To Do: Try Trello


I’ve played around with several tools to help me plan and track tasks across both the personal and professional parts of my life, and think I finally found a winner: Trello. There are free and paid versions of the tool, but all of my comments apply to the basic free version.

Trello is pretty simple and that may be part of the reason why it is such a great tool. Unlike a typical tracker—which let you make lists with little check-boxes next to each item—in Trello, each task is a virtual card that can be dragged and dropped between different columns that the user defines.

Task cards are arranged on boards. (I have a board for this blog, for example, where I track post ideas, moving the cards among columns for Ideas, Write this Week, and Done.) For each card there is the option to:

  • Assign to someone
  • Add a label
  • Add a checklist
  • Assign a due date
  • Add an attachment

A great aspect of this tool is that it is intentionally designed to help users get things done, rather than just create lists. In a recent article in Wired, one of the developers offered that as a secret of Trello’s success: although it’s flexible enough to be used for a whole range of projects, it’s also deliberately constrained.

“It’s not easy to put a lot of things into Trello. It’s meant to keep you focused on the things that are important right now, rather than way of building this backlog of items that you’re never going to work on.”

One interesting way the tool keeps you focused: cards that haven’t been touched in a long time start yellowing, like aging paper. So far, I haven’t experienced that feature, but I have experienced the increased productivity that comes from being able to add and address tasks from any online tool.