sections like Weekly Goals, Meetings Prep, Project 1, Project 2.
- By Level of Effort
Use sections like Less than 5 Minutes, Quick Wins, Medium Effort, Large Effort.
Each of these setups still requires the Now (or New) section, and perhaps Today and Upcoming. If you don’t include Today and Upcoming I recommend making Now the destination for rules like Due today and Due in a week. Finally, consider adding any of the other sections I outlined earlier that you feel would add value, such as Pending or Daily/Reference.
Other My Tasks New Features
Besides the ability to adjust sections flexibly, add Date approaching Rules, and other features mentioned above, the My Tasks update also offers these key improvements:
- Board view!
For the first time, My Tasks offers Board view (as an alternative to List view and Calendar view). (Personally, I use List view for My Tasks exclusively.)
- Columns updates
Show/hide and set width for columns (including Projects and Tags) in My Tasks List view.
- More rules available
In addition to the Due date is approaching → Move task to a certain section rule mentioned earlier, Premium users now have access to some other predefined rules, and Business/Enterprise users now have access to custom rules just as they do in regular projects.
All that’s left are a few odds and ends that may be of interest regarding the new My Tasks:
- Asana Android app users: Asana has not as of yet updated the Android app to remove the now-obsolete Mark For Today/Upcoming/Later capability, nor replaced it with the ability to move tasks between sections in the new My Tasks.
- The new My Tasks List view does not offer expand/collapse twisties for tasks with subtasks as is found in all other projects’ List view. This is a key feature that enables working with an extra level of subtask information. It is unfortunate to not have this functionality in the one place (My Tasks) in which many of us spend much time. Please up-vote in the Asana Forum to show Asana your interest in expanding/collapsing subtasks in My Tasks.
- Asana is planning soon to add the capability to automatically move recurring tasks from the New/Now/Recently assigned section to Later.
- Asana2Go (my popular, free-to-most Chrome extension for flexible reporting, exporting, and easing communication with non-Asana users) is fully compatible with both the updated and original My Tasks.
For Asana consulting, contact the author and get more information at Trilogi Solutions website.