Part 4: Using Trello to Maintain Authentic Relationships — Keeping track of your dates

This is the fourth installment of this how-to guide! If you’re new here, you should start with the overview of the system and the article on how to import your contacts into Trello and then sort them using automation. Now we’re going to talk about automating due dates and adding them to your favorite calendar app.

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.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the following:

  • Automating your cards by due date
  • Adding when to reach out to your contacts to your calendar
  • Automating your phone/email contacts to import all new contacts

If you’re following along, your board might look something like this:

It’s time to set up your lists. The board is set up with 7 lists that are automated using Butler for Trello:

  • Inbox — This is the list that I import new contacts into as I meet them down the line. I set up an automation using IFTTT to import any new phone contact as a Trello card.
  • Today — On the day a card is due, the automation on the board moves any card to the Today list. I use more automation to add the names from this list to my calendar and favorite to-do app so I remember to reach out to the folks on this list daily.
  • Next 7 Days — All cards that are due within 7 days sit in this list using automation to keep track of dates.
  • 30 Day Look Ahead — All cards that are due between 8 and 31 days stay in this list (again with automation).
  • 3 Month Look Ahead — All cards that are due between 32 and 90 days stay in this list.
  • 6 Month Look Ahead — All cards that are due between 91 and 180 days sit in this list.
  • 6 Months + — All the cards that are due in over 180 days live in this list.

You can create new lists entirely or change the name of the ones currently on the board and add the ones you need. Now my board looks like this:

Down the line, you may find you need more lists. For example, I now have an “On Hold” list for folks who I don’t want to delete from my board, but I don’t want to make an effort to keep in touch with them either. Alternatively, you can archive those cards and then dig them up in the event they reach out to you or you have an organic interaction with them.

Automating Due Dates

Now that your lists are set up, we need to write Butler commands to sort the cards properly. These are the commands I have set up with my lists:

  • on the day a card is due, move the card to list “Today”
  • when a card is due in less than 7 days, move the card to list “Next 7 Days”
  • when a card is due in between 7 and 32 days, move the card to list “30 Day Look Ahead”
  • when a card is due in between 32 and 90 days, move the card to list “3 Month Look Ahead”
  • when a card is due in between 90 and 180 days, move the card to list “6 Month Look Ahead”
  • when a card is due in more than 180 days, move the card to list “6 Months +”

Note: these cards will not fire on cards that already have a due date. They will only fire on cards assigned due dates after you write the command. In other words, it will not go and find every card that matches the condition and perform the actions. If you need to do that, use a once-off command like for each card due today, move it to list “Today”.

If you still have to add due dates to most of your cards, you should set up these commands before you start adding your due dates manually. That way, once you add the due date, the commands will fire and send the card to the right list.

Using the Butler Power-Up to add due dates (Advanced)

Alternatively, a shortcut to add due dates with the Butler power up would be to add dates based on the labels. An example command:

  • for each card with a “Monthly” label without a due date, and set due in 1 months

Obviously this will make everyone with a Monthly label due on the same day, so you’ll have to spread out the due dates manually once you have the lists set up.

This will only work with the Butler power up because the Butler Bot does not allow for command chaining. This means that the Butler Bot will not take an action if the Bot itself is the one that triggered the action. For example, the following two commands, the second command will not fire:

  1. for each card with a “Monthly” label without a due date, and set due in 1 months
  2. when a card is due in between 7 and 32 days, move the card to list “30 Day Look Ahead”

Since the Bot is the one that set the due date, the second bot action will not fire. This is to avoid “looping” actions in the event the user makes a mistake. A loop would be something like this:

  • When a card is moved to the “A” list, move it to the “B” list.
  • When a card is moved to the “B” list, move it to the “A” list.

These two actions would never end, so the folks over at Butler Bot decided not to allow people to command chain using manually written commands. Since the Butler power up doesn’t allow you to manually type commands (you must use the command builder instead) the power-up lets you do some limited command chaining.

