Manage Your Tasks & Projects Like a Badass (with Trello)

In this post, I'll share 3 tools with you, that can help you take your productivity to the next level. Actually, it's more of a 3-tools-in-one Swiss Army knife kind of deal: the first tool is the task management app Trello (which you can use for free). The second tool is a specific Trello setup that I use for personal productivity (and I'll walk you through exactly how to set it up). Finally, the third tool is a a collection of my favorite, time-saving shortcuts in Trello.​

Combine all 3 and you'll be blazing through your daily tasks like never before!

Check out the video to see my exact setup and strategy.

More...

​If you're already familiar with Trello, two significant points in the video you may want to skip to are:

  1. 01:28 - overview of the lists I create for the personal productivity board.
  2. 09:05 - tricks and shortcuts to make Trello more efficient.

​About Trello

​In case you're not familiar with it yet, Trello is a project management and task management app that works in your browser and on your phone. It's loosely based on the Kanban project management method, but you can customize it to suit many different scenarios.

Trello has become wildly popular over the last few years and one of the reasons is that it's not only fast and easy to use, it's also basically free forever. They do have a premium plan, but you can use it for yourself and even with large teams, with no noticeable restrictions. ​If you've never used it before, I highly recommend you give it a try.

Other Resources

Having a strong system makes a big difference to productivity. But no matter how good your system is, it's no guarantee for getting things done.

If you struggle with procrastination, then a system like the one presented here probably won't fix that problem. But don't despair, I've got some other useful resources for you:

If you are prone to "procrastination by perfectionism" and endlessly working on things, tinkering with things and tweaking things (but never publishing them), watch this video. Then, listen to this podcast episode.

If your procrastination feels more like laziness, then your prescription is to read this blog post and then listen to this podcast episode.

More Trello?

This should give you all the tools you need to get started and get more stuff done. Would you like to see more Trello tutorials in the future? I've been working with it for a long time and have many systems for using it, both for myself and for teams. Let me know if you have specific types of work you struggle to manage or specific questions about how to use a tool like Trello by leaving a comment below!

Shane's Signature

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better marketer and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Great video/blog.

    Quick answer: yes, more Trello-based posts please. It highlights your thinking processes and your work processes. Keeps it real.

    Bottom line: I trust your work-related approaches way more than those of random strangers on YouTube who offer to teach similar productivity hacks.

    Anyone out there ever try to merge Trello (as a to-do guidance tool) with MindMaps (as a master campaign planning tool)? Looking for as automated as possible solutions (else the admin work becomes excessive and the approach breaks down).

    Thanks in advance.

    Trevor

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment, Trevor!

      Personally, I don’t use mind maps. I’ve tried them several times over the years, but they always seem more messy than helpful, to me. I do sometimes use diagrams (using Draw.io), but I haven’t attempted to link those with Trello in any way.

      • Shane,

        I agree Mind Maps can become very messy.

        What I love about Mind Maps is the ability to add items in any order and connect them as needed, creating emerging order out of chaos.

        This approach helps me see inter-relationships and synergies I may have missed. It is also related to the Clustering process used frequently when Converging in Creative Problem Solving.

        (That is why it would be the cat’s meow for a brain dump, but I suspect I would also holistically see which clusters of “cards” are getting done and which I am systematically starving for attention when I do my monthly and quarterly reviews)

        Ordered lists may approximate this, but are less fluid and harder to scan holistically if the lists lengthen into multiple pages.

        Of course, that is my experience – your mileage may vary.
        :-)

    • Sande says:

      Trevor, have you tried Scapple for mindmapping?

      • Sande,

        Thanks for the suggestion.

        No, I have not yet tried Scapple.

        However, the (older) version of Mind Manager allows for free-form input in “brainstorming” mode, so I suspect it may approximate well.

        Still, I suspect I will try out Scapple one day…
        ;-)

        Have you used Scapple and have you exported to or imported from Trello?

