This post is the first in a series about websites and apps that can help writers and editors get through their projects as easily and pleasantly as possible.
Let me put it simply: I organize my life — and sometimes the lives of others — with Trello. And I really do mean my life: not only do I have boards for our company and our clients, but I also have boards for my son’s homeschool activities, our family’s weekly menus, and my various other to-dos.
A couple years ago I had been fruitlessly trying out planning systems (both old-fashioned paper ones and online apps) when a friend of mine introduced me to Trello.com, a free web-based project-management system. Trello works like a bulletin board: you “tack” and organize virtual task cards on project-specific boards. You can have as many boards as you like and they don’t take up any wall space!
Trello clicked for me immediately.
Your cards contain whatever information you need: project names, descriptions, team members assigned to the project, comments from those participating, and — my favorite! — checklists. You can also set deadlines and alarms.
The boards are arranged in columns, and the site starts you off with 3 columns (To Do, Doing, Done), but you can change their titles and add more columns. Then you add cards for whatever tasks you are keeping track of. You drag and drop cards from one column to the next as a project moves from one step to another.
Or, if you are keeping track of, say, the family menu, you can set up columns for each day of the week and move meals around as needed.
Trello is both visual and tactile — well, as tactile as a web application can be. It lets you organize things and then change your mind and move things around until they are just in the order you want them. You can even move a card to a different board.
The checklists are really checklists, so when a task is finished, you can check it off and it gets crossed out. (I am one of those people who only feels something is completely finished when I can cross it off my to-do list, so I love this — and if you are working with a team, it’s also essential to let them know what’s been taken care of.)
Need the same checklist for multiple cards? No problem! You can also copy a checklist from one card to another.
When you assign a card/task to someone, Trello adds their icon in the bottom right-hand corner — with a quick glance at a board, you can see who is supposed to be doing what.
You can also put color labels on cards to help organize different levels of urgency or different types of tasks or or or (the organizational possibilities are endless).
Everyone who uses Trello needs to have an account, but accounts are quick and painless to create. And once you have one, you can start sharing. Boards can be private, shared with specific people or specific teams, and they can also be public.
For example, the Trello team organizes Trello LIVE on Trello — see their “live” board here.
Recently Trello released a new feature: you can email cards to your Trello boards. I have yet to try this, but it seems like a good way to keep track of things you want to add to your list when you’re away from the computer.
When I start a new project, Trello is now the first app I open on my computer. I know it will help me organize my thoughts and all the pieces I need to keep track of and put together. Trello rocks!