Trello has comprehensive features

Trello task manager

Trello has comprehensive features including checklists, links a description section and comments. With Trello Plus reporting makes powerful managment sytem.

Trello has a comprehensive set of features useful for management:

  • It uses kanban which is simple and visual (drag and drop, ability to play, no nested tasks)
  • links (to drive, evernote, websites, emails)
  • checklists included
  • cards have due dates and calendar view
  • fast reliable synchronisation (tablet, phone, desktop, web)
  • power ups provide extra functions like gannt

Trello cards

Cards are great because they are self contained. This means that all key information for a project item can be contained in a card notably its description, a checklist, due date.

Kanban

Kanban is simple: cards can be moved around and because the app is responsive, they can be moved around quickly and so there is a mindmapping ‘play’ feel to it.

A card contains very useful attachments of various types

URL links

Trello allows you to add attachments to a card such as files, but I try to avoid this, I prefer to store all my reference material in Evernote and then add the Evernote URL.

Link to gmails by URL

If I write or received an email in connection with a task, I link the email to the card by its gmail URL, I add a checklist item such as ‘wrote email to Fred’, then put the card in the waiting column until Fred responds.

Linking to Google Docs

Similarly, for Google Docs, I feel it is more efficient to store the data in Google Docs and then paste the URL into Trello. Google Docs and Evernote have a large capacity. Trello remains a coordinator rather than a storage system.

Dropbox and Box

You can also use the principle of linking URLs from other Dropbox and Googledocs. I prefer to restrict Google Docs to ‘native’ Google Docs files (spreadsheets and docs), but I keep other files types (images, word documents) in Dropbox. I add documents to Evernote but to accompany an explanatory text, rather than for pure storage.

Trello checklists

Checklists not nested sub-tasks

While a checklist might be like a sub-todo-list, it may be just a list of things to check. Rather than write the checklist as a list of tasks “check item 1, check item 2, check items 3”, either the main task or the title of the checklist might be “check the items in this list. This principle still complies with #GTD which encourages you to phrase tasks as ‘really’ doable things.

In Todoist, to remain consistent, you would create a sub-item ‘checklist’ under the main task and then the checklist items, but this would be three levels down whereas in Trello all this information is immediately visible in a card.

Comments in todoist are one level down

In Todoist, comments are one level under the task, not immediately visible whereas, on Trello, comments are immediately visible on the card without an extra click, all info is readable together.

Mental feedback between lists and descriptions when framing a task

I first noticed this approach in Droptask. A task needs a mixture of writing and lists. One plays off the other. You may write first and then create a list or start with a list and then write. The result is a task which feels properly framed, expressed in a ‘doable way.’ Again a vital #GTD principal ‘if you can’t formulate the job, you can’t do it – your mind will resist doing it.

In keeping with this, I (often) change the title of the card as it progresses to be the real next thing to do and record past tasks and future endpoint in the checklist.

Reporting with Trello Plus

The function that sold me into Trello, apart from the nicety of kanban, the reliable synch was the reporting in Trello Plus. Time spent info from Trello Plus is also visible straight off on the card.

Trello is more useful than the excellent Toggl. The timer is activated within the task card, and the report is quickly accessible. The system favours being the real-life necessity of many things in a day (even if using Pomodoro) because you get a nice clear listing of everything done in the day.

Tracking long tasks

I make particular use of tracking when working on ‘long’ tasks, say a piece of work over 30 hours a week. The actual week will be composed of many things, that task, some admin, call Fred, make a dentist appointment, do something else, do the accounts, write a proposal, respond to an ad. But all the while the 30-hour task has to be delivered for Thursday!

So as I go through the week, I track the main task, and I can tell whether I’m still likely to deliver.

To nail that, Trello offers the possibility of estimating task time (E) and then as you progress, updating the estimate. This evaluation is about really thinking, hey its Tuesday afternoon, I still have 17 hours work to do (R) and asking whether I can fit it all in by Thursday. Result > stop blogging, get on with it!

Time reporting helps self-management

Reporting in Trello is a lifesaver because as a freelancer, I self-manage: I don’t have a boss to ask ‘where are you with that thing’? I need to keep my eye on the ball, and yet there are so many things to do in the week.
I’m always pushing the boundaries of what is possible AND aiming to keep my commitments. Trello plus reporting helps me there because delivering paid work is the key to everything.

Delivery is one thing, the accurate recording of time is vital to ensure that projected estimates are realistic and impacts both on delivery commitments and profitability.

> a reasonable estimate (based on real history)= in-budget work= on-time delivery (the present looks like the past on average)= understanding how long things take > setting appropriate prices (based on cost)

Weekly GTD reports

These weekly summary reports help very much with my weekly #GTD review.

What is different from Toggl?

Toggl, is another excellent time recorder but time recorded is organised by project, and although some tasks might be quite long, I don’t do projects, I do “many tasks.” In Toggl I end up with far too many projects.

But you cannot plan in Toggl. The advantage in Trello is planning items relative to one another, pre-estimating, then checking against estimates to then feed into the next cycle of evaluations using accurate and realistic data.

Conclusion

  • A Trello card is clear and includes all relevant information, a description, checklists, comments, linked items
  • All information is in one place including tracking data, task descriptions are more doable.
  • Recording time and improving estimates contributes to better delivery, more accurate predictions and ultimately better price management.
  • Trello helps to focus on driving forward and organising time while centralising other information resources through attached URLs (or files).

Other Management Tools

We use other business management tools including

  • Odoo for operational management of orders, invoices and accounting
  • Evernote as business memory to store issues and observations
  • Enterprise Architect to model new systems

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