Rock college like a boss with Asana

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 Filed under:   Best practices

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There’s a lot of demands at college…classes, assignments, club meetings, sports—and a social life is nice, too. It can be difficult keeping up with everything without letting a few proverbial spinning plates fall every now and then.

Fortunately, the free version of Asana is fantastic at keeping track of students’ assignments and obligations, as well as serving as a central hub for research and other notes.

Asana, Inc. also offers Asana Premium FREE to student groups! To qualify, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • You must be a student with a .edu email address.
  • You must already have an Asana account associated with your student email.
  • You have a workspace that is named after your student group.
  • You’ve invited more than 5 student teammates into the workspace.
Here’s a few tips to using Asana for students at colleges and universities:

Convert the syllabi to action tasks

The first step of the semester is to create a project for each class, and translate the assignments on the syllabi to tasks within the projects. The goal is to digitize and centralize this information so it’s easily searchable, organizable, and viewable on a calendar.

  • Add the professor’s contact info and office hours to the Project Description.
  • Add the class schedule to your calendar (e.g. Google Calendar or iCal).
  • Add all the assignments as tasks. For larger assignments requiring multiple steps, use section headings or create a separate project (more info under later heading).
  • Create a task within each project called “Class documents” and attach the original PDFs or Word docs in case you need to reference them.

You’ll probably receive a syllabus like this:

Syllabus Example

Start by breaking down all the assignments for each week. Tasks should be things like “Complete handout,” “Read ch. 14 of Human Biology,” or “Study for Unit 3 exam.” Assign them all to you, and add the due dates to each task. By the end, your project will look something like this for each class:

Project Description in Asana
Fill out the project description with course information so you don't need to dig through papers or search online.
Human Biology Project in Asana
Neat, tidy, and organized like a boss. Boom.

Don’t put a week’s worth of assignments in one task, even if that’s how the syllabus presents it. If you need to read a chapter, complete a handout, and fill out a journal entry, create 3 separate tasks.

Use tags to add context

You may want to add Tags to assignments depending on the type of assignment it is. For example, add the tag “Reading,” “Studying,” or “Writing.” By doing this across your courses, it’s easy to sort by tag. This can be really useful if you want to knock out a bunch of reading from a few different classes at once, for instance. Or if you are a slow at studying, it might help you notice periods requiring lots of studying ahead of time.

Keep formatted notes within each course project

Asana can be hub for all your course information. Create a section heading called “Notes” at the bottom of each course project, and create a task for each date you’re in class. Then you have a record of what you learned when it’s time to study.

Asana is not the best tool available for note-taking because there’s no complex formatting like drawing diagrams or building charts. But if you only require the basics like bold, italic, bullets, and numbering, Asana works great.

Course notes in Asana
Use formatting keyboard shortcuts and keep your notes in Asana.

Shortcuts for formatting can be found by clicking on the help “question mark” icon in the top bar, then going to “Keyboard Shortcuts.” Some of the important ones are (substitute Ctrl for ⌘ on PC):

  • ⌘B – Bold
  • ⌘I – Italics
  • ⌘U – Underline
  • ⌘+Shift+7 – Numbered List
  • ⌘+Shift+8 – Bulleted List
  • ⌘] – Increase List Indent
  • ⌘[ – Decrease List Indent

If you need more complex formatting, consider using Google Drive or another service that lets you link to the notes in the Task Description.

Create separate projects for major assignments

For complex assignments like research reports, consider creating a separate project. Then you can use section headings to break down parts of the project. If you were writing a report on the American Revolution, you might add section headings like “Causes” or “Aftermath” to organize your research notes.

Use My Tasks to stay on top of what’s important

After you assign all your tasks to yourself, use My Tasks as the central area to organize what you’re going to work on next. Tasks will initially show up with a blue dot under “New Tasks.” This means they need to be triaged for when you want to work on them.

Move short tasks with distant due dates to the “Later” section. They will automatically move to “Upcoming” when they are one week away. All you really need to focus on are the assignments that will take more than a week, like a report or key presentation. Make sure you review your “Later” section once a week so you don’t lose track of these major assignments.

Sync My Tasks with your calendar

Follow the article on the Asana Guide so that your assignments show up on your calendar application of choice (Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, etc.). This way you can view your assignments in the context of the rest of your obligations like classes, sports practices, club meetings—and maybe the occasional party. ????

We hope you have a fantastic time using Asana to manage your life this semester! Any other tips that helped you out at school?

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