As I have often been heard saying to clients and team members, "We only do two things. We add items to the punch list, and we work the punch list." Keeping track of every single thing that needs to be accomplished is an essential and required skill in business.
Trello manages my punch lists for everything. It is highly collaborative among others, easy to use, has drag-and-drop like functionality, and in the year since I’ve started using it have only needed the free version.
It synchronizes between my computer, phone and other devices in real time, and I access Trello from multiple sources during the day. Trello is up on my computer all the time.
Imagine you have a huge dry erase board, and you use a marker to draw dividing columns vertically down it. Each column would get its own label at the top such as High Priority or Roadblocked or Already Completed. Then, you use post-it notes to track the various things that need to be done. You might move a note from Roadblocked to High Priority once that bottleneck is cleared, and then to Already Completed when it’s done. That’s what Trello does, but virtually rather than with paper post-it-notes. I believe the Planner function in Microsoft Office 365 may be pretty similar.
For a particular project or client in which there are multiple team members working on it, it is common that we would set up a Trello board that everyone can access to track the collective to-do list. Here's an example.
The first time I was introduced to Trello, it was for a client where we were getting ready to start our annual CPA audit. We needed a way to track the status of all of the punch list items that were on the radar for the audit, so we created a Trello board. This allowed us to assign each item amongst the team, to include notes or comments on some, to set due dates and reminders, and other similar ways of staying organized. The board was called (business name) Audit 2019.
Our columns (lists) were High Priority, In Process, Waiting for Support, For Review, Approved to Submit, and Submitted. Our items (cards) were each to-do item. As each item moved through the process, whoever completed it would drag it to the next list in the process.
When our team would have meetings multiple times per week, we would pull up the Trello board, discuss the status of various items, and make sure they were in the appropriate lists/status.
That's a great use of Trello, taking advantage of its various functions.
It is worth mentioning that prior to creating Trello boards, the more appropriate first step is to create a Team and to invite other colleagues to that team. Then, within the team, you can create multiple boards on various topics.
If you're in client service, and you use multiple people to collaborate to provide that service, I highly recommend that any time you take on a new client you start a new Trello team with those individuals, and a Trello Board titled (business name) Priority List. Any time the business owner mentions anything that they want from you, or you think of anything that your team needs to be done in the future, just get it on the board. You can organize it later. You can consider having a Trello list called "inbox" or "to be sorted" if that works for you. The key is never letting anything that was once a to-do item be forgotten about.
I do have a bit of a confession to make, though. The title of this post is "How I Use Trello." Even though I led with an example on how my teams use Trello, that's different from how I use Trello on a day to day basis.
I'll refer to it as a confession, because the way I use Trello is not necessarily a method that I'm proud of or that I would encourage other people to do. This would only be recommended for someone that doesn't already have a method of organizing the chaos in their lives.
Here's how I really use Trello.
I have a Trello board called "Wes' To Do List".
On the left, is my column (list) called High Priority.
Everything that comes across my radar that needs to be done goes on that list as soon as it comes up. Everything. If I'm walking to the car and I remember that I need to order something from Amazon when I get home, it goes on the list, in first position. If I need to complete a task for someone, it goes onto the list, at the top. If some asks me to do something in the next two weeks and I don't want to forget it, it goes on the list. If I need to remember to book an appointment for something, it goes on the list. The list is my home for where to put everything that I don't want to forget, and don't want to have to use brain power to remember.
Then, a few times a day, I re-order my list. Highest priorities in the top positions, in order, with lower priorities heading farther down the list. Most times I'm really only focused on the top 5 to 7 priorities as I'm going through the day. I scan the list quickly to see if anything has slipped too far down and needs to be dragged up to the top, but if I have 2 hours to just work on my computer, I'm starting at the number one position on the list to complete that task and when that is complete, I start on the second item.
As soon as an item is complete, I archive it, which removes it from the board. I have no use for tracking completed items. This is only my list of what I still need to do in the future.
If you don't have a single place to keep track of every item that comes across your brain to do, this is the way to do it.
After I started using this method, I realized I wasn't getting to everything on the list. Some items I decided that I was never going to get to. So I just took those off the list (archive).
Then, to add one element of slight complexity... my list is actually split into three lists. The first is the main one, discussed above, that everything goes in to.
Here's the second list:
I found that some to-do list items needed to go on the back burner, for a few days, weeks or months. Birthday shopping for someone whose birthday is a month out; following up with someone in a week or so that might get back to me before I need to remember to contact the again, things like that. So I started a second list, just to the right of the main one, called "Don't Forget About." Once something seems like it is going to be on my main list for a little while, I shift it to the Done Forget About list.
Then, created a third list, which is things that absolutely must be completed before I go to bed tonight. That list is typically very short. It helps me separate out the items where if I procrastinate, it's going to come back to bite me later because these items are going to get done today whether I like it or not.
In the actual order on my Trello board, the Must Do Before Bed list is the one all the way to the left, then the main list to the right of it, then the "Don't Forget About" list just to the right of that one.
Over the years, I've tried a lot of to-do list management methods. There are a lot of methods that work for other people that never stuck with me. I never push my methods on others, because I've never found something great. This Trello method has worked for me with more success, and with more longevity, than any other method.