This free online tool transformed my To-do list forever

Tom Norman
Mar 19, 2018 · 5 min read

You know when you’re really busy, and one of the biggest distractions is simply wondering if you’re working on the right thing? No matter what you decide to start working on, you still continue to torment yourself by thinking about all the other things that also need doing. I lived like this for a long time, but then along came Trello

I’ve developed a slightly unorthodox way of using Trello which has completely transformed the way I deal with my To-Do list and my productivity.

A few months ago, I was feeling really anxious one Sunday evening before a particularly busy week. I had an overwhelmingly large number of things to do and an underwhelming amount of time to waste fussing and procrastinating.

Below I share with you the strategy I used to tackle that manic week (and every week since then):

1. Make a brain dump

Stage one of my battle plan was this: I decided to make a brain dump of all the things that I needed to do in the near future. They could be big things related to projects, or little things related to shopping or birthdays. I spent some time really thinking about everything that needed to be done and dumped all of it into one big, fat, ugly list.

Trello is essentially a free project management tool used which is formed of cards and lists. Imagine you wrote down everything you need to do on separate sticky notes and stacked them up in relevant lists. It’s a little like that. So I put everything I had to do in a list on Trello.

After I had this list, I looked through and began to separate out anything which wasn’t totally necessary for the week ahead. In a week with really limited time, I wanted to make sure that I only spent my time on things which were totally critical.

I called the uncritical list “Long-term” and the critical list “Short-term”.

2. Schedule your big tasks

This solved half of the battle. I now had a list of 20+ things, big and small, that I needed to do that week. Yet if I were to stop there, I would still be completely overwhelmed by the list when I came to my desk on Monday morning. It was time to get strategic!

Trello allows you to set due dates, so I analysed the list and added due dates where appropriate. This allowed me to get an understanding of the order in which I should complete each task.

Next, I decided to make seven more lists on Trello, each labelled with a day of the week. I dragged each of my “big tasks” onto a specific day of the week that made the most sense both strategically and practically.

This felt like progress. Now I’d planned each of the big tasks AND scheduled when they’d be done. This meant that I could allow myself to fully immerse myself in each task and trust that the other required tasks would get done in their own time.

I no longer had to worry about them now because they were all allocated their own time for me to about them.

Next came all the smaller, less-urgent tasks for the week. I worked alongside my calendar to decide where to plot each of the micro-tasks depending on my availability each day.

3. Let the battle commence

By the time Monday morning arrived, I was ready for battle. I knew exactly what I was doing because my week had been broken up strategically and planned effectively.

For me, I rarely stick to the exact plan that I make on Sunday night, especially when it comes to the micro-tasks. The great thing about Trello is it allows me to easily swap these tasks from list to list to adjust to my week. You can literally drag each ‘card’ and pull it to the new desired list location. If you have the app, this syncs between your phone and computer instantly.

Throughout the week, more things come up which I need to remember to do. Every time something new comes up I add it straight onto a specific day if necessary, or otherwise dump them in ‘short-term’ or ‘long-term’ if it don’t need scheduling yet.

I’ve already mentioned due dates, and Trello has many other features that help me to stay organised with my tasks. If you’re working on multiple projects you can label each task with a specific colour to easily distinguish from project to project.

If a particular task needs additional clarity or you find out additional information, Trello allows you to add notes to these cards to help you remain on top of things.



4. What’s that scary item that’s been sitting on your To-Do list for months?

You know the one I mean. We often have a few things which stay on our To-Do lists for weeks or even months. They sit there occupying a little bit of our mind whilst we never really get around to tackling them. Trello helps identify these outliers too.

There’s a you can enable called Card Aging where your cards get increasingly more transparent over periods of inactivity. This can help you to identify some tasks which aren’t getting attention.

Are these tasks really important to you? If so, how can you find a way to tackle them? If they’re not, then why not remove them from your To-Do list completely so they don’t occupy any more of your attention.

Ever since that crazy week, Trello has given me a better sense of organisation over my To-Do list. It’s typically designed as a project management tool for teams, but my slightly unorthodox way of using it has had a big impact on my life and productivity. Of course it doesn’t fix every problem. You will still face issues of overwhelm and you’ll still try and procrastinate your way out of doing what’s necessary. Yet Trello has helped me to minimise my ineffectiveness. It’s been a valuable weapon in tackling some of the issues associated with planning and productivity.

This is not a sponsored post, nor paid promotion, but simply a very honest, appreciative review of a tool that’s transformed my To-Do list. Thanks Trello.

Microwork

For a better, more connected, decentralized future

Tom Norman

Written by

I like to think and drink coffee. Sometimes at the same time.

Microwork

Microwork

For a better, more connected, decentralized future

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