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The Ultimate Trello To-Do List – Maximize your Workflow with Trello

Vitor Castro
Software Development Manager

Getting Organized with Trello

I have 44 items in my to-do list right now. Seems like a lot? 44 is no problem. Here’s one fundamental about to-do lists; They require constant prioritization. You might feel bad that your task isn’t getting done, because it’s not a high enough priority, but turn those feelings around. Take that task. You didn’t make the cut. No progress for you today.

Trello can help with your prioritization. It’s software that sees you manage lists of cards, where each list is vertically oriented. For to-do lists, each card is a to-do item and each list is a state. 

It looks like this:

Trello Board Example (Click To Enlarge)

You can even review the board in Read-Only mode.

Creating List Columns in Trello

List columns are easy to add and remove and can help you completely customize your Board. It’s important that each column represents a necessary category within your workflow. Below is how I organize my Lists.

List #1: Worked on Today

Worked on Today is a perfect place to keep track of completed tasks if you need to do any sort of time tracking for your work.

List #2: Today

Today is a prioritized list of items you are planning to work on today, with the following attributes:

  • No scheduled activities are listed here (no meetings)
  • The list has an upper limit on the number of items (start with a limit of 10 and reduce as needed)
  • The list is ordered by priority, with the high priority items on top

List #3: Waiting

Waiting is a list of to-do items with due dates. A due date is when the item goes back into the today list for prioritization. Every item must have a due date set.

Now that you have set up the layout, let’s start managing items with our unique daily process.


Using your Board: Manual Maintenance

Each Morning

  1. Move items from today to waiting until today has at most 10 items
    • Set a due date for each item you move. For items that are timely, but didn’t make the cut, I set those to tomorrow. Everything else I stagger across the next few weeks.
      • Hover over the card and press ‘d’ to set a due date
  2. Sort the today list in priority order by dragging and dropping the remaining 10 or fewer cards until the highest priority ones are the top

Throughout the Day

  • When you’re done working on an item, archive it
    • Hover over the card and press ‘c’

Introduce Automation

Every day, sort the waiting list by Due Date ascending, making it easier to pull in items from waiting if you need to.

Create a Due Date automation that looks like this:
On the day a card in list “waiting” is due at 7:00 am, move the card to the top of list “today”

  1. Select Automation from the top menu
  2. Select Due Date
  3. Customize your Rule “On the day a card in list “waiting” is due at 7:00 am
  4. Set the Action “move the card to the top of list “today
Select Automation from the top Menu
Select Due Date
Customize your Rule
Set the automation action

You now have a prioritized daily list and the potential to maintain a large list of to-do items, despite not being able to get to all of them. Let’s take it further.


Timesheets and Time Tracking Made Simple

If you are required to track your time for whatever reason, add a worked on today list and don’t archive cards when an item is complete.

Do this instead:

  1. When you finish working on an item for the day, move it from today to worked on today
  2. When you are done for the day or come in the next morning, move items from today to worked on today that you spent any amount of time on
  3. Fill in your timesheet, using worked on today as a reference
    • You might also want to use integrations for tracking time in Trello or simply edit the text of your card to include hours spent (hover over a card and press ‘e’ to edit its text)
  4. For any worked on, but incomplete items, move the item to today
  5. Archive all remaining cards in worked on today (there is a shortcut in the list’s hamburger menu)

Using Trello Lables

Maybe don’t go crazy with labels, but they can be useful for filtering or quickly seeing which to-do items correspond to a particular project.

Labels don’t change the lists we’ve talked about so far, but you can label any card in any list using the ‘l’ key or even better, by pressing a number like 1 or 2. Pressing that number key will add a label corresponding to the number.


Extra List: Meeting Agendas

Meeting agendas are a lot like to-do items, but you can only do them by specifically bringing up the item during a meeting. These items don’t belong in your today or waiting list. Neither of those lists describe to-dos that are bound to a specific start and end time.

Try this instead:

  • If you only have one or two meetings that you maintain agendas for, create a list for each, with the name of the meeting
  • If you have many agendas to maintain, consider creating an agendas list and labelling cards to indicate which meeting, client or project the agenda item corresponds to
  • Add agenda items as you think of them and update these cards during the meeting, so you have a record of discussion on the item

Keeping Tack of Your Board – Trello Apps

Trello on Outlook

Outlook Plugin

Trello’s in my Outlook, helping me stay organized. If you use Trello and Outlook’s desktop client, download this plugin. It will convert the currently viewed email to a Trello card on the board and list you’d like.

Desktop App

Did you know Trello has a desktop application in addition to its web and mobile apps?

Go here to get it: https://help.trello.com/article/1095-trello-desktop-apps

Browser

Finally, if you don’t want to download anything extra the Browser version of Trello is just as functional as the desktop version.

You can pin the tab to your browser for easy access throughout the day.


In Conclusion

Trello is a highly recommended workflow tool, but it really needs to be tailored to your specific needs. Hoping this blog helped you understand how to create a workflow that works for you as well as a reminder on how to use automation to keep track of tasks!


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About The Author

Hi, my name is Vitor Castro and I’m a Software Development Manager at Indellient. I’ve had the fortune of working for many years in Software Development and Architecture, where I’ve focused on process automation, Cloud transformations, and building out technically excellent development teams.