Several months ago, I found myself quite overwhelmed with my to-do list. Or should I say to-do lists. I had them on post-its at my desk at work. I had them on post-its in various places at home. I wrote them on little pieces of paper. I had a great many in the “reminders” app on my phone. Tony had invited me to Wunderlist to keep track of the shopping, so I had some there too. To say nothing of the shared Google calendar without which most events in our life and our children’s lives would simply not happen. Some stuff I even tried to just keep in my head, which resulted in insomnia, as I would lie in bed running through my internal to-do list, worried I had left something off.
One of my big problems was the number of things to do, another was the number of categories of things to do. There was stuff for my job (including internal events, external events, articles to write, various projects, and other tasks), stuff for my kids, stuff to keep the house running, stuff for our business, stuff for a new creative project I’d gotten involved in, and other stuff that defied categorisation. If I had stuck it all on one big list, it would have been completely unmanageable. But stuck on all sorts of littler lists in different places, it was also unmanageable.
I needed a solution to organise my life. I needed it to be flexible, intuitive, web-based, and easily accessible on both desktop and mobile platforms. And it would be really great if I could share aspects of it with the various people with whom I collaborate on some of these tasks.
Enter Trello, which ticked all my boxes and more. In brief, Trello is web-based project management software. It’s simple to set up, intuitive, flexible, and even visually appealing. And it has a great mobile app. The core concept of Trello is based on Kanban, which bizarrely enough is an inventory management system invented in the late 1940’s by a Japanese engineer at Toyota. In its most reductive form, it is simply three columns of post-it notes comprising a to-do list, a doing list, and a done list. Stuff to do gets moved from left to right as it is accomplished. Trello takes the post-it notes digital, turning that white board with post-it notes into what more or less looks like a Pinterest board. Each board contains a series of lists, and the cards (things to do) go on the lists. For example, here’s the board I’m using to plan Axa’s 12th birthday party (she also belongs to this board).
We use another board for meal-planning and shopping lists, and another for the various projects we’re still doing on our house. There’s a general board for future vacations, and then when we are actively planning one, it gets its own board.
For example, here’s my Trello board for our trip to Malta:
One snazzy thing I love is that with the click of a button, you get a calendar view in which all the cards to which you’ve assigned due dates turn up on a weekly or monthly calendar.
You can also connect Trello to Google Calendar so that things will show up there as well. Some boards like this one are now more or less retired, but they’re still there in case I need to look something up. I also have future boards for projects I haven’t started yet, but want a place to keep my notes and brainstorming.
This is more or less how I use Trello at work as well. I like to have one board for each big project or area. And because I am a lover of variety, I usually have lots of projects going at once. So I also have one board that is my general to-do list. Stuff from other boards often makes it on to this to-do list once it’s turned into executable tasks. I consider this more or less my own form of bullet journaling.
If you look across the top at my lists, you’ll notice that I’ve expanded the traditional three Kanban categories into my own system: Sometime, Next, Scheduled, This Week, Today, Stalled, Done. I might have a few too many categories, but it’s my way of prioritising and scheduling tasks in a way that makes sense for me and doesn’t feel overwhelming. Even when I have a lot to do. The little coloured tags let me know which aspect of my life this particular task belongs to.
I am not a naturally organised person. My desktop on every computer to which I have access is a bewildering clutter, and I think we both know which kind of person I am here:
I hate to be as melodramatic as to say that Trello has revolutionised my life, but it has definitely changed things for the better. And in case you’re wondering, Trello didn’t pay me to say any of this; I’m just a very satisfied user. I also don’t pay Trello. Although you can get a business version to fill certain specific needs, they’re made the decision to make the free version as richly functional as most people could want. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe give it a try.