It's September which means it's back to school season! There's something about this time of the year that makes me want to clean and tidy up and get all my projects in order and I tend to think that it's because of this back to school feeling that colder temperatures and leaves turning color brings about.
Today's blog post is the first in a loose series about how to organize projects and to dos and came about when one of my Creative Boss Scholarship participants told me about using Asana in her design process. Clare Mountain is a knitwear designer based in the UK who specializes on modern, geometric, super wearable patterns. In this guest blog post, she shares how she uses Asana to manage her design process, including some super actionable tips!
Quick note: If you've never heard about Asana - it's a free project management software that runs in your browser (and has an app). We use it for Making Stories, and I also started using it for my own projects and I highly recommend checking it out!
Do you always under/over-estimate the time it takes to design a knitting pattern? This is the position I found myself in as a new designer.
I had so many ideas on what I wanted to create, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get them out there. It meant that I wasn’t publishing many designs and when I was publishing them, they weren’t necessarily on the dates I had hoped to do it.
That’s why I started using Asana to manage my design projects.
Asana: a brilliant tool for project management
I had been using this task/project management tool for several months at my day job, where I was involved in the redesign of our website.
As a bit of a to-do list junkie, I continued to use Asana long after the website was completed to plan all of my other projects and daily tasks. It helps me to keep on track and stay realistic about what I can actually do in a day. It is also incredibly motivating to see the tasks get ticked off and the projects progress.
After so much success with it at my day job, it made total sense to use it for my design work, where I’m juggling a multitude of projects in a very limited time frame.
Why do I use Asana?
To put it very simply, I use Asana as a cross between a to-do list and a calendar. It helps me to complete design work on time by scheduling each and every small task that makes up a larger project in advance. It helps me to manage my workload because I now know exactly what I’m working on every day and can see if it’s actually achievable. It also stops me from scheduling new projects that will clash with other projects that I have already committed to.
Because it was designed for teams, Asana has many other sophisticated features that I don’t need to use as a solo business owner. However, the features that I do use have completely changed my business.
All of you knitwear designers with a day job will know that project management is crucial, yet it’s SO HARD. If I were to rely upon my memory, I would certainly forget everything. Now that my Asana is set up, many of my tasks for the day are planned weeks, if not months, in advance so that I always know what I should be working on.
How I Use Asana as a Knitwear Designer
I tend to look at my Asana in two different ways; by a specific project with all of it’s related tasks (found on the left-hand sidebar) and by my calendar (found under ‘My Tasks’ in the upper navigation bar).
I use project view to plan and manage my current and future design projects. I work back from my intended publish date and schedule in every task related to that pattern release, so that I know I will meet my deadline comfortably.
Blogging is a big part of my marketing strategy so I have created a project for that, planning out my blog posts around a pattern release and filling in any gaps with interesting topics I think my audience would enjoy reading about.
Once all of my tasks are scheduled in, I tend not to view them by project very often. However, it can be very handy when I need to give test knitters information on a deadline or when I need to take a really focused look at a project’s progress.
Calendar view is my favourite view because it includes all of my tasks for every project I am working on all in one window. It is very useful when I need an overview of how my design projects might intersect with one another, but it is also a fantastic to-do list.
I can tick tasks off as I complete them and also drag and drop tasks around in my calendar if I don’t end up completing them on their assigned day.
Other Useful Features
When creating tasks, whether it’s in project view or calendar view, you can set them to repeat. The repeating tasks are particularly useful because it lets me go on autopilot. For example, I now get reminders every month when I need to donate the proceeds from my Lovelock scarf pattern or do my accounts.
How You Can Get Started With Asana Today
Sign up to Asana and gather all of your design plans for now and the future.
Create a project for each design you have in the works currently and anything that you have planned for the future. You can do this by clicking on the + sign next to “projects” in the left sidebar.
Make sure you name the project with either the design name or the yarn and garment type so that you can easily know what the project is for. In my example, I’m setting up a project for my new hat pattern I will be releasing in collaboration for Rauwerk Yarn. I tend to use a list format for my projects, but you might prefer working with a board instead.
If blogging or social media is part of your marketing strategy, which I imagine it is, I suggest you set up a project for your social media and content calendar too.
You can also assign a colour to each project, so that when you view your main calendar under ‘My Tasks’, all of the tasks related to that project will be shown in the assigned colour. To choose a colour, hover over the project name in the lefthand sidebar and click on the three dots that show up. This will bring up a small menu and the top option is “Set Highlight Colour”. Click on a colour and all tasks related to that project will change to the assigned colour in your main calendar.
To add a new task, go into a project and click the blue button that says “Add Task”. You can then fill out the task details, such as the title and description, as well as assigning the task to yourself and setting the date you want to complete it. In the date section, you can also set the task to recur after a specified period of time.
As you can see from my example, I have broken down my design project into tiny steps to keep myself on track - from picking up the yarn to doing a post-pattern launch review!
Finally, I want to encourage you to start planning out your design projects way in advance. In fact, I’ve just finished planning all of my projects until June 2018!
As you will know, knitwear design takes a long time from start to finish and there’s often a few hiccups along the way. If you start planning your pattern releases for a year from now, you can make sure that you give yourself plenty of time for each step of the design process without rushing any of it. It takes the stress out of the process and means that you are much better at keeping to your deadlines without pulling too many late nights!
Author: Clare Mountain, sistermountain.com