As far as I can remember, I’ve always been addicted to To-Do lists. I love checking boxes as I go about my day, crossing tasks off my list give me a great sense of accomplishment. But I would often bury myself lists several pages long, feeling overwhelmed by the insurmountable task load I would impose on myself. Then Trello came into my life, and I switched from overworked and overwhelmed to poised and in control. Here’s how Trello changed the way I plan and work.
What is Trello?
First of all, what is Trello? Trello is a task management app based on Personal Kanban. It contains boards with lists on which you can add cards. A card is a task or project and the different lists allow you to sort your work visually. The most common Kanban board contains 3 lists : To Do, Doing, Done. You would start by creating a card in the To Do column when you get a new task, move it to the Doing column while you’re working on it, and finally, bring it to the Done column when it’s completed. I have a complete blog post on the Personal Kanban system if you’d like to dive deeper into the topic.
What’s different from a conventional to-do list?
A traditional to-do list is just that, a list. Fancier task management systems allow you to sort your tasks by project, due date, and context, but at the core, they’re just a list of tasks. The list can quickly get long and overwhelming, and you can quickly get a sense that you are losing control over the abundance of things you could be working on.
The Personal Kanban method is a bit different. First, by putting all your tasks and projects on the same board, you can get a sense of your workload in a visual way. If there’s too much to do, you can create a list named “backburner” and relegate non-urgent, non-important tasks to this column, knowing that you can get to it later, when the most important stuff in your To Do column get completed.
Also, the idea of Personal Kanban is to limit your work in progress (WIP). To stay efficient and produce your best work, there’s only so much you can do. Limit the projects you work on simultaneously and feel the peace of mind of knowing you can do it all. I tend to stick to 3 projects at a time, but your optimal WIP will vary.
Focus on your big rocks
The way I plan nowadays, using Trello as my dashboard, is to select my big rocks, my most important projects, to work on each week. During my weekly review, I look at my To Do column and at my backburner, and I choose 3 projects to work on for the next week.
Then, using my calendar, I schedule focused blocks of time for each project. I like to theme my days using my ideal week spread, so I fill in what’s left with my recurring tasks, such as writing my newsletter, planning my social media, and my weekly review.
Find something to work on in your downtime
When I finish working on a task faster than I expected, I can look at my To Do column and at my backburner and find a task to work on. My tasks are no longer controlled by due date, but by time available. When I’m done with my big rocks, I can manage to add up a few small tasks to my Done list. But my most important work is always done first.
More control, more peace of mind
Since I’ve started using Trello to manage my tasks and projects, I feel more in control of my workload, I spend way less time working on meaningless tasks, and I know that I always have enough time, stamina, and energy to work on my big rocks. It totally changed my relationship with my to-do list.
Have you tried Trello? Let me know in the comments below!