Asana wants its task-list tool to feel so simple that you only encounter complexity when it’s useful. In other words, the opposite of how most enterprise software feels. And it has just added a little new piece of complexity in the form of a feature that lets you sync tasks to calendars. The result is that users have to make smarter decisions about which tasks matter most, which should end up helping their productivity.
The feature looks obvious enough. A drop-down in the project menu lets you syndicate any task with a due date to apps like Apple iCal, Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar. Select the sync option, and you can either click to add to Gcal, or click the URL to add to iCal, Outlook or other services. You can then use your calendar app to fine-tune things like how often you sync.
But there’s more going on. The core interface lets you create projects for different sets of task lists, and within that, creating any task is as simple as hitting return on a project page then writing a few words. The date-creation option is purposefully buried in a window to the right of the list, that you need to click on to open. This means that if you create a calendar date for the task, it’ll be because date is going to be pretty important for whatever the task is. The importance of the date implies that you’re going to want to track it carefully.
The new calendar-syncing feature reinforces the value of adding dates by only letting you sync entire projects. Does any given task really matter enough to appear on your general calendar, or is it so nebulous that it shouldn’t even have a date?
The end result is a better process for keeping track of what matters than just using a calendar. And there’s an added bonus for people like me who don’t think too highly of the date creation and task features in the calendar apps we use (by which I mean iCal’s frustrating new interface). Now I can see the dates for important tasks show up on my calendar without actually having to enter them.
There’s not much to complain about with Asana’s version, although I think it could use a little more complexity. The main thing I’d like is a way to schedule a specific task down to the minute and hour if necessary. Right now all tasks are just for the full day, so they’ll appear at the top of each day within calendar apps. For a few important tasks, the timing matters too much to gloss over. I’d also like a way to schedule some tasks to repeat by week or month.