Part 2: Using Trello to Maintain Authentic Relationships — How to import and organize all of your contacts in Trello

In part 1, I gave you an overview of the Trello system I use to keep up with the people in my life. In this post, I will explain how you can set up your board using automation.


If you haven’t signed up for Trello yet, please consider using my recommendation link. If you sign up, I get a month of Trello Gold for free.


Step 1: Prepping your contacts for Import

Create your board for importing your contacts and make a new list. I called mine “Inbox” but you can call it whatever you’d like.

Consolidate your contacts into a single spreadsheet

If you’re anything like me, you have a ton of contacts scattered all over your devices and accounts. Our goal is to consolidate all of these contacts into one place that allows us to export them as a Google sheet. This format for digital contacts is called CSV.

If you’re the disciplined unicorn with all of your contacts in one place that also allows you to export your contacts in CSV format, you’re basically done with this step. Here are the instructions for Outlook and instructions for Google Contacts.

Unfortunately for me, my primary method for contact management is my iPhone, and Apple does not make it easy to export in CSV format. Since I also have a fair amount of email contacts that I would also like to collect from my Gmail account, I decided the easiest way to go about my contact consolidation was to merge my iCloud contacts with my Gmail contacts. To do that, I used the app Contacts Sync, which allows you to merge your Gmail and your iCloud contacts. Once I had all of my contacts in Gmail, I did a quick search for duplicates (which Google made gloriously easy) then exported to CSV.

Upload that CSV to your Google Drive and open it using Google Sheets.

Clean up the spreadsheet

As far as cleaning up the spreadsheet, my primary concern was the “Name” field. I decided I didn’t need my Trello cards to have contact information since I had that in my phone and email. I only want the cards to hold information regarding our interactions. This way it keeps the Trello cards streamlined.

All I had to do was spot delete irrelevant entries such as businesses, restaurants or any duplicates. Don’t worry about deleting empty cells — the automation service bypasses them automatically.

Step 2: Automating your contact import using Zapier

Zapier an amazing third-party application that gives you a ton of automation options. The basic idea is Zapier allows two completely different applications to communicate with one another based on the parameters you set. For our purposes, we will be using an automation between Google Sheets and Trello. Zapier has an in-depth tutorial complete with GIFs to help you do this properly. The principle of this automation is that you link this contact spreadsheet to your Zapier account. Zapier will import the cells you choose as new cards on the Trello board and list of your choice.

Note: The free version of Zapier limits the number of automations you can make, but if you sign up, you get a two week free trial of paid features, which helps if you need to import hundreds of contacts.

A screenshot of Zapier’s interface for setting up the automation

For each card import, you can choose what information from the spreadsheet you would like to include. I made each card name the person’s name. You can also add specific cells in the description, including formatting using Trello’s markdown. For example, if you kept comments on your interactions or how you met someone in their contact note field, that would be a great thing to include in the description of each card.

This is what a board might look like immediately after import:

Now all of your contacts should have their own card in your inbox list.

Step 3: Initial Contact Sort and Clean Up

Now that you have imported all of your contacts as Trello cards, it’s time to sort them! (On my actual CRM board) I had over 500 contacts to import and, if I’m being honest, I didn’t know who all of these folks were.

So I decided my next step was to create 4 additional lists to allow me to sort my contacts by our type of relationship. These lists were: Clarify Identity, Acquainted, Friendly, Friends/Family. I then set upon the tedious task of sorting through my contacts according to these categories. These are the criteria I used to determine who belonged in which category:

  • Clarify Identity: I cannot look at this person’s name and immediately picture their face or how I know them. This section will require me to look through my past correspondence and social media to figure out exactly how I know this individual. Anyone without a last name usually belongs in this list.
  • Acquainted: I met this person in passing or only a few times and I would probably have to remind them how we know each other. Many acquaintances I haven’t spoken to in a while from college and high school go on this list.
  • Friendly: I would feel comfortable reaching out to this person today and asking them for a favor or advice. I genuinely enjoy this person’s company and wouldn’t mind attempting to build a more personal friendship with them. I used to work closely with this individual and feel I know more about them than a casual acquaintance.
  • Friends/Family: Any member of my family (immediate or extended) or a close friend that I would hang out with in my free time.