Alternative, you can use Butler (either the bot or the power-up) to move all of the cards without due dates to your “Inbox” list, you can use a command like this:

  • for each card without a due date, and move the card to list “Inbox”

That way you can easily find all of your dateless cards in your lists. You can also sort your lists by due date. (But remember, if you’re using the free version of Butler, you should be judicious about what commands you’re using otherwise you’ll hit a limit.)

Remembering to reach out to people: Connecting Trello with your Calendar and To Do apps

Calendar Power Up Options

Trello offers three different calendar power ups that allow you to put your cards on a third party calendar app such as iCloud or Google Calendar. I personally use the Planyway Google Chrome Extension for Trello. But if you want more details, here are the pros and cons of each of the power-ups:

Calendar: This is the native calendar power-up for Trello. The good part of this power up is that you can view the calendar from within the Trello phone app. The bad part is that you cannot set cards to be “all day” events (meaning they don’t have associated times). This may be okay for you if you don’t mind your cards having assigned times on your calendar. It would be perfect if you are primarily using your board to track appointments or phone calls with folks. I mostly use my board to tell me who I should message or email on any particular day, so times are frustrating for me. This is what it looks like within Trello. You can also have it as a weekly view.

Planyway Calendar: This is a third party power-up that is similar to the native calendar but does much more! It allows you to see your cards in a calendar view within Trello, just like the native calendar power-up, but it gives you many more viewing options such as Day view, 3-Day view, Work Week, Week, Month, and Weekly Agenda. I prefer this power-up because it allows you to make your card an all day event, which means it shows up at the top of your calendar instead of at a specific time block.

You can also add subscriptions to your Google/iCloud/Outlook calendars to the Planyway Calendar in case you want to see them in Trello. You cannot, however, edit those calendars from within Trello, just like you can’t edit the Trello events from your Google calendar or iCal.

Planyway Calendar in week view, with a subscribed Google Calendar showing within Trello

Planyway also has a chrome extension for Trello, which means you don’t even have to have the power-up activated on your board to use it. This is especially great for the free Trello users who only get one power-up. The plugin adds helpful calendar options to each card.

Cronofy — This third party app allows you to two-way sync your Trello cards and your calendar. This power up does not let you see a calendar view from within your Trello board. And you cannot create new cards from within your calendar — you must do that from within Trello. You can only connect one Trello board to you calendar for free. After that you must pay $2 a month for unlimited connections. It’s a good option based on its advertised features and I’ve tried to use it, but I’ve honestly never been able to get it to work with my calendar. Planyway does everything I need, so I’ve never tried that hard to troubleshoot Cronofy.

Cronofy power-up allows two-way syncing between your calendar app and Trello cards

All of these power-ups allow you to see your Trello cards on your calendar using the a URL subscription feature. This is how you add your Trello cards to Google Calendar application using Planyway:

Connecting Trello to your To Do app with Zapier or IFTTT

If you have been following along since the beginning, you used Zapier to consolidate and import your contacts into Trello.

IFTTT stands for If This Than That. It works very similarly to Zapier in that when one action occurs, another action follows. An example would be “If a Trello card is moved to List “Today” then create a new task in Wunderlist.”

Here are some automations for Trello using either Zapier or IFTTT with the most popular to do apps:

Automatically importing future contacts to your Trello Board

You can also set up an automation using IFTTT to add a Trello card if a new contact is added to you iPhone. I chose to only add my contact notes to the description of the card, rather than any other information that IFTTT defaults to. IFTTT does not allow you to share applets, so here is a quick video of how I set mine up:

The more comfortable you get with setting up automation, the more advanced your board can get! If you use Trello Gold or Business, you can use the Custom Fields power-up with the Butler Power-Up to add more details to each person’s contacts and then automate those details. The beauty of this system is it can be as simple or as complex as you’re comfortable with!

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)