time and task managementBefore moving to Chicago about six weeks ago I had only spent four days in the Windy City, all of which were spent on a Coach bus during a high school band trip… Needless to say, beneath my calm façade, I was more than a little anxious to move here. And, odd as it may be to native-Chicagoans, my biggest fear wasn’t the crime-rate or starting my first post-grad job. No, that would be far too logical. What I was really anxious about was navigating the L-Train system, dun-dun-dun! It’s not that I had never used public transportation before, but being alone in a new city is terrifying enough without having to navigate your way without any help. Then, one fateful morning as I prepared to meet a friend across the city (struggling through my suddenly shortened breath and increased heart rate!) I realized that I had been panicking over nothing. There are countless apps that I could have been using all along to help me! I felt like a whole new woman. Next thing you know I’m planning outings miles from my house, and no longer breaking into a cold sweat every time I pull out my Ventra card.

So, while my struggle to navigate the CTA is a bit embarrassing, it may be similar to a struggle many employees face: Navigating their latest work project. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a Google maps to get your employees from A to B in the workplace? Well, you guessed it! There is! Enter Asana, a sleek online communication and collaboration tool, that’s free and easy. A few weeks ago I got to hear the founder and former Facebook-er, Justin Rosenstein, speak. Read on to find out what I learned.

In his Chicago Ideas Week session, Rosenstein raised a simple yet profound question: how much of your time at work is spent doing work about work?  That is, how much time are you spending in meetings that were set-up to rehash what you did last week, and to determine what your next steps are? How much time do you spend writing and reading emails involving project updates? How much time do you spend re-explaining a task to someone who hasn’t worked on it in a few weeks?

Chances are, that “work” constitutes a good chunk of your time, but it doesn’t need to. Confusion in the workplace leads to mistakes, incorrect prioritization and a lack of clarity involving responsibility. I’ve been testing this tool here at FLIRT to organize some minor internal projects, and here are the 3 Clarities it has given me.

asana-organizations-laptop-mobile-images-1Clarity of Purpose: One of the best ways to motivate an employee is to provide intrinsic motivation, that is to help them understand why what they are doing is important and valuable to the team. Asana allows you to create multiple checklists for multiple projects and if you choose to do, with each step you can clarify the purpose. Additionally, illustrating purpose not only motivates your employees, it allows them to make informed judgment calls on timelining and prioritizing what needs to get done.

Clarity of Plan: Oftentimes, meetings that are meant to address a new issue, turn into a review of what has already been done. Even worse, sometimes a deadline is a day away and a project leader realizes that some details mentioned in a meeting a few months ago somehow got lost along the way, and won’t be finished in time. Humans make errors, it’s what makes us interesting, but it’s also what turns an amazing project into a great project.

Clarity of Responsibility: Diffusion of responsibility is such a typical human tendency that psychologists have been writing about it for decades. Essentially it says that a person is much less likely to take responsibility for an action when others are present, in groups of three or more, this tendency only gets increasingly extreme. However, sometimes the reverse can occur and two people waste time by duplicating effort on the exact same task, only to find out when the job is completed. With Asana the Project Manager can assign each task to ONE responsible party. Regardless of whether this person will require help from other’s in their job, it still places the onus on one individual to get the task through the finish line. And if others on the team have questions about a particular item, they can easily check who the point person is.