Work through your Inbox and move everyone to the correct list. If someone straddles two categories, go with your first instinct. The goal of this initial sort is to give you a group of smaller lists to work with rather than your massive inbox list, which can get overwhelming. Don’t worry about putting the cards in any sort of order as you’re sorting, just go as fast as you can. You can always sort your cards in Trello alphabetically using this Google Chrome extension.

In theory, you can sort your contacts using labels, because I eventually created labels called “Acquainted,” “Friendly,” and “Friends/Family”. But I chose to initially sort by lists because it was visually easier to see my progress when the cards were spread out.

After this step, my sample board looks like this (FYI: These people are fake.)

Step 4: Targeted sorting

Once your inbox is empty, the next step is to add details to each card. If you’re anything like me, you might feel a little overwhelmed by this. This is the workflow I followed to clean up my contacts:

  1. Clarify your goal for the board
  2. Sort through unfamiliar names
  3. Decide what other cards you want to delete from other lists

Clarify your goal for the board

First, you have to decide how you want to use this board. Do you want to make sure you’re staying in touch with your friends and family? Do you want to be able to filter through your business contacts by title or company? Or maybe you you want to mix your business contacts with your friends and family.

Personally, I decided to mix everyone together, but I created a separate board for people I want to reach out to for informational interviews. (Once I conduct the interview, I add that person to my Keeping In Touch board so I remember to keep in touch with them.) The beauty of Trello is its flexibility. You can move or copy cards extremely easily between boards so if you change your mind, it’s easy to adapt.

It’s important not to skip this reflection step because it makes sorting and eliminating cards much easier. For example, if you don’t want to include close friends and family, you have a whole list you can eliminate right off the bat.

Sort through unfamiliar names

The next step is to eliminate and then organize your contacts according to those goals. I would start by figuring out who the “Clarify Identity” folks are. This is the most tedious part of the process, which makes me want to knock it out first. It’s also the list where you are likely to delete the most cards.

Search for each name in your email, calendars, SMS messages, note-taking applications you may have saved a business card or meeting minutes such as Evernote, and on social media to see what pops up. If you can’t find any trace of a person, delete their card; you probably won’t miss them. Sometimes you will remember who someone is and decide you don’t really care about staying in touch with that person, which is perfectly alright as well. This step ends when the “Clarify Identity” list is empty.

Your board may look something like this:

A note about Trello features: Trello gives you the option to either archive or delete a card. The default option is to archive a card, which means that the card is not visible on the board but is still searchable within your Trello account. Use this when you think you may need to reference or restore the card in the future. Deleting a card is permanent and takes three clicks in Trello (instead of just one in the case of archiving). See the following gif or this Trello help article for more detail.

Decide what other cards you want to delete from other lists

Next, sort through each list, I recommend from left to right, deciding who else to delete. Sometimes there are people you just don’t need to stay in touch with for whatever reason (you didn’t like them, they’re a former professional contact but they are in a different industry now, etc). There are also people you keep in touch with effortlessly. For example, I’ve deleted most of my immediate family and best friends because I talk to them regularly without thinking about it, but I kept cards for extended family that I have to make an effort to keep in touch with.


Congratulations! You’ve settled on the folks you want to stay in touch with. In the next installment of this Trello CRM walk through, I’ll go over what information to include in a card, how to organize your lists, tagging, power-up options and automating actions on the board with Trello.


The full list of essays:

  1. The Trello Board Overview
  2. The Initial Set-Up
  3. Finishing the set up with automation
  4. Keeping track of your dates
  5. Getting Advanced: Using Custom Fields & Butler Power-Ups (COMING SOON)