Thoughts on Trello

Ooligan Press uses a handy website called Trello to organize all its projects. Trello’s appearance is deceptively simple: you can create “boards,” which are comprised of “lists,” which in turn contain individual “cards.” The cards can contain links, pictures, attached documents, checklists, text descriptions, due dates… It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. Here, I’ll show you my Trello account. Let’s start with the largest unit first: the board.


Click to embiggen! (Opens in new window. All images can be embiggened.)


In this image, you can see I have two Personal Boards: my “Homework!” board and the default “Welcome” board. Below those are the Ooligan boards I frequent. These boards are similar to folders on your computer, and are basically digital representations of corkboards or filing cabinets. You could have a board for each writing project you’re working on, or for each class you’re taking, or for trips you want to plan—the options are endless. Let’s look at the next component of Trello: the list.


On my Homework board, I have a list for each class I’m in: Intro to Book Publishing and Book Design Software. I also have a list for Ooligan work, blog posts I want to write, and a catch-all list called “Personal To-Do.” You might notice some different tags on the cards, like due dates, checklists, and colored labels. It probably looks overwhelming, but after only a few weeks of using Trello, I can quickly identify my overdue assignments, upcoming deadlines, time-consuming projects, and works-in-progress. Each list is composed of individual cards, like this one:


From top to bottom, a card can show you:

  • the title of the card;
  • which list it belongs to;
  • labels and the due date, if applicable;
  • a description of the card (which you create);
  • a checklist to track your progress;
  • comments (which are useful if you’re working with other people);
  • and an activity log.

I’ve customized my labels so each color corresponds with a different type of work. I have labels for Writing: Creative, Writing: Expository, Reading, Big projects (3+ hours), and Editing. Another feature of the card is its ability to house attachments. You can import files from Google Drive or your computer with just a few clicks. I don’t use it very much, but many Ooligan boards do for groupwork and project planning. And once you’re done with a card you can archive it and get it out of your way.

That’s all well and good, you might say, but perhaps you’re still not convinced that Trello would be a useful tool for you. And you might be right. Maybe you’re one of those super cool people who has their life on track and already uses a bunch of planning and organizational tools. Or maybe you don’t care to be organized and would rather live life on the fly. However, if you use a planner, or keep any kind of list at all, or have trouble meeting deadlines, Trello is worth considering. It helps me keep track of my assignments better than a regular ol’ planner because I’m not limited by how much I can write in a book, and I can keep track of electronic readings with ease. The checklist feature helps me break down larger assignments into more manageable tasks—and it’s very satisfying to see the green icon that indicates a completed list. I can also change due dates easily and move cards between lists if I need to. Everything can be rearranged and customized. Plus, there’s a smartphone app, so I can add cards with new assignments without needing to bring my computer (or a planner) everywhere.

I highly recommend Trello for anyone looking for an organizational boost. By the way, it’s free. Let me know if you try it out: I’d love to hear your comments!