In this episode, I’m in The Lab with Graham Hiemstra (@hollagram), associate editor at Cool
Hunting, a preeminent online design publication. He’s
also a freelance writer, photographer and skateboarder. Here we
Cool Hunting, an amazing site that covers all things related o
creativity and innovation in design, technology, style, food,
travel and the list goes on. They started in 2003 and today reach
more than 2 million people monthly. It’s a great interview followed
by a very cool Biz Hack! It’s all about Asana!
Highlights from the discussion with Graham
- Graham is originally from the Northwest and lover of the
outdoors, but was looking for a change. He moved to NYC, landed at
Cool Hunting and has been there for four years now.
- Continually manages Twitter to stay on top of emerging trends.
He also keeps an eye on various blogs that cover different areas of
interest. Relationships with other writers and designers has also
helped him stay on top of trends.
- To keep on top of email he makes immediate decisions. He
focuses on maintaining a zero inbox.
- One efficiency tip he follows is turning push notifications off
across the board.
- When deciding what makes it on Cool Hunting - it’s a team
effort. But some key things he looks for are: timeliness, a tie
into a current trend or news, a unique angle or a different way of
looking at something, a new approach to design.
- What breaks through the clutter when reaching out to Graham are
concise emails with links or images to show what you’re talking
about. Be as straight to the point as possible and speak to the
most relevant points as possible.
- One of his favorite pieces to cover was an off-road excursion
with Land Rover. It was a different way to experience the vehicle
(great pitch on Land Rover’s part!).
- Finally, don’t underestimate the power of snail mail. For
Graham at least, this captures his attention. (Think interesting
media kit or hand written letter).
This week’s Biz Hack: There
are a number of project/task management
tools out there - Trello, BaseCamp, etc. -
and everyone has their favorite…mine is Asana. The most important thing is
to find one that works for you and your team. That said, let’s get
into some of the cool features of Asana.
Asana was created by a former Facebook co-founder
and former Facebook employee. It’s free and it’s extremely robust.
In a nutshell it is a task management tool, which
at a high-level overview allows you to create Workspaces or
Organizations, projects and tasks.
organizations are somewhat similar, but do have a few
- Workspaces allow you to:
- Set up as many workspaces as you’d like
- Create projects within those workspaces
- Assign different teams to each workspace. Keep in mind this
team will be able to see every project and task within that
workspace. If you only want specific people to see projects or
tasks, or you want to keep them private to yourself, you will need
to set up a separate workspace.
- Organizations allow you to:
- Set up different teams
- Create projects and tasks within a specific team. For instance,
I set up a different team for each of my clients and certain
projects, and assign specific people to them. This ensures they
only see projects they are assigned to and tasks relevant to them.
They won’t see projects on other teams they are not assigned
- You can also drag and drop projects between different teams.
Workspaces doesn’t allow this.
You do have to have a work email address to set up an organization.
So if you are signing up with an @gmail account or the like, you
won’t have the option to set up an organization, but workspaces are
just as great.
Once you’ve set up your workspace or organization and teams, you
can start creating different projects and assigning tasks within
them. Let’s say you set up marketing as a project within your
workspace, you might then set up sections within that projects
based on your marketing process or different initiatives. Sections
could include content marketing, direct marketing, media outreach,
and the list goes on. Under these sections would go individual
tasks. This could also work for organizations in which the project
becomes the team name and the sections become the projects within
that team. If this was a process you needed to replicate in other
areas, for instance if you wanted to also implement that same
marketing process for a new product you were launching, you could
duplicate it so you don’t have to set it up each time.
Tasks - these are the meat
and potatoes of Asana. Some really cool features within tasks
- Emailing tasks - each project has a specific email address so
you can email tasks in and assign them. You can also respond to
comments on a task via email or mark it as complete by replying
with “done” or “complete” in the body of the email.
- Set up tasks as reoccurring. For example, if you write blog
posts each week, you could set this up as a reoccurring task.
Amazing Asana hacks:
- Within tasks you can add hyperlinks in the description or
comments. By typing the @ symbol before a name, project or related
task, you can tag a team member in the tasks (it will automatically
add them as a follower to that task), or you can cross reference
another task that may be applicable.
- When creating a task, if it impacts multiple projects, you can
quickly add it to others by simply typing in the project name at
the top. This saves you from having to recreate the task within
- Notifications - you can have notifications (comments, assigned
tasks, updates) emailed to you or you can access them via your
inbox in Asana. The inbox is located under your name in the left
- Search view - in the top left corner you can access the search
feature, which allows you to search my a number of parameters -
keywords, assigned to, tags, contains attachments, completed or
incomplete, and the list goes on. Where this gets really cool is if
this is a search you find yourself regularly repeating, you can
save it and quickly access it under the left sidebar. This is great
if you need to send weekly reports of completed tasks to clients or
what’s in store for the week ahead to your team.
- Time tracking - Asana integrates with a few time tracking tools
- Sync Asana with Evernote to email your notes in Evernote to
Asana or you can reference Evernote notes in your Asana task
description or comments. This will hyperlink to the Evernote note
- The calendar view in Asana is awesome. You can see what’s due
in the upcoming week, what’s been completed, create tasks within
the calendar layout or event drag and drop tasks to change due
dates. You can also mark tasks as completed. You can also sync
specific projects to your Google, iCal or Outlook calendar.
Finally, these are not necessarily time-saving or
efficiency hacks, but just for fun. Each task, attachment and
comment has a heart icon next to it so you can show someone you
like or approve of their action. You can also set up “Celebrations”
under your individual settings. Sometimes task completions call for
a celebration and this celebrates with a unicorn and stars flashing
across the screen..
For additional help with Asana, they’ve created an
guide. Be sure to check it
Action Items: Set up a task
management tool, whether Asana or another tool of your
Quote of the week: “To get
through the hardest journey we need to take only one step at a
time, but we must keep on stepping.” ~ from the book, “The ONE
Next week we’re in The Lab with Jason
Abbruzzese, business reporter from Mashable. So be sure
to tune! Until then, have prosperous week!
Music by Zekinash,
“Una de R yR”