  • Hi Shane, great video. The shortcuts and filters are awesome, glad you’ve included these in your video.

    I’ve been using a similar system for myself for a long time now. Where it seems to break down for me is when I have multiple projects going with different teams involved (think: consulting clients). Do you have thoughts on how to structure multiple boards and still manage your personal Kanban board effectively?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment, Alex.

      That really depends on the type of work you do and the size of those projects.

      There are fundamentally two ways in which to manage multiple projects in Trello: by using labels and filters or by using different boards.

      As a rule of thumb, I recommend to organize it in such a way that people of the same team are working on the same board and that any given team member has one main board to work on.

      In other words: avoid spreading people and teams across multiple boards.

      So, if you have Team A fully dedicated to Project A for the longer term, then create Board A for them. But if you have some people working on Project A, B and C and some projects are smaller and shorter term etc. then it’s better to keep everything in one board and use labels and filters to give each team member a “clean” view of their work, while you still have the overview of everything that’s being done as well as the order of priority for things.

  • Kim Doyal says:

    Hey Shane,
    YES please for more content on Trello! This was fantastic. Love the shortcuts too.
    Thanks!
    Kim

  • Randal+V says:

    Shane, that was a great introduction to Trello. I understand it’s use and usefulness. I’ve seen other Trello tutorials that left me confused and unsure how it would apply to me. Your spot-on presentation has inspired me to give Trello a try.

    And from your previous post about Bento Box thinking, I can clearly see that thinking method applied to this meaningful and effective presentation.

    As a side note to Trevor McAlpine, regarding merging Trello and mindmaps. This is not a direct answer to your question – it’s more of a slightly related comment. I’ve been down the road of using multiple tools to stay organized. In my case, the tools become as much a part of the chaos as the tasks I’m trying to organize. But it’s still hard to resist the allure of cool tools.

    Best Regards,

    Randal V

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment, Randal!

      Regarding the use of multiple tools: this can be really tricky. I’ve never found a truly “one size fits all” tool, but as you say, if you mix and match too many of them, it just increases the chaos. It’s quite difficult to find the right balance. Trello can serve many teams and many purposes, which is one of the reasons I recommend it. But for Thrive Themes, it’s not the only tool we use to manage projects either.

      • Karen+McCamy says:

        Totally agree! As Trevor indicated about using mindmaps…

        Problem is, not one tool does everything, and everyone’s work flow is going to be somewhat unique…and I never saw the need to automate them or integrate them with my other tools… They were more for my own brainstorming…

        Even though I use mindmaps occasionally, I also find them messy! The one iOS app I finally found that I liked (from the UI perspective) hasn’t stayed current with the latest iOS, and won’t even work any more… :-(

        Would be great to see a comparison tutorial/post on the different productivity tools, and what’s right for which work flow… Like “best for solo’s” & “best for teams” perhaps…

        I also tried Asana, several years ago, but they migrated over to mostly collaboration features and I found it no longer useful to me as a solo…

  • chris says:

    This is just what I needed! I’ve been trying to come up with a method thta suits how I think and you did it!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      That’s great to hear. Thanks, Chris!

  • Kronda says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve just finished (SHIPPED, Yay!) a giant course and now I need to go into marketing/promotion mode, which means I’m reevaluating my productivity systems for personal and work stuff.

    My office mate LOVES Trello and he wrote this:

    https://vitals.agency/blog/how-to-use-trello/

    I’d be curious to know how it compared to how you use Trello for your team.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Congrats on shipping, Kronda!

      Thanks for the article. I will check it out and see what I can learn from it. :)

  • Seán says:

    Excellent stuff, thanks Shane, and very timely. After years of using OneNote (which is still great) I just recently returned to Trello for project work. It didn’t suit me before but it seems to be the missing piece right now.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      OneNote is alright for note taking, but for managing projects and tasks, I think you can be a lot more productive with Trello. I hope it will work out for you as well.

