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The SuccessLab Podcast: Where Entrepreneurs Collaborate for Success

Jun 30, 2014

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 go!

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 Hiemstra:

  • 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. 

Workspaces and organizations are somewhat similar, but do have a few key differences:

  • 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 to.
    • 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 include:

  • 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 each project.
  • 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 pane.
  • 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 like Harvest.
  • 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 referenced.
  • 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 extremely informative guide. Be sure to check it out. 

Action Items: Set up a task management tool, whether Asana or another tool of your choice. 

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 Thing”.

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”