In business, online organisational tools are invaluable — which is why there are so many of them out there. When you find one that works for you, it will make your life easier and your business more successful. The trick, of course, is finding one.
One such organisational tool that we use regularly is Trello. Trello is a free online to-do list that looks and acts a lot like Pinterest, but instead of being image-based, it’s primarily text-based, allowing you to add tasks to “cards.”
Think sticky notes on a whiteboard, but with lots of interactive features.
Getting started with Trello
Trello requires no download — simply go to Trello.com and sign up. If you use a Google account, it takes just seconds (you’ll want to connect Trello with Google anyway if you want to integrate features such as Google Calendar; more on that later).
If you want to be able to access Trello everywhere (and you probably will), you can download the free app for Android and iPhone.
Your brand new Trello will look like this:
Click on the Welcome Board for a quick tutorial on how to use the basic features, such as adding a new “card,” or individual list; creating checklists; leaving comments; and adding pictures, video, and links.
Pretty simple — now it’s time to start organising. Think of each board as every individual project, meeting, and errand you have.
Creating a new board
When you create a board, you will be prompted to do three things:
- Give the board a title
- Add the board to an Organisation (optional)
- Set the board a private or public (the default is private)
For most business tasks, private boards are the way to go. Public boards are useful if you want to get some customer feedback that you can freely organise. Share the URL of the board on social media or email, and anyone who looks at the board can interact with it.
Public Trello boards and cards don’t show up in a feed the way pins on Pinterest do. To search for public Trello boards, use a regular search engine like Google. To see a public Trello board in action, check out the Data Science board.
After you create a card, the first things you should do is add a due date (if applicable), and any members you want to share with. You can also add labels, a checklist, or attachments.
Add notes to your card in the Comments field — other members will be able to do the same, so communication on each step of the project is clear and easily reviewable.
Adding Power Ups
Add free functionality to your Trello boards by clicking on “Add Power Ups” from the menu on the right when a board is open. Power ups include:
- Voting: When this Power Up is enabled, you can allow people to vote on your cards. For example, you can create cards with different ideas, and your team can vote on the one they like best or the one they think should be the highest priority. Upvoting can show the popularity of a card in general. Voting can be set to allow members only, members and observers, organisation members, or, on Public boards, the public.
- Card Aging: This Power Up “ages” cards that have not had any activity in the time specified by you (1, 2, or 4 weeks). Select Regular Mode for cards that turn transparent as they age, or Pirate Mode for cards that “crack” like aged paper.
- Calendar: Keep track of deadlines and automatically add them to your Google Calendar or similar. To connect your Trello calendar, enable the Power up and copy your iCalendar Feed URL. Open your Google Calendar, click on the arrow next to “Other Calendars,” click on “Add URL” and paste the URL in the field. Now when you add a deadline to a card, it will appear on your Google Calendar.
The menu offers other free features, including colour coded labels, filtering, copying, and print/export.
Trello in action
For example, let’s say your business has a blog with content that involves several steps and contributors (an SEO expert, writer, editor, and social media manager). With Trello, you can create a system that keeps everyone in the loop, while increasing efficiency.
Your project might go something like this: You create a board for each proposed blog post. Then create a card for each section of the project, such as,
- Post Specs
- Final Draft
- Social media
You can work with your SEO expert to nail down an effective headline and keywords. From there, you can discuss the post specs with your content writer, review drafts with your writer and copy editor, and upload the final draft and any photos for your blog manager.
Of course, all of those tasks may belong to just one or two people if you have a small business, but even if it’s just you, Trello can organise these steps more smoothly and make content creation more open.
You also have a record of each process, which can be easily archived. Small projects like this often aren’t well-documented beyond simple correspondence. With Trello, you can go back and colour code boards to identify high-performing posts. Did you do something different? Who worked on the post? How much time was spent on it? With Trello, it’s all there.
Sorting your Trello boards
As mentioned above, Trello allows you to archive boards (for example, if you’ve finished the project), so that they don’t clutter your dash, but are still accessible.
Important boards such as projects in progress can be starred so they move to the top of the dashboard. To “star” a board, simply hover your cursor over the board and click on the small star that appears on the upper right. To move it back, simply click the star again.
Boards can also be sorted by organisation; by clicking on “create an organisation” on your dashboard, you can create separate areas for work, school, family, and so on.
Once you get a handle on Trello, you can make it even more efficient by using shortcuts to manoeuvr your boards and cards. Shortcuts include:
- N — Add new card
- M — Add new member
- C — Archive a card
- D — Set a due date
- T — Edit title
- V — Vote on Card
- S — Subscribe to card
For a complete list of shortcuts, go to the Trello Shortcuts page, which can be found by clicking on your name on the top right on your dashboard screen, and selecting “Shortcuts” from the drop-down.
Trello on the go
The free Trello app, available on Android and iPhone, as well as Kindle Fire and Windows 8, enhances (and can even replace) the web experience, allowing you to take notes, share ideas, and discuss projects from anywhere, via your smartphone or tablet. This is where Trello really becomes indispensable. If you get an idea for a blog while out shopping, you can immediately add it to your idea board, then switch back to your shopping list, also on Trello, which the family has added to while you were at work.
Even better, the Trello app takes up significant less space on your device than some of the other popular organisation apps, so you don’t have to bog down your device to have a great organisational tool with you all the time.
It might take a bit of time to get used to, but once you’ve figured out Trello, it’s a very intuitive tool that can change the way you do business — and, yes, become the best friend that never lets you miss a deadline or forget a project step.
Do you use Trello? Share your favourite uses and tips in the comments!
Sorry, access to this special content
is for ‘Owners’ only
Owners log in
Not a member of
the Owners Club yet?