Post by Louise Lee.

In this month’s What Keeps You Up at Night, we spent the first half of the session exploring Zoom (see post here) and the second half exploring Trello. 

Why do so many people have a love / hate relationship with Trello?

Trello is a way of organising pretty much anything- sort of project management with to do lists that can be shared with a team or clients or used personally. It can also be linked to Mailchimp and lots of other apps and software.

I have a love hate relationship with Trello and it seems many of you do too. One constant theme is people love setting Trello up. In fact, it seems that’s the best bit because after setting it up you rarely use it. What a colossal waste of time. I need to put a stop to that.

I’ll get on to the love hate relationship in a mo, but first, here are a few ways people are using Trello:

New Hire/Client Onboarding – Get rid of that stuffy staff manual and create a board that contains all the information a new hire needs, including a who’s who with pictures. You can easily adapt this board and use it to onboard new clients. Create your Template Trello Board and copy it for every new client and include only the information that client needs.

Process Manuals – Instead of pages and pages of processes, ensure everyone you work with has the same information and same materials/resources. A Trello board enables you to easily move sections around. You can add documents, videos, links – anything you want and the best bit is it’s easy to update or add new information.

New Ideas/Stuff – I used to find it impossible keeping track of all the useful or interesting things I find when I’m browsing on my phone. Now, I click the up arrow at the bottom of my screen and share it to a specific card on a specific Trello board. That’s it. I can come back and revisit the article whenever I want to. This is invaluable and stops me having multiple buckets in which I collect useful/less information.

Stop Emailing Stuff – Set a board up for each of your clients with the sole purpose of capturing things you want to talk about. Next time you meet/call, you both access the Trello board and your agenda is there.

Planning Training Material/books – One List = 1 Chapter. Each Card within that List is a section. Populate the cards and, if you think one card would be better in a different chapter/List, drag it over to that list. Trello is great for creating frameworks from which you can create training material/books.

Managing a Process – This is what Trello was designed to do. An action/project starts life in List one and as it progresses through its lifecycle it ends up at the final column. Due dates help you manage this and keep you on track. Power ups add additional functionality.

Why do some people find Trello difficult….

There are many reasons why you might find Trello difficult or pointless. For some it’s the fact a board is stuffed full of pictures which distract from the information. For others, it’s just another, pointless to do list. The suggestions above are, in my opinion, the best uses of a Trello Board. And, if you collaborate with others, a Trello board can be invaluable, if you set it up correctly.

….Because we’re not using Trello for the purpose it was designed


Trello uses the kanban paradigm for managing projects, originally popularized by Toyota in the 1980s for supply chain management. Projects are represented by Boards, which contain Lists (corresponding to task lists). Lists contain Cards (corresponding to tasks). Cards are supposed to progress from one list to the next (via drag-and-drop), for instance mirroