How to Use Trello to Stay Organized

Keep track of personal tasks and professional projects with this tool

Trello is a Kanban-style project management tool that visually represents the tasks that you or your team must accomplish. It allows you to see what everyone on the team is doing at any given time. Free of charge, Trello is accessible to groups and individuals who run businesses or who want to track personal tasks.

Among the many project management tools available, Trello is one of the easiest to use and implement, but its blank-slate interface can be a bit daunting. Here are some tips to help you and your team get the most out of Trello, no matter what kind of tasks you're tracking.

What Is Kanban?

A Japanese manufacturing process that Toyota implemented in the late 1940s informs the Kanban style of project management. It aimed to increase efficiency in its factories by tracking inventory in real time using cards passed among workers on the floor. When a particular material ran out, workers made a note of that for the supplier, who would then ship the requested item to the warehouse. These cards were often called Kanban, which means sign or billboard in Japanese.

Software like Trello takes this concept of passing around cards and puts it into a visual interface. Tasks are laid out on a virtual board and matched with a team's work capacity. At its most basic, a board has three sections: to do, doing (or in process), and done. However, teams can use this tool in any way that works for them.

Getting Started With Trello

Trello uses boards, lists, and cards, along with labels, categories, tags, and colors to help keep them organized and their status up to date.

Boards are the basic organizational tool of Trello, where you pin lists and cards. They're typically projects (for example, a website redesign or a bathroom renovation), and they contain lists of tasks (such as graphics and tiling), and cards (sub-tasks and options, such as hiring a designer or deciding on tile sizes and colors).

Adding cards to a Trello board.

Once you've decided how to organize your lists, you can add cards, which might have checklists and labels. Checklists are a way to break down tasks into sub-tasks. For example, if you're using Trello to plan a vacation, you might have a card for a restaurant you want to try, with a checklist that includes making a reservation, researching the best dishes, and checking if it's child-friendly.

Adding a checklist to a Trello card.

You can use labels to represent a card's status (for example, approved or submitted), category (such as science, technology, or arts), or any tag you want. Then, you can conduct a search that will bring up all science-related cards or all approved cards, for example. You don't have to add a title to a label, though; you can also use them for color-coding (up to 10 colors and a color-blind option are available).

Adding labels and color-coding to a Trello card.

As you work on and complete tasks, you can drag and drop cards from one list to another easily. Eventually, you might want to archive cards and lists should the interface become unwieldy.

Trello Notifications and Mobile Apps

Users can assign cards to team members and add comments, file attachments, color-coded labels, and due dates. Team members can @ mention others in comments to start conversations. Trello accepts files from your computer and cloud storage services such as Google DriveDropbox, Box, and OneDrive.

Also included is nifty email integration. Each board has a unique email address that you can use to create cards (tasks). You can send attachments to that email address, too. When you get an email notification, you can reply to it directly rather than launching Trello.

Notifications, including mentions and comments, are available in mobile apps, desktop browsers, and email. Trello has versions for iOS and Android devices, including phones, tablets, watches, and Kindle Fire.

Free, Business Class, and Enterprise Versions

Trello offers more than 30 add-on features and integrations, called power-ups. Examples of power-ups include a calendar view, a card repeater for recurring tasks, and integration with other apps such as EvernoteGoogle Hangouts, Salesforce, and more. Free accounts include one power-up per board.

All of Trello's core features are available in the free version. As of July 2021, Business Class and Enterprise subscriptions are $10 and $17.50 per month, paid annually (slightly more when paid monthly), and add a long list of perks such as more power-ups per board, larger attachment uploads, various views, and more.

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