Using Trello to Do Time Management

In my previous posts, I mentioned several times that Trello can also be a wonderful personal time management tool, although originally it's designed for multi-user project management. After some googling, I found looks like no one has published usage like this before. So I'll share it here.

Principles of Time Management

  • Write everything down: Our brain actually has pretty limited resources. And unfortunately memorizing stuffs is a severe but unnecessary burden for it. Try it once -- when you think something, try to write everything down, and check whether you can think faster and deeper. Personally I found it's pretty effective to boost my brain power. That's why I insist writing everything down should be rule number one for time management and even anything related with thinking, despite it naturally derives the following principles:
  • Record across time: One benefit writing everything down brings to us is -- you may forget something, but paper and pens won't. So after some time, you may surprisingly find some thought you noted before really shines even in your today's eye. This means 1) you save the time to re-reach such conclusions; 2) you can use the time, and more importantly the new combination and collision of the old good thoughts and current mind status, to derive new inspirations, which you may never achieve in the old think-and-forget loops.
  • Review it often: For some long-term plans, it's necessary to review them timely, either to remind you of the big picture or give you a chance to re-prioritize everything. Write it down, to read it often.
  • Buffer to help you focus: Knowing that you already have a reasonable list of what to do next also relieves you from always worrying about other stuffs when doing one thing. But we all know that unrelated thoughts are always flying in our mind, and sometimes they are important! That's also why you need to write it down, but in a dedicated buffer area, in a brief sentence, and then back to work. This way you won't lose a creative inspiration, and also keep focused.

Using Trello to Practice the Principles

And here is how Trello can help you naturally practice the principles. I will assume you are already a beginner user of Trello, knowing what's a card and a list.

  • Keep a long-term plan card: So you will have a clear goal, a road map, and accumulation of experience over time, instead of blindly doing stuffs day after day.
  • Red for urgent, blue for important: Use the label feature of Trello for good. Then by counting how many blues in the doing list, one can easily know how good is the prioritization .
  • Lists for priority: Personally I get a doing list, a todo list, and a planning list.
  • An inbox list: Then inspirations flying in when you're at work won't bother you. Throw in one sentence, and refine/label/prioritize or discard them later.
  • Workflow: Review the long-term plan card everyday, then prioritize, then do it. Use inbox list to focus. Process inbox and refine cards timely.

Tips and Tricks

The following tips may be helpful for more advanced users.

  • Checklists for task decomposition: Decomposing a big goal to actionable items is half of getting things done. Ticking the checklist items may also make you feel achievable and do better.
  • Calendar also as a reminder: When you want to defer something, move it to planning list and add a reminder. Don't forget Trello also has a Calendar power-up, which you can link with your Google Calendar or other calendar app for better management.