Hack Your Task Management with Trello

Back in March, I left my old friend, Wunderlist, for someone else. This someone went on to help me organize my 26+ Wunderlist lists with the greatest of ease and make my life much more manageable.

This someone was Trello – a task management system available free for web browsers, iOS, Android, and Windows 8. You can also install Trello on your MacBook as a Fluid app.

Being an avid fan of both Wunderlist and Wunderkit during its short life, I was hesitant about yet again transferring all of my tasks over to a new system – after all, spending all of your time planning out how to spend all of your time simply doesn’t make any sense.

Luckily for me, the move was worth it. I quickly fell in love with Trello and saw the temptress that is organized productivity in a new light.

Tom already sang praises for Wunderlist in one of his giant collections of college tips for what it can do to help you organize your life. So what exactly does Trello have to offer, and why did I choose it over Wunderlist?

Let’s find out.

Boards

Boards are Trello’s highest layer of organization. These boards can hold lists, and those lists can hold cards, which can hold an entire project by themselves if needed.

For me, I’ve found that boards make the most sense when I use them to separate the biggest aspects of my life.

Trello Boards

Here are my boards, along with some of the lists I have nestled within each one:

  • Blogging – Powlyglot (my language blog), College Info Geek, Guest Posts
  • Language – Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin
  • Media – Portable Games, Console Games, PC Games, Books, Movies
  • Music – Solo, Collaborative
  • Personal – Social, Professional, Health, Other
  • School – Scholarships, CHIN 101, ENGL 302, GER 101, MIS 331, MIS 435
  • Shopping – Shopping List, Wish List
  • Web Development – MartinBoeh.me, Powlyglot.com
  • Work – To Do, Doing, Done

I find that this list covers basically everything I do. In addition to any of these as ideas for your own boards, I would recommend an “Extracurricular” board for those of you who are into clubs and/or sports.

Lists

Lists are the second level in Trello. At this level, the layers align pretty well with what Wunderlist offers – so if you’d like to pretend that each board you have holds a little Wunderlist account inside, then go right ahead.

Trello Lists

Each board you make comes with 3 lists by default: To Do, Doing, and Done.

The idea is that each card you make is a project that you can drag along as it progresses, which works well for certain things – it’s how I manage my “Work” board, for example. But you can just archive these lists or rename them if you want to do something different.

Personally, I think that Trello’s implementation of lists is more visually appealing than Wunderlist’s. I can see the contents of multiple lists at once, and presenting each list as a box helps to give them more weight. It just makes more sense to me when I look at it.

Cards

Here’s where it gets really fun.

Trello’s cards are functional enough that a single one can hold an entire project. You can add checklists, comments, and files of all kinds.

Images you attach will automatically serve as a thumbnail for the card, helping to distinguish it when you look through your board, and checklists will show a progress bar to show how much you’ve done – these things add a ton of visual appeal, and help you find the cards you’re looking for faster.

The kale makes this list healthy, right?

The kale makes this list healthy, right?

I’ve found checklists to be an invaluable tool for grocery lists, school work, and many other things. I’ve even kept my wish list clean by having a single card called “Videogames” with a checklist for each system I own inside. Lists in lists in lists.

Comments and files have come in handy for basically everything – the card for the creation of my site’s mascot was filled to the brim with design ideas and sketches. Every little thought that pops into your head can be thrown into a Trello card so you can see it all in one place. No more lost ideas.

Furthermore, each card can be organized with labels, assigned to different users, or given a due date.

Labels are selected from a group of colors: Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple, and Blue. These can be given names (each board gets its own set of label names) or you can just search for the colors in the search bar by using something like “#blue”. The only inconvenience you might face is that searching by color will also show you any archived cards, so remember to remove all labels before you archive something.

Members are different Trello users to whom you’ve given access to a board. This lets them see what’s going on and participate with comments and other things. You can also assign a card to a user so they know they need to be working on it. I never use this feature personally, but I’m sure it has its uses for those who often work in a group.

Trello Card Assignment

Due dates are pretty self-explanatory, but very helpful. If you want them to do you much good, you’ll want to assign the card to yourself, as I’m doing above – you’ll see why in a second.

As soon as you’re finished with a card, just archive it. It’ll still be available later if you ever need to see it again, so no worries about losing project information when you’re done.

Productivity at a Glance – Trello’s Best Page

Here it is – my hands down favorite part of Trello. The cards page.

This page, which you get to by clicking “Cards” on the sidebar of the boards page, shows every card that’s assigned to you.

Yes, it has to be assigned to you to show up here – but with a little effort, this page can be your go-to page to find out what you should be working on.

But why can’t my cards be automatically assigned to me? They’re my cards!

Well, here’s why you wouldn’t want that: filtering is a good thing.

What good is an alternative display if it just shows everything? Sure, it’d be useful if literally every card you ever added to Trello was important enough to be reminded of every day – but that sounds like an awfully stressful way to live your life.

What about when you want to add “Giant Balloon Dolphin” to your shopping list – is that really important enough that you need to see it right next to “Build a Personal Website“?

No, but you certainly still want to see it when you’re looking at your shopping list, so it still needs to be a card in Trello.

So, with a small amount of organizational effort, we can make the cards view the best page ever for seeing what’s going on in your life at a glance.

  1. Use Trello labels with purpose – for me, purple is high priority, red is medium priority, orange is media that I’m in the middle of finishing, and blue is any music that I’m currently working on. This keeps everything I want in my sight, but separates more important tasks from projects I’m doing on the side.
  2. Assign every card with a due date or an important label color to yourself, so it shows up in your cards list.
  3. Assign any other cards that you want to be reminded of to yourself as well.

Following these steps should give you a cards view similar to this one:

Trello Cards Page

Now, with a single click, you have an easy to read overview of all of your current projects and tasks, complete with their corresponding labels, due dates, and checklist progress. You can even choose to separate them by board or due date, depending on what your needs are.

I check this every day to remind myself of what’s going on in my life – college life being as busy at it is, I certainly need it.

For those of you who don’t want to use an alternative app like Strike for your day-to-day task list, this page can be very useful.

So, Should You Use Trello?

Well, how much organization do you need? For some people, Wunderlist will do just fine – and that’s perfectly fine. But I imagine that for many people (especially those of you with a large amount of lists in your Wunderlist already), an extra layer of organization would be welcomed with open arms.

Personally, I can’t go back to having 26+ lists and being expected to scroll through them every day, and I certainly don’t want to lose my cards page – but that’s just me.

Martin Boehme is a web developer, language nerd, and Nintendo fanboy. Talk to him in English, Spanish, French, or very basic Japanese on Twitter.

Hey there! Please note that some links in the article may be referral links, meaning that if you buy something through them, I'll earn a commission (at no extra cost to you). This helps to support CIG, but please don't buy anything unless you truly believe it'll benefit you! You can learn more here. Thank you :)

Want to Earn Better Grades?

Did you find this article useful?

Over 150,000 awesome students are learning how to dominate their classes, get more done, and land the jobs they want - and you should too.

Join in, and I'll also send you a free copy of my book on earning better grades!

// Read This Next

How I Paid Off $14,431 In Student Loans In 6 Months – BEFORE Graduating

Want more? Join over 150,000 students and grab my free book on earning better grades  →