How To Use Trello To Organise Your Entire Life

I’m what some people would call a productivity nut, but that doesn’t mean I’m always being productive. An excellent way of procrastinating is perpetually organising yourself. Over the last decade I’ve used lots of different tools and methodologies to get and stay organised.

OmniFocus was my “gateway drug” into a world of perpetual organisation. It was based on a system called Getting Things Done by David Allen which I transitioned across to paper lists that I would re-write every morning — carrying over any unfinished tasks using a variant of the 1–3–5 system.

Recently, I started looking at the concept of a bullet journal, which is an index-based notebook for managing multiple lists. The issue (for me) with a bullet journal is that it’s a physical notebook, and while that can work for some people, it didn’t work for me.

While there are things I like and dislike in all of these tools and methodologies, I need/want a system that can evolve with me. I think a digital bullet journal is a good solution for me (and maybe you too). Let’s look at setting this up using Trello boards.

Create the Trello boards you need

This system uses four Trello boards but could be adapted to use more boards if you wanted to have more structure to your system.

Projects Board
Create a board called “Projects” which is where you store things you may do in the future, but don’t want to forget about. Create a list for each project and prioritise the cards you place in the list. View Template

Monthly Board
Create a board called “Monthly” which is where you will schedule or defer task from other boards. Create a list for each month of the year start with the approaching month. View Template

Weekly Board
Create a board called “Weekly” which is where you will schedule or defer tasks from other boards. Create a list for the next four weeks including the week you’re currently in. View Template

Daily Board
Create a board called “Daily” which is the board you will spend most of your time in — it should include an inbox to jot down notes, an events list, a todo list, and a waiting/done list. View Template

Create the labels you need

I use three labels across the above boards: tasks, events and reminders. While these labels are not critical to the system, it does make it easier to filter cards in Trello and quickly identify the type of card.

Tasks: if they require me to do something, but are not bound to a specific date or time.

Events: if they are a scheduled thing like a meeting or appointment where I need to be.

Reminders: if they don’t fall into the definition of a task or event (like a holiday or due date).

Get everything out of your head and start scheduling

After setting up your boards and labels, you should get everything and anything on your mind onto the Projects board.

Create a list for each project or bucket of work you have, and add a card for each task you need to complete for that project. You can choose to be as broad or specific as you want.

Once you’ve done this, use the “move card” feature of Trello to move some cards across to the Months and Weeks boards you created earlier.

I typically don’t move a card out of the Projects board until I’ve decided (with relative certainty) that I am going to actually do that thing.

Process your boards to stay on track

The magic of this system is about moving cards around these four boards regularly. You can do the following either at the start or end of a period, but I prefer to do this at the start of each period.

At the start of every month
Move any cards on your Month board for the new month to one of the four lists on your Weekly board. If you want to delay something (i.e. it’s not as much of a priority as you thought) move it back to another month.

Also, move any cards from your Project board that you want to schedule onto your Monthly or Weekly boards. Think of the Projects board as a staging area/backlog/icebox for things you may or may not do someday.

At the start of every week
On your Weekly board, review the cards for the new week. If you want to take more work on, move cards forward from another week (or the Monthly or Project boards) or move cards back if you have too much to do.

At the start of every day
On your Daily board, review the cards for the new day. If you want to take more work on, move cards forward from the Weekly board or move cards back to the Weekly or Monthly board if you have too much to do.

Make this your own system

If you work on other Trello boards with colleagues or friends, it’s easy to copy a card from a shared board onto one of your personal boards.

To get reminders and alerts, you can add due dates to cards on your boards, or activate the stale cards feature on Trello to keep your system lean.

If you try this system and have any feedback or have any more questions about how I use it, follow me on Twitter @shawzvinis and we can chat.

Disclaimer: This article is not endorsed or affiliated with Trello, Inc. I use Trello as an example implementation as that’s what I use myself. I’m not sure if this approach would work with another digital tool (but feel free to try).

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Shawn Zvinis

Shawn Zvinis

Bringing brands and startups to life. Into coffee, travel and photography.