In this second part in the series, I’m going to deep dive into some of Trello’s features, automation and a few favourite workflows as well as detailing how I use Trello. If you missed the first in the series, you can catch it here.
As mentioned previously, Trello works like a digital Kanban system. I’ll outline the core elements below and then show you how they work. If you’ve used Trello before, you can go ahead and skip down to the heading ‘Workflows’.
First up are Boards, these are essentially infinite whiteboards that will house all of your content. As the name suggests, they are simply a holding space for your projects, whatever they may be – from sprint workflows, wedding planning to company team resources it’s a blank canvas that will work with the simplest to the most complex of projects.
Once you create your first board, you’ll need to start populating it. You do this by creating lists, think of these like folders or buckets that you drop information into, which can then be organised, filtered or moved as you see fit – either automatically or manually.
Finally, we have Cards, these are the core building blocks of any board. Cards are where the actual content is stored. As with the boards themselves, cards are a blank canvas and can be used for anything, whether that’s simple reminders, research notes, content marketing calendars or a collaborative project. Cards are then enhanced with any number and combination of Power-ups.
Navigating around the board, even big ones, is super easy – you can either use the scrolling bars built in or hold the spacebar and drag. To the right of all Trello boards is the main menu. It’s where you’ll find core settings, who are on the board, if its private/public as well as the gateway to the awesomeness of POWER-UPS, more on this in part 3.
For walkthroughs, step by step guides and all things Trello, visit their getting started guide here.
Here is the Trello workflow template that I use for most projects (for the more specific or niche boards I’ll use a contextually relevant workflow). It’s fairly self explanatory, however I’ll walk through the setup for clarity.
You’ll notice that the ‘done’ column is the first list on the board. I like to start my day with looking at the previous day’s completed tasks before archiving them. This gives me a clear view of project status and puts me in a positive mindset for the day ahead. Having this list first, means throughout the day completed cards are at the start and upcoming tasks towards the end of the board – this creates a nice flow to the day.
Done: All completed cards move into this list prior to archival.
Doing: The daily tasks I’m working on. Larger or parent projects go into the ‘This week’ list.
Tomorrow: Tomorrow never comes, however this helps me to prioritise for each day in the week and is partially automated, in the sense that cards automatically move over depending on the date and status. For this card I mostly use the ‘card snooze’ Power-up. This work by me selecting any tasks in the week with a due date as the next day, then hitting the “snooze until tomorrow” button where it will automatically appear in the “Tomorrow” list.
This week: This card is the most useful, it allows me to accurately estimate the amount of time required each day and the level of intensity of the week ahead. I use Story Points for Trello by Corrello, to judge the effort level and rough time needed for each task.
Actions from email: This is a semi-automated list, I forward emails with specific actions to the board, which are automatically categorised and filed into this list. This allows me to move straight from email into Trello and concentrate my workflow into one place rather than separating it out across tools. As noted in a previous article, email is not great for task/project management.
Ideas Icebox: If I have an idea, not matter what it is, I’ll drop it here for safe keeping. Around every 6 months I revisit the list and pick something to work on, or dump it all depending on the content.
For reference, Power-ups in use on this board: Agile Tools, Butler, Calendar, Card Snooze, Custom Fields, Giphy, Card Aging, Deadlines, Mailchimp, Google Drive.
For all automations I use Butler (basic use is free), which allows me to set up automations by a myriad of filters. Below is a short but incredibly useful example:
When I have completed a card, I click the custom ‘done’ button and the power automatically moves the card to the ‘Done’ list, then marks the due date as complete and adds a green label to it, which saves me a ton of time moving and marking cards. I have many other automations configured which I’ll cover in Part 3 of this series.
A few quick tips
The more you put into Trello, the more you get out of it. I’ve outlined a few really useful shortcuts and settings that should make a big difference to how you use Trello. As an aside, here’s a handy link for keyboard shortcuts (these work both for the web interface and the desktop app) which will help transform you into a Trello Titan in no time.
Stay in the know:
On every board and card is the ability to subscribe. What that means is you will be automatically notified (depending on how your notifications are configured) when someone else performs an action on that board or individual card. Personally I’d refrain from subscribing to boards as this can become overwhelming very quickly with notifications streaming in thick and fast – essentially any time a card is moved/commented on or updated you will be notified. This can be customised down to certain actions like comments only or due dates. However a much more effective way is to manually subscribe to lists or even individual cards that are of interest. In addition to this, you can also customise how you receive notification, either bundled together in a single daily email or individually throughout the day. You can find this section in the main app’s notification settings.
One of the biggest issues my clients and users alike seem to face, is when boards grow so big that they become completely overwhelming and too convoluted to use – especially for new board members. The solution to this is in two parts:
- Archive, Archive, Archive! Old cards and unused lists will clutter your boards, I see this time and again. I suggest a weekly spring clean archiving all lists and cards that are no longer needed/used to avoid your boards getting out of control.
- Dr. Filter to the rescue! The filter is your best friend when it comes to combating huge boards, you can filter by cards assigned to you or other board members, by deadlines (Deadline Power-up makes this very clear) or by labels assigned to them.
For the original article and more about Rory J Knighton, view more here.