Managing More Tasks with Trello
After trying a few different productivity programs, I heard about Trello, which has a similar feel to using Kanban boards for project management. After watching bits and pieces of a few YouTube tutorials and checking out the Trello site, I decided to give it a try. It's free.
Free! And that sounds great, but if something goes wrong with my account or my data, who's going to help me? Who's really going to care about helping the person who's using the service for free?
Let's get disadvantages out of the way first!
When it comes to organizing specific aspects of my life, free makes me nervous. So I looked into their paid Trello Gold plan.
For $5/month or $45/year, the Gold plan pretty much does nothing that I'm interested in. It allows more customization of how my boards look and it gives me the option to upload 250MB attachments to my boards. The standard free version is limited to 10MB attachments. I'm already paying for a Premium Evernote account to act as my filing cabinet, so I don't need to duplicate that service here.
And I wouldn't have a problem giving them money for being able to use Trello. So far, I consider what I'm using relevant and useful and worth paying for. But I'm not paying for pretty background papers, stickers, and emojis.
Another disadvantage to Trello, which may be a bigger deal for some people, is that you do have to be connected to the Interwebs to access the site. If you travel frequently where wifi or data access may be sketchy, then Trello may not be the best fit for you. I'm more than comfy with the idea that I may be out-of-touch with Trello when I need to go into Airplane Mode for a trip, but I know that's not the case for all people.
After weighing these two negatives, I decided that Trello's advantages outweighed these two disadvantages, and that since I do use Evernote, my strategy with Trello would be to create a work flow for all aspects of my life while keeping Evernote as my primary filing cabinet of everything, important and otherwise.
Collaboration is cool, but I'm just me organizing my little life.
As a single regular person using Trello, the collaboration features don't impact me, and I won't be addressing them here. They do exist though. And if a group of teachers or friends ever wanted to collaborate on a project, I would certainly recommend Trello. Their collaboration features seem solid, right down to being able to just share certain boards (so your bestie doesn't screw up your personal board).
How I've been using Trello...
I created three boards for the three aspects of my life: my blog, my personal goals, my work. Trello does alphabetize boards, so they appear below as Compulsively Quirky Editorial Calendar, Personal, and School, which is my work board. I chose the background color for each board. If I wanted to upload my own background to customize beyond solid colors, that's part of the Gold plan.
Trello's basic structure...
Within each board, you make lists.
Each list is comprised of cards.
You can move the cards from one list to another with an easy drag and drop interface. Generally, I manage Trello from my iPad, but even if I'm using the desktop, moving cards around is still super easy.
Each card can also be assigned a due date, which comes in handy for the calendar feature.
And you can use labels to color-code your cards. There are eleven colors available and you can use more than one label per card, which is especially helpful if you like to filter by multiple labels. Right now, my labeling is pretty simple. I use different colors for my blogging categories to help me keep track of how many posts I have in the works for each one.
For my blog, I'm using Trello mostly as a way to organize my ideas and my posting calendar.
My first two lists are catch-alls.
The Administrative Tasks list is first because I get ideas for improving my blog all the time. I want an easy place to just throw that idea until I can figure out later how to prioritize it. And probably even later still to carry out the improvement.
Ideas is next because I'll get hit with inspiration at weird times. And I just want to quickly add a card that summarizes my thoughts.
I have two other lists not in the screenshot. One for planning my Reading Challenge for 2016. Then a Scheduled list has post ideas with due dates built in, so that I'm working ahead on certain pieces...in theory.
Here's the back of one of my Idea cards. You can see that I have it color-coded yellow for my Digital Organization category. And I added a few more thoughts into the description to help me remember a bit more about my main idea.
Notice the tabs for Checklists and Attachments above?
I've decided that the Attachments feature is not much use for me. My plan is to continue to flesh out post ideas in Evernote. My database there is just too established to change at this point. And since I pay for Evernote, I feel more secure that if something went wrong with any of my data, someone at Evernote would be willing to help a paying customer.
I don't see myself using the checklist feature too often. Again, I have so many notes in Evernote that I don't see the need to duplicate them here. However, I did create a checklist of tasks for my rebranding project. And I do like how I can easily see my progress on this project.
And then there's the calendar feature!
This one feature was a big deal for me. My Person and I share multiple calendars for our lives, so I'm in iCal all the time. I didn't want a separate Editorial Calendar for the blog. That just seemed ridiculously complicated. But I also didn't want to create events for all of my future blog posts. Yuck!
With Trello, I can choose whether or not I want each board to push to my iCal. If I have assigned due dates for cards, then those cards show up in my iCal.
This feature is considered a "Power Up." I found it on the browser version of Trello. Top right corner. Click on Show Menu. Then click again on the gray Menu bar that appears. Several more options for customizing your account drop down at that point. Click on the Power Ups to enable the calendar. Then copy the feed from that Trello board to place into iCal.
In the screenshot below of my December iCal, you can see that my green Personal board is pushing several geeky dates that I'm looking forward to onto my calendar. And I have a couple of purple posts from my Editorial Calendar board there as well. Looks like I need to work on post ideas for later this year!
What about recurring tasks?
Trello just set up a channel with IFTTT, also known as If This Then That. Creating recurring tasks is quite easy with the recipes set up there. When I first joined Trello, this feature was not available, so I was struggling to figure out work-arounds. Now I'm just adjusting recipes to maximize my Trello efficiency.
If you want to read more about this feature, here's a link to the post. Trello's blog is actually quite useful. And they have this cute little cartoon mascot husky named Taco. He sends me emails. He's adorable!
How else am I using Trello to zoom through tasks?
My Personal board gets used every day. I try to keep my Today list manageable. Since it's summer, many of my tasks don't have firm due dates, so I move the cards back and forth a lot. The Pending list is my catch-all. Anything that I think of that needs to be accomplished, goes on this list. Then I move those cards up and down to prioritize them.
You can see that my Geek board is full of dates. I am one of those people who likes to know when certain books are coming out. (If July 14 doesn't get here soon, I may implode before I can fully enjoy the nerdgasm that is sure to be Ernest Cline's Armada!)
My other lists include My Family, My Person, Healthcare, and Bills & Bureaucracy. And I could add more lists if I wanted.
So far, I am not archiving anything in Trello. Of course, at this point I'm mostly deleting task reminders for phone calls, research, cleaning, and other mundane tasks. I will want to archive certain events and dates of blog posts. Those kinds of cards will be helpful to have in planning for 2016.
To sum up, I'm loving Trello!
Trello has been working really well for me. I love the drag and drop feature for the cards. It's so similar to picking up a color-coded post-it note and moving it around on my calendar or in my teacher lesson plan book. But these cards will never lose their stickiness!
And once I had my boards and lists in place, creating cards took seconds! I may still change a few things about my boards or lists, but the cards are so simple! Sure, I could go to the "back" of the card and add more detail. But when I'm just needing to do a brain export, Trello makes that process quite fast.
And now I need to complete a few more tasks for the blog and get serious about some reading! I hope you found this Trello overview and review helpful. If you did, please share it.