I am a list person. All of my friends know this to be true...! Up until two years ago, I was constantly carrying around a notebook and a gathering of loose-leaf papers containing all sorts of lists. Between juggling design projects, blog posts, and day-to-day needs at home, lists are the lifeblood of what keep me on track.
So when I heard about Trello, I was immediately intrigued. Trello is a collaboration tool geared toward organizing projects. Although I wasn't necessarily looking to use it to collaborate, I set up a free account and was amazed at how such a simple tool could have such a huge impact on my organization.
Those of you who blog or run a small business understand all of the moving parts and details involved. So today I'm sharing a behind-the-scenes look at how I use Trello to stay on top of all of my to-do’s for the That's Pretty Ace blog, it's branding projects, and my life in general.
Part 1 | Boards
Trello is made up of 3 components: Boards, Lists, and Cards. I'll start with the big picture (Boards) and work my way down to the details (Cards).
Trello keeps up with projects by organizing them into boards. Boards are for broad categories, topics, or subjects and they’re the largest organizational group within Trello.
For That's Pretty Ace, I've set up one board and have all of my categories as lists within it. I could certainly have separate boards for the TPA blog, TPA branding projects, and my life, but I like to be able to see everything all in one place. I would recommend starting with one board and then seeing how adding an additional board or two could be helpful after using Trello for a few weeks.
Since Trello is built for collaboration, you could separate your boards based on different group projects – perhaps a board for blog contributors, a board for a team on a styled shoot, or a board for a workshop you're co-creating.
Within each board’s menu, Trello allows you to add members. Each member has access to the board and can make edits, add new items, etc. This is especially helpful for these collaborations and partnerships, and it makes tasks and processes much easier to keep up with.
This not only helps cut back on emails, but it also allows each “board member” to see the entire project at a glance. Awesome!
I have a separate board for the non-profit work that I do, where I collaborate with my teammates there. We can be assigned tasks, be given feedback, and show our design options all within our Trello board. It's been an insanely useful asset to our team!
Part 2 | Lists
Each Trello board is broken down into smaller units called Lists. Lists help you create steps and outline a process for your projects.
Within the That's Pretty Ace board, I have separate lists for Blog Post Ideas, Design Jobs, Doing and Done. This is simply how I think and how I've found Trello to work best for me at this time. Blog Post Ideas is just that – a running list of ideas I have, categorized by the type of content. Design Jobs contains all projects I have going on and inquiries I've received (labeled by color). This makes it easy to see my workload at a glance and be able to determine what I have room for. Doing functions as my day-to-day to do list where I assign every task I have to a specific day to do it. Done is where I move things when they are completed.
If you were going to set up Trello for your blog, I would suggest setting up these lists: Ideas, Drafts, Queue, and Published posts. You could order them in sequence from left to right as a timeline of sorts; posts start in the idea phase, move on to a draft, and land in the queue until they’re published.
Or perhaps you want to use Trello for your small business. Think through the timeline you use for your clients. Within your new Board, create a list for each step of your business process.
Part 3 | Cards
Now things get really detailed with Trello’s smallest organizational feature: cards.
Cards are the fundamental units of each board. They’re used to represent tasks, ideas, etc. and can easily be moved from one list to another.
For my Doing list, I create a card for each day. I then add a checklist to each card with my to-do's for the day listed out. This includes TPA tasks like design work, emailing clients, and posting to social media, and life tasks, like plans I have with friends, grocery shopping, and (let's be real) showering.
For my Jobs list, I give each project (or potential project) a card. I then label it green (working on now), or yellow (on hold or an inquiry).
Then, within each card, I write in comments on the client's requests and information, and then add a checklist of each item they've requested in their invoice. For time-sensitive projects, I will add a due date.
For your blog board, you could set up a separate card for each one of your posts. Whenever you come up with a new idea for a blog post, you could add a new card under the Idea list.
As the post moves into the draft, queue, and published phases, drag and drop the corresponding card into the appropriate list. And because the lists are set up in order, you can move the posts along the timeline, making it easier to see all of your posts at a glance and keep up with the entire process.
While a card may look fairly simple at first, there are several options available on once you click on it. You'll notice I've mentioned a few of these so far – checklists, labeling, and commenting. Let's walk through all of the options.
The area at the top of the dialogue box displays the title of your card and the list it’s currently in. You can edit either of those sections by clicking on them.
For my Doing list, I use the title section to name the day. For my Jobs list, I use the title section for the title of the project or client. (For your Blog board, you could use the title section for the title of each post.)
Like the Title feature, this one is fairly straightforward. For blogging, you might use this section to give a brief synopsis of the post.
The bottom section of the dialogue box outlines all of the activity that’s taken place for each card (so helpful for when you're collaborating!). Trello also allows you to add comments here and tag members by using their specific handle – for example, I could comment "Can you read over this for me and check for spelling/grammar?" and tag my husband, Chris, my resident grammar guru. I often add comments to cards for myself just to keep information handy.
There are more options available on the right side of the dialogue box and they’re added to the window as you click on them.
You can add a member to each specific card, which has been especially helpful for my non-profit team board. Each time we receive a new task, we add a card to our Doing list and add the team member assigned to create it. Trello also sends notifications to each member when changes are made to a card, which helps keep everyone up to date.
If you have several different Trello boards and/or cards, the label feature can be helpful for sorting through everything. Trello allows you to distinguish between different labels by assigning a color to each one. As I shared previously, I use them in my Jobs board for active projects and inactive projects.
For blogging, you could easily use labels to keep track of your categories. This color feature could be helpful for giving you an idea of which categories you’re writing about most and/or which categories are lacking and need to be focused on more.
Checklists allow you to list tasks for each card. For blogging, you could list out each step of your blog process that needs to be completed: Outline, Edit, Blog Graphic, and Schedule.
Trello helps you easily keep track of deadlines with their due date feature. I use due dates for time-sensitive jobs. You could also use due dates to plan out your blogging editorial calendar and keep track of the days and times each post will go live.
The attachment feature allows you to upload files from your computer, Google Drive, and Dropbox, and it also allows you to attach a link. We use this on our non-profit collaboration board to share design options for review.
The options listed under Actions are fairly straightforward as well.
- Move allows you to move the card to a new list and choose its position within the list
- Copy creates a copy of the card, keeping the due dates, checklists, labels, etc. the same
- Subscribe notifies you whenever a comment is made to a card, due dates are changed, or when a card is moved to a new list
- Archive lets you archive cards you no longer need on your board without deleting them. In order to delete a card, you must archive it first.
Trello is so simple and user-friendly, yet it contains a wealth of detailed functionalities that allow you to customize it and make it work for your specific needs.
I've found it incredibly helpful for keeping up with branding work, the blog, and my life. And I'm continuing to find ways to utilize it to organize other aspects of That's Pretty Ace! Maybe a newsletter board? Give brand projects their own board?
I have a feeling you’ll find it useful, too!
Is this your first time hearing about Trello? If not, how do you use it for your blog and business?