Sunday, June 5, 2016

Getting Organized with Trello

I’ve been looking for a way to do personal task management for years.  I tried a paper in many forms multiple times (I don’t have it with me when I need it, its not searchable, etc).  I’ve tried all kinds of todo list apps on iOS.  I’ve tried Outlook multiple times with complete failure. I even tried a mind-mapping app.  Oh yes, and there was that time I used a white board which was really hard to carry around.

I like the "agile / scrum" approach that uses a "backlog" of things to do.  You drag things from the backlog list to some level of To Do this week or in-progress, work on it, then drag it to QA or Done. When I think of my own approach to managing my task list it really works well.  I can toss a whole bunch of things on the backlog and then by dragging them into a "start working on this list" to work on for the week (my sprint), it helps me focus on the stuff I really want to get done. It also helps me stop procrastinating.  My rule is that I need to start the first step for everything in the "ToDo this week" list.

I setup a Jira project for personal task management, complete with a scrum board and it was Kanban style.  I didn’t like Jira for personal because there is way too much overhead and no connection to my personal phone (and it was slow).

I had a quasi requirements list but finding the right package really helped me better understand my needs as well.  Here's my simple requirements:
  • Fast and easy
  • Web & iOS
  • Offer something like the Jira Scrum plugin with the visual kanban style of tracking stuff.
  • Ability to get a little more fancy (dates, attachments and more), but only if I need it.

I think I found what I’ve been looking for in  A co-worker used it for a mini-project and I started using it to manage the rest of my work.  What I like:
  1. It’s super-fast!!! Setup is intuitive and I can just slam cards onto a list with nothing more than a title.  For some things that’s good enough.  Drag and drop is like using iOS and is used when moving my tasks to different phases.
  2. It works on my iOS devices as well (complete with "force touch").
  3. Trello is extensible.  If I need, I can add customized priority or color markers to cards, or dates, notes, comments, and attachments.  For date driven things, I can show them n a calendar.
  4. I can collaborate by creating team boards (I learned about Trello because it’s being used by a team).
  5. I can create multiple "boards" for projects that need a corpus of content all their own.  I like keeping C2 all in one place but I also participate on projects with others and can assign tasks to other members.
  6. Trello's calendar view is powerful for tasks that have a date.
  7. Trello  is free
  8. It is in the cloud (after all, I am the cloud BLOG guy).

Trello is  not a replacement for Jira, but it has it’s place for light, fast moving, personal or light teamwork items.

Trello has the ability to comment on tasks, which is like embedding a conversation for the task.  I don't use the date field much yet but it is cool to be able to use it when you want and then view all of the tasks on a calendar.  Cards can contain attachments, embedded checklists, and notes so you can go big or go fast.

Trello is missing is a export feature but does integrate via iCal if its something you have to have. For now, I'm good.  It would be nice if they had the flag done in order to enable views that show overdue items.  My preferred approach would be to designate a list that flips the flag when you drag it into that list (like Jira SCRUM).

If you use a "Done" column, dragging the card into that list or column causes Trello to log the activity in the card, helping keep track of exactly when you moved it to done, but there's no real "Done" checkbox (which is fine with me). The down side is that there's no reminder of stuff you still need to do like there is in Todoist.  I'm actually OK with this as I really don't need one more system nagging me.  For tracking, I'll probably move the Done list to a different board and give it a month so that I can always track what I did in chunks.  If I could get an upgrade, my preferred approach would be to designate a list that flips the flag when you drag it into that list (like Jira SCRUM).

Trello had some very interesting use cases for using it to work as a team for parties as well as creating a group for book clubs.  


A friend of mine referred me to his preferred todo manager,  It's in the same category as Trello but approaches the problem differently.  After doing a little research, I find that Todoist has a large following.  I found a few posts from people that use both Trello and Todoist, which I think that approach is a little manic.

Todoist has a real state of "done" and not done.  This allows them to implement automated nagging via e-mail or bubble things up when they are not done and past their due date.  Todoist has a thing called "karma points" that sort of game-afy productivity, encouraging you to get more stuff done.  It's a novel approach.

I like Todoists UI because they keep it clean.


I spent  short time using todoist and still prefer my SCRUM board in Trello.  Karma points and the ability to bug me via email for things that are not done/complete is nice but I don't need any more stress from various automated systems bugging me.  If I was more date centric, rather than SCRUM/sprint focused, I'd probably prefer Todoist.

I suggest you try both, since they are both free.  

Note:  The picture in the background on my Trello board is one that I uploaded, not from Trello.  Its from my vacation spot :)


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