Create powerful task templates in Asana

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 Filed under:   Best practices, Management tips

One of the biggest time-saving features of Asana is creating templates for business processes. We’ve written previously about project templates that are like master checklists to help you stay organized and avoid forgotten tasks “falling between the cracks.”

But templates can also be extremely powerful at the task level rather than the project level. Projects work great for larger endeavors like events, onboarding new employees, or publishing a magazine. But sometimes using tasks (with subtasks) fits smaller workflows better, like writing a blog post, following up with a new sales lead, fulfilling an order, or requesting work from a designer.

We’ve consulted many types of organizations to assist in developing task templates, from universities to CPAs to marketing agencies. Here’s a few suggestions as you start building task templates in Asana.

Tips for building task templates

1. Use a consistent naming convention

Task templates are just like any other tasks except they are created to be duplicated in the future. So we want to make it easy to identify task templates to avoid accidentally overwriting or completing them.

One convention we suggest is to use an emoji star ⭐️ as well as adding “[COPY ME]” or “[TEMPLATE TASK] as a prefix for any task templates. This signals to everyone, “This is a task template!” because it can be easy to accidentally overwrite a task after copying it.

Task Template Example
Here's an example of a task template.

2. Provide instructions in the task description

Provide clear guidelines on how and when the task template should be used in the description. Here’s an example of a task description in a template task for a photography team:

⚠️ PLEASE DUPLICATE THIS TASK and write your request in the new copy. Do not edit the task template. ⚠️

STEPS TO REQUEST A PHOTOGRAPHER

  1. Name this task the name of the SUBJECT or EVENT being photographed or recorded.
  2. Put the ASSIGNMENT DATE and START TIME as the task’s due date.
  3. Fill out all of the Custom Fields at the top of the task.
  4. Explain the reason/background for the photo below. Please be very specific.
  5. Delete these instructions and the warning above.

DESCRIPTION OF PHOTO(S) NEEDED
Example: We’d like to see Dr. Smith in a lab coat working with her tools.

STORY BACKGROUND
Example: Photo for feature article of Dr. Smith in next month’s newsletter. Jane won the Rising Star microbiology award for her work with paramecium.

NOTES/SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS
Example: Need horizontal format to fit banner.

3. Add subtasks for each step of your workflow

When using a task template, the parent task often represents the whole workflow (like the blog post), and the subtasks are the actual work (like “Write first draft”). One error many people make as they are learning Asana is to not add information like assignees or followers to each subtask. This leads to a multitude of problems, the most important of which being the work probably won’t get done.

4. Choose assignees for each task and subtask if you expect the same person to do it 90% of the time

Assign someone to each task and subtask if it is very likely he or she will be the one to do it. This saves you from having to assign that task every time the task template is duplicated.

Don’t get caught up thinking about the very rare cases where someone else might need to do it. It can be reassigned quickly later on if necessary. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to get started when the task template is copied.

The person who is assigned a task (or subtask) in a task template needs to understand they should not mark that task (or subtask) complete ever. In My Tasks, just send it to “Later” and never worry about it again.

5. Choose followers for each task and subtask

We’ve previously covered who to add as followers in Asana, which to summarize includes:

  • Supervisor(s) of task
  • Team members who are participating in task
  • Team members who might want to participate in a discussion related to task
  • Team members who need to be notified upon task completion

6. Set up task dependencies (if applicable)

Establish dependencies in your subtasks so that they copy over when duplicated. Setting up dependencies is time consuming enough that it isn’t used often in day-to-day use of Asana, but it’s worth it with task templates. This is because not only will the task template be used over and over, but it’s more helpful since the workflow is typically planned from beginning to completion within the task template.

For example, if you have a subtask named “Approve email newsletter,” make sure it is set up to be dependent on the subtask “Write email newsletter.” That way the person assigned to the approval knows she can’t start her task until the email has been written first.

So there you have it! What are some examples of workflows or procedures that would make a huge difference for your organization if they were consistently followed, with no steps left out? Could you create it as an Asana task template?

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