Academic Project Management Strategies - Part Three

Part three of this blog series focuses on how I use Asana in my team to organize the sharing of information. This includes information that might be of interest to my group like research related news articles, job postings, mentoring resources, and lab meeting ideas. Everyone in our team (including myself) have a “project” within our Asana group. If you have not read the earlier posts about how we use Asana for academic project management you can go back to read about Projects here.

In a large research group there are lots of items that require communication between several (or all) members of my team. Before Asana, these tasks were all accomplished using group emails with multiple recipients. My email box was overflowing and it was hard to keep track of them all. We have moved almost all of these items to Asana which makes it easy to find the information, stay up to date on what is going on, and also to coordinate things with due dates without having long email chains. Interested in how we make this work? Read on!

This screenshot shows our “Team” project. For this project, all of my graduate students are “followers”.

This screenshot shows our “Team” project. For this project, all of my graduate students are “followers”.

Individuals can set their notifications according to their preferences but I personally get a notification when someone posts to a project that I am a follower on. Alternatively, I receive a notification if someone “tags” me on a post to specifically draw my attention to an item. My notifications go to my email.

This probably seems ridiculous since I just told you that this strategy cuts down on emails and it does. It works because I see the notification and then immediately delete it with no need to reply or file the information. I could have my computer send me a notification but I have those turned off so that my writing does not continually get interrupted. In our Team project we have a number of items that you can see along the top of the list. If someone thinks of a great idea for a lab meeting they post it here, if they come across an interesting news article or job posting, it goes here. No emails permitted!

Here you can see on the right hand side, the posts that fall under the Technical Resources item. There is a link to a website to obtain updated population denominators, and also a link to a new R package that applies to some of the projects we have underway. No need to save an email. Anyone can come here and find what they need. Everyone has immediate access regardless of when they joined the group. Also, it is fully searchable from the search bar.

Here you can see on the right hand side, the posts that fall under the Technical Resources item. There is a link to a website to obtain updated population denominators, and also a link to a new R package that applies to some of the projects we have underway. No need to save an email. Anyone can come here and find what they need. Everyone has immediate access regardless of when they joined the group. Also, it is fully searchable from the search bar.

Finally, we now use Asana to organize and plan all of our monthly lab meetings. I currently meet with my individual graduate students biweekly and we have a monthly lab meeting. When a new semester starts, we pick all of the lab meeting dates for the semester (using whenisgood), book the room, and enter the monthly meetings into Asana as tasks. Students can easily assign specific meetings to themselves based on their availability or requirements (I have a student going to an international conference in February and she has already scooped up that meeting to do a practice run of her presentation).

If you look at the screenshot above closely you will see that the September lab meeting is assigned to me. I am leading our first lab meeting this month and we have 2 new graduate students joining us. We always talk about mentoring and getting the most out of your graduate school experience in September. It’s great for everyone regardless of career stage. This time around I have assigned a reading to be completed in advance. I have also made a note that our VP Research will be joining us for lab meeting in October so we will also discuss that during our meeting.

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Every year in September we also go over our team mentoring document to discuss and update any items that need updating.

Do you have a mentoring statement for your team? Are you interested in hearing more about my mentoring document, what it says, and how we use it as a tool for collaboration? For me the goal is to make expectations clear and transparent both so my students know what they can expect from me, and what I expect of them. Should that be my next blog post?

Just a reminder that this is not a sponsored post and I have no conflict of interest to declare. I use the free version of Asana to manage my team.

Hitting refresh on your approach to graduate student mentoring

Guess what? I wrote a guest post on the stylish academic blog about a really fantastic leadership book that I read this fall. If you are thinking that your leadership and mentorship approach could use a reboot I think that the book This is Day One might be just what the doctor ordered!

So curl up in your chair next to a fireplace over the holidays and give this book a read. It might just change your approach to the way you lead at work as well as at home.