Productivity tools: Trello vs. Asana (and spreadsheets)

Oct 27, 2015 12:20:59 PM

When working at a place defined as a ‘productive space,’ you're always on the lookout for the best productivity tools. For cove’s team, we’re very mobile and always have a lot to do (Can I get an amen for that #startuplife?!). Managing our to-do lists can be cumbersome, and my teammates go about it in different ways. So I sat down with a few of them to learn more about a few of the best apps for to-do lists: Trello vs. Asana.

The interviewees

Lindsay Larner, marketing manager Scout O'Beirne, operations lead Donovan Allen, operations lead
Lindsay Larner
marketing manager (DC)

Scout O’Beirne
operations lead (Boston)

Donovan Allen
operations lead (DC)


The platforms

Trello: Trello is the free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone. Drop the lengthy email threads, out-of-date spreadsheets, no-longer-so-sticky notes, and clunky software for managing your projects. Trello lets you see everything about your project in a single glance.

Trello board  


Asana: Asana is the ultimate task management tool. It allows teams to share, plan, organize, and track progress of the tasks that each member is working on.



Google Sheets: Spreadsheets. By Google. That is all.

Google Sheet


When and why did you start using your platform?

Lindsay: I started using Trello on May 6, when I joined cove. They said I had to use it. I assumed it was the best way to communicate with the team. It is really good for being ‘on the go.’

Scout: I’ve been using Asana on and off for the past four years for work and my personal life.

Lindsay and Donovan had never even seen Asana before, so Scout gave us a quick tour, after excited questions of “What does it look like?!” The response? “This is really cool,” said Donovan.

Donovan: I’m an old soul. I’ve been using spreadsheets since I started using computers. I like to try out new platforms, but spreadsheets always worked well. Please note the past tense there, as I am trying to move to Trello. I like the simple nature of spreadsheets, as there’s less to focus on. My attention span is not the greatest [insert knowing laughter], so I need something laid out in just the right way.

Can you dive a little deeper into what exactly you use your platform for?

Lindsay: I was always a sticky note person, always a list person. There’s something about physically writing things down. I want the satisfaction of writing things down and ripping off the note when I’m done. Trello feels like sticky notes. It’s great for to-do lists and managing projects and marketing campaigns. I like to use the calendar feature, particularly when we are building out a new cove location, because I can set deadlines. I don’t really interact with others on Trello, except for sharing boards.

Scout: I use Asana for team management and communicating with people on projects. It’s built for team use—that’s kinda the whole point. I also use it in my personal life for a to-do list, and I’ll share stuff with my mom—she’s obsessed. Now she doesn’t have to call me about getting tickets to get home for the holidays because it’s all on Asana!

Donovan: I use spreadsheets for lists. I’m a list person. But lists can become a list in the abyss somewhere, and then they become less actionable. I started using Trello because it’s tied to dates, and things don’t get lost. I have one for operations-related things and others for buildout-related things. I like that I can see what’s coming down the pipeline.

What's your #1 favorite thing about your platform?

Lindsay: Moving cards.

Scout: Adding tasks by email. [This illicited a big OOOO from the peanut gallery.]

Donovan: I’m going to give a shoutout for spreadsheets here for formatting and presentation. However, my favorite thing about Trello is moving cards and tracking the progress of the card.

Peanut Gallery:

Lindsay: No! I actually hate that you can see every little progress report. I don’t need to see that. 

Scout: You can hide that in Asana…

What do you wish your platform could do better? 

Lindsay: I love the idea that Asana can have subtasks and different layers. I want a lot of nuances in the cards; otherwise it just becomes a big block of text. I’m switching to Asana.

Scout: We have a convert! I like seeing things visually and all on one page—Trello does this well; Asana, not so much. If you have a big ongoing project, you can’t see it all in one place. I also think they can improve upon the calendar function.

Donovan: I wish Trello had a calendar function.

Lindsay & Scout: It does.

Donovan: Wait, it does? Huh. Anyways. I would also like better label options and a sorting function.

What’s the learning curve like?

Lindsay: I learned very quickly, but it took a month to figure out how I’m going to use it.

Scout: Asana definitely has more of a learning curve than Trello. Takes more digging around. I’m still figuring out the update from a couple of weeks ago.

Donovan: You know what has zero learning curve? Spreadsheets. Trello took time just to figure out how to make it work for me. It wasn’t effective for me at first, but my colleague opened my eyes to a better organizational structure.

Do you use it on desktop and/or on mobile?

Lindsay: I only started using it on mobile once I got a new phone. I really only use it on my phone out of desperation.

Donovan: I need something I can use on my phone—it’s a requirement.

Scout: I stayed away from using Asana on my phone for a long time. With the new update, it’s better, has better functionality. I prefer to use it on my computer though.

Do you describe yourself as a visual learner?

Lindsay: Yes.

Scout: Definitely.

Donovan: Yep.

What other types of applications and tools do you use?

Donovan: Google Inbox—I love that you can ‘snooze’ things to a date or a location. It’s really great for the mobile worker

Insert long tangent about Google Inbox. We’ll save that for another post!

Scout: I used to use To-Doist, which is a paid service, but I stopped when I transferred to Asana.

Lindsay: I used to use Google Keep, which is Google’s bulletin board feature.

Donovan: I use Google Keep for my personal life!

Lindsay: I don’t like the app.

Donovan: What? No. I love the app. It’s beautiful.

Are you going to leave this conversation and try a new platform?

Lindsay: Yes. Asana. I’m so glad you asked that.

Scout: I might try Google Inbox. Especially now that you can put signatures in it.

Donovan: I might try out Asana.

So what's your vote in the Trello vs. Asana debate? Or maybe you know something even better. Share below so we can all optimize our productivity. 

Want to learn more about cove and how to further increase your productivity? Click below to discover your neighborhood productive space. 
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Erin Gifford

Written by Erin Gifford

Erin started with cove in January 2014 and has been enjoying the adventure ever since. Outside of her role as marketing director with cove, she loves the performing arts, memoirs, and UNC.