Organising Things

priorities: because you can't help everyone
Credit: Flickr / quailwood

I  have finally figured out how to make Trello work for me. I found having a board for each project overwhelming, and the items in cards too heavyweight. Often a reasonably sized task have a bunch of subtasks, and I might not manage to do them all at once.

1. Check Lists

I use these for task-specific TODO lists. For example “talk at X” will have a checklist of everything I need to do – abstract, bio, travel, all the way to filing the expense report.

2. Templates

For things that reoccur a lot I have a card with a checklist that I can copy – for example new trip cards, or talks all have a pretty standard list of things to do (you can copy list from other things, but I like having a generic one I can copy and customise).

3. Project Lists

I keep multiple projects within a board. Each project has it’s own list. And then I have a “done” list which I mark with a month (useful for updating this document), and can archive it when the next month begins – balancing the fact that I don’t want my completed tasks hanging around forever, with my need to feel like I’ve done something.

4. Current / Future / Low Priority

I have limited myself to three boards. The first: current priorities. This is the one I look at first, and where the bulk of my day (that isn’t already organised on a client board) should be spent.

Future priorities holds half baked ideas, projects that have been set aside for now. Anything that I shouldn’t be worrying about this month.

Low priority is all the bits and pieces that can fill up your task list but provide very little ROI. Blog ideas go here, trips I’m planning, talk ideas that I could flesh out and submit, projects that are ticking along but aren’t really under active development. These are the things that will never be a “true” priority but I want to keep track of.

5. Dates and Labels

Where applicable I add a date (e.g. a talk happens on a specific date), and use color-coded labels to indicate things like: has dependency on [person].


The downside of this approach is that I’m not comfortable sharing these boards with people. Current priorities captures financial TODOs, and I don’t really want to share the whole board with people I work with on specific projects in order for them to see that list.

I figure these downsides are worth it. I want to capture the things that I own on these boards (which as someone who is self-employed ends up being everything). It’s more of a dashboard for the state of things than a project management system. But that’s fine.

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