  • Alfonso says:

    Great tips. Would be nice having more posts about how to maximize Trello.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thanks for your comment, Alfonso.

  • Randy Cavanaugh says:

    Thanks Shane great work! Ive made a mess of 100’s of todos / projects in Asana and EverNote and Quip. You and Trello blew the fog away with this simple solution / looks effective as presented but look forward to more of your tips.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hi Randy,

      I used Asana for a long time as well. I think it’s a great tool, but especially for teamwork, I prefer Trello these days. I hope the setup I showed will help get some order into your task management.

  • Falk says:

    Wow! Yes, more, please!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you, Falk! I’ll be creating some more tutorials on this.

      • Falk says:

        BTW, https://airtable.com/ seems awesome as well. (One app version reviewer: “this is what Trello could have been.”)
        Anyway, for now excited try out Trello with your system. :)

      • Falk says:

        PS: Andre Chaperon talked about it in an email a few months ago:
        “I’m loving a spreadsheet tool called Airtable.
        It makes it easy to organize stuff, people, ideas and *anything* else you can imagine.
        It’s free.
        There is a paid version, too, but I’ve not yet found the need to upgrade.”

      • Airtable is gaining a lot of popularity lately, yes. I haven’t used it very extensively, but my impression is that Airtable is a lot more flexible and powerful than Trello, but it’s also a lot more complex. You can be using Trello for your workflow 5 minutes from now, even if you’ve never heard of it. To set up a similar flow in Airtable, you’ll have to invest at least a few hours to get a grip on it.

        I would recommend checking Airtable if there are specific, complex flows that you want to do or if you need advanced, rich data and custom fields and Trello can’t serve that purpose. For something like a personal productivity board, it’s overkill.

  • Karen McCamy says:

    Great tutorial, Shane! :-)

    I would love to see more Trello tutorials… I’m a solo, so no teams or collaboration are required (which of course also means I do *everything*! )

    I use Trello (several months now) but I’m embarrassed to say I have stuff all over the place! I think I have something like 10+ boards (from when I started winging it a few months ago…not having a clue how to best use it! ).

    A recent Trello article suggested a GTD (Getting things Done) approach, so I’ve been trying that, but I still have stuff all over the place, duplicating content…

    The GTD board helped somewhat, but I still find myself overwhelmed by all of the lists!

    Your board seems so much more effective! Thanks for sharing it and explaining how you use it (rules, boundaries…how & why!).

    I’m wondering if you manage to limit your own personal board to just 1 board… I have boards for Goals, Projects, To Do’s, Ideas, Content, etc. And…there’s a lot of overlap! (I’ve often thought of starting over, but …)

    Thanks!!!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Karen,

      I only have one board with my own tasks, which is the one I showed. I do have multiple Trello boards as well, but those are related to the different businesses, projects and teams that I work with.

      It does make sense to have multiple boards for clearly distinct projects and teams, but I’d avoid having multiple boards for just yourself. Instead, try using labels and filters.

      • Karen+McCamy says:

        Thanks, Shane! :-)

        Yes, I do use labels, but I have found that I’d like to have more labels (“colors”) available… Didn’t try the filters, but noticed that in your video, and think I’ll see how I can use them…

        Perhaps you could include in another tutorial some additional organizing tips/hacks…(like with the labels, etc.)

        I’m definitely going to copy your board template and start using it…

        I also use Evernote (pro version; for years now) and love it as a repository for all my ideas… If you have any productivity recommendations — or better yet *systems* — for blending the 2 platforms, that would be awesome! Of, if you could do a tutorial on that… :-) For years, Evernote has been my single location for the “brain dump” & since Trello has a “power-up” for Evernote, I do attach related Notes to Trello cards…

        *For any new to Trello, they have a “Gold” level ($5/month USD) which gives you 3 “power-ups” or app integrations. It’s not terrible obvious, but you can search for that plan and it will show up…*

        Still, my Trello boards are very chaotic! All of your advice is greatly needed! ;-)

        Thanks for your input!

