Coding Tutor Tip-7-Trello Essentials for Project Management
A few years ago, I was introduced to Trello as part of a new project orientation. Before that, I would use Microsoft Word/One Note to keep track of my projects. I have been a very documentation oriented from a very young age. I like things to be organised, ideas interlinked, attached to dates, revisit topics and improve them.
Majority of projects I worked on as a developer (I am retired from developer roles, as I type this) in the last 9 years, I have played the role of ‘project owner’ or ‘project manager’ or ‘lead developer’ in almost every project. I got to speak to clients, CEOs, Business Heads, Startup Founders and so on.
Although I am a below average developer, I am excellent at speaking and explaining. I am told, hundreds of times, whatever my faults may be, and I have several faults, I am definitely excellent at talking.
The thing about talking is, you talk well, when you have information. Your clients, even if they know nothing about software, can see your bull shit from a mile away. Information is key, and the best way to ensure you have all the information at your disposal, in a software project, is a project management tool.
This a sequel to my previous post, Coding Tutor Tip-6-Is Coding For You?
In the case of this blog post, my favourite project management tool, is Trello.
Project Management = indexing
In the pre-pandemic life, I traveled a lot, all over India. My job took me to a lot of places, metros and country side alike. Despite my profession in tech, I have always been an ‘offline’ life sort of guy. I visit the local book store, temples, talk to people face to face and generally just roam.
Over the years, I have learnt how to build a rapport with the hotel front desk, the auto/tuk tuk and taxi drivers. They provide me inside information about the best places to visit locally. This is what I call, an index.
A Project Management tool, like Trello, acts like an index of your project. If you are like me, then your brain cannot take a break. It is always, constantly bubbling with ideas. You are self driven, and make your own instructions (and not waiting for them to be given to you). You will always have thoughts flowering and disappearing, every minute.
The brain, like Sherlock Holmes says, is not unlimited in space. You cannot keep everything in storage.
You can try, and fail, spectacularly.
Or, you can organize your thoughts using Trello. That’s what I do, and it has worked beautifully since I signed up, some five years ago.
Note: This is not an ad for Trello. I am not being paid by them. Like GitHub and Microsoft Word, I am simply a big fan of their service.
Trello Essential — 1
First up, make sure you have a separate board for each of your projects. Give it a meaningful name. Also, setting the background image is very important. Once you have multiple Trello boards, the background image is what really shows you an excellent bird’s eye view when you load the Trello welcome page.
Trello Essential — 2
Ensure that you have multiple lists inside the board. Do not hesitate to have tens of hundreds of list. However, make sure that the first list, is sort of like a Table of Contents, for every other list.
You can do this by card linking, which I talk more about below.
Further, the first card in each list, should probably be like a Title Card, which contains some general information about the list itself. Ensure that the Title Card is never removed or archived. Of course, update its title and description as your project grows.
Even more further, the first top card in your first top list, should link to all the other first cards of all the other lists. Maintaining this discipline is essential because, as you juggle multiple projects, knowing that you can start with the first list-first card, and reach any other list, and every card in the entire project, is handy and quick.
Trello Essential — 3
There should be no ‘orphan cards’. This is not a technical term, but something I made up. An orphan card is a card that is linked to no other card.
Such a card, is useful on the present day. However, once you complete the task related to the card and archive it, it dissapears. Unless you remember the card title, it’s lost forever.
Trello Essential -4
Ensure that all of your cards are ‘two-way’ linked.
For example, I have a card with the title “Search Algorithm”, the first card at the top of the list. To this card, I add a related card, “John Wayne’s Algorithm”.
To ensure that they are both connected to each other, I attach “John Wayne’s Algorithm” to “Search Algorithm” either in the comments or at the top. Then, In the “John Wayne’s Algorithm” card, I attach the “Search Algorithm” card. Now, I can navigate between these two cards, without having to rely on the ‘unreliable’ back button of the browser or the app.
Even if these two cards are in the same list, I still do the ‘two-way’ link. Why? Tomorrow (or next week, or next month or next year), as your project evolves, these cards may be moved around. Or, completed and archvied. Or deleted. The link, on the other hand, is a permanent relationship that never goes away.
I know folks love their 6 inch iPhones or 10 inch iPads (I love my iPhone and iPad for sure), but please, when you are using Trello, use it on your computer. Especially when you a massive amount of information that you want to index and catalogue on Trello.
A wide screen 2 K or 4K display is the best way to keep your Trello in top shape.
Trello (or any other management tool) is not just for software projects. As I type this, I am using Trello for everything managing my family affairs to photography hobbies to getting a handle on my pandemic induced depression.
You can use it for anything that needs ‘indexing’.
Make the most of the ‘due date’ option. A lot of things in life are cyclical or have a deadline or both. Monthly bills. Project meetings. Weekly sessions with your therapist, for your depression.
Trello has a nice feature that sorts all cards as per due date. This is really the killer feature that has helped me make a lot of money. There is also a ‘home’ page, that shows all due cards in a nice, easy way.
Use this feature to max effect.
Checklist. That’s it.
Use Checklist to track progress for both short term and long term goals. Combine this with the date feature, you will never miss a deadline, appointment or personal goals.
You will become so punctual, it will start annoying the folks around you. However, that’s okay.
Punctuality = more money and career success.
Write detailed descriptions. Write detailed comments. Put relevant links. Upload relevant images and screenshots.
Tag the relevant team member (they get notified immediatly) when doing any of these activies.
It’s easy to get flabbergasted when trying to get a management software to begin working for you. There are several of them, and Trello happens to be my weapon of choice.
A lot of my advice is common sensical. However, I end up introducing and teaching Trello to each and every one of my clients, and all these essential tips. My life has become better because of Trello.
Perhaps, yours will too.