  • Thanks Shane. I’ve been needing to implement a good productivity/to do system (after finding many I’ve tried in the past too complex to persevere with), and your video inspired me to start using Trello. One feature I find fantastic that you didn’t mention is the ability to easily turn emails into cards. Good stuff! Forrest Smyth. CEO, Velpure.net

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you, Forrest. I’d love to hear how you’re getting along with Trello, once you’ve gotten used to it.

  • oli says:

    HAve you used simpleology before? and if so what do you think of it (vs your trello method here)? thanks!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      I have yes, but it was a long time ago. I didn’t get into it because it seemed to me that you had to buy into the whole method to really get use out of the tool. And it just wasn’t a good match for me.

      However, that’s a long time ago and I have no idea what the tool looks like these days.

      • oli says:

        thanks for sharing. I may try trello, but hopefully with your method, as a single person starting my biz (and maybe 1 outsourcer down the road) i can use the free account to do it. thanks again! (really like the thrive comment plugin here. As a thrivetheme member i will use it myself)

      • Shane Melaugh says:

        Definitely no worries about the budget. I’m using half a dozen Trello boards for 2 different businesses with 10+ people sharing the boards and we’re still on the free plan. :)

  • Super useful stuff Shane. Everyone is always commenting on how much they uselove Trello, but this is the first time I see someone actually showing hisher setup. Thanks.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you, Pablo. Glad you liked the tutorial!

  • Chris Moore says:

    Loved this video, thanks so much for taking the time to share!

    Would love to see more in-depth tips and tricks for working in Trello with a team (say 4 – 6 people) on multiple client projects (for web development) at the same time.

    What kinds of labels would you use? How do you actually use the filter features? And anything else that you would recommend or can think to share. :)

    Thanks again Shane!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Chris! I will keep these points in mind for future tutorials.

  • Awesome system, much easier to stay productive and have accountability at the end of the week. Would love to see more tips how you’re using trello and how do you stay productive on daily tasks? Do you use Pomodoro technique or something else?

    Also, how do you handle daily repeating tasks? It can get cluttered fast with repeating tasks but if it’s something like a new habit you would still need to somehow track it to remember.

    • Karen McCamy says:

      Jason,
      I’ve found that I *have* to use multiple tools, especially for practical daily calendaring, repeated tasks included… I’m a solo freelancer and am mobile, so I use an app for iOS.

      But as others on here have said, rarely does a single tool handle “everything” well!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Jason,

      Thank you for your comment! I will be sharing more about how I use Trello and other tools in the future.

      For repeating tasks, you can also use Trello. My higher level goal is to eliminate repeating tasks as much as possible, though and I can create some content about that as well.

  • Irena Stopar says:

    Shane, thank you for this post. I still use my printed calendar but I love the idea to move on. :) Your tuttorial is so simple and will try to use Trello. Of course, I would like to know more about it.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you, Irena!

  • ruben says:

    Great content Shane. Very much interested in knowing much more about trello and the way you use it. Thanks!!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment, Ruben!

  • Liz says:

    Hi Shane,

    Yes, I would love to hear more ways you use Trello. Particularly with managing multiple boards (i.e. multiple boards, multiple clients, multiple businesses.) Do you just go into each one separately, or is there a way to see all to-do’s for all projects?

    My only way to see this has been with the google calendar integration, by setting due dates on everything and then syncing the google calendar.

    I’d be interested if you had a different approach.

    Cheers!
    Liz

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Liz!

      I’ll keep this in mind and make a video about how I manage multiple Trello boards, yes. :)

  • Tom says:

    Fantastic and very useful post. And +1 for future deeper dives into Trello (and other systems & tools you use.)

    Off topic, but the backgrounds made me a bit curious: What country are you in atm?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hi Tom, thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed this content and I’ll be creating some more videos on how I use Trello, in the future.

      I’m currently in Bali. :)

  • Karen+McCamy says:

    Shane,

    Quick question:

    I’ve set up my new board like yours, and I’m starting to move things over into it… I’m wondering how you handle “ideas” in your board… I was thinking of putting them in the “braindump” list but then I’m not sure how (where) they would get processed to??? Should I just forget using Trello for that and save them all in Evernote instead? How do you handle tracking your ideas?

    Thanks!

    Karen

  • Harry says:

    Thanks for this Trello inspiration, Shane! I’ve been using Trello on and off. Last time I used it is already a year ago. Every time I start using it, after a couple of months I get overwhelmed with the whole system and then I stop using it.

    However, I do use your “big picture Excel sheet” on a daily basis, you shared with us at the beginning of this year. In addition to that, I think I will start using Trello again based on your video.

    Question: every project can get quickly ten or more activities you put in the checklist within the cards. And when the total duration time for all of these activities is two weeks or more, then you have the card for two weeks or more in your Priority list and Today list. From a high-level perspective, it seems that there is no progress. Only when you look at the card you see the progress. How do you cope with that? And another question: how do you cope with hundreds of cards, especially when you use it for your business. How do you remain the overview?
    My solution to do this was to have a separate board for every project. However, the disadvantage to for me was that you then have to switch every time between boards, and don’t have an immediate overview of the tasks you have to do today.
    To summarize my questions: yes, I’d like you to follow-up with some more in-depth insights on how to use Trello! Thanks!!

    • That’s an interesting problem that you bring up. My short answer is that exactly because of what you describe, we have to be deliberate in choosing the right size of task to apply to a card. In Trello, I avoid adding a project that will take weeks to complete to a single card. In fact, I’m looking for something like 5 minutes to 10 hours of work per card. Anything larger than that gets broken up into multiple cards.

      That way, I can have an overview on one board and still have things moving through the board at a good pace. Also, I generally prefer working with fewer boards and using filters to make busy boards more usable.

      • Perry says:

        Great article Shane!

        For this big project issue, I’m creating a “Projects” board where each project will be broken down into the smaller chunked cards. At weekly planning time, I look at the cards I want to tackle and then use the move feature to move the card to the productivity board’s ToDo list and continue from there.

  • Thank you Shane! I love the tips! I have struggled with organization as my business is growing. There are so many tools to choose from and most have a frustrating learning curve when I am already very busy. This makes sense and you really simplified it with actionable insights and tips. Thank you!

  • David says:

    Thanks, Shane. This is very useful. I look forward to more tips from you.

  • Tommy Sikes says:

    Shane, great stuff. More Trello videos please.

    I thought years ago you said you used Asana for project management. Did that change? Or am I imagining it?

    Thanks as always for keeping us focused on the important stuff!

    • That’s correct, yes. I used to prefer Asana to Trello. However, I think Trello is definitely superior for teamwork. And over time, I’ve changed my personal task management approach as well and it fits Trello better now.

  • Rob Bishop says:

    Hi Shane,

    Excellent info as always. Can you help a newbie out, is Trello the same as Pipedrive or are they different beasts?

    Cheers buddy,
    Rob

    • Totally different. Pipedrive is a sales CRM tool. In Trello, you could set up a board to act as a sales CRM, but it’s not optimized for the task. And conversely, you could probably manage your projects in Pipedrive, but you’d be bending it out of shape pretty badly to do so. :D

  • Thank you! This is just what I’ve been thinking I need!!! I’ve already started. :)

  • Holly says:

    More Trello please.

  • Robin says:

    Shane, I need more.

    Following your advice, I set up a personal productivity Trello a week ago, and this stuff just WORKS !

    Your process is really effective. I love putting every idea I get in the braindump area, then either deleting it or making it become a reality by advancing it through the funnel.

    Now, what I would love from you is a video similar to this one, but focused on team effort. I’m working with multiple freelancers, and it’s very hard to keep track of what everyone is doing at any time. I think Trello could help.

    Keep up the great content !

  • Patrick says:

    Love this, more please. Its really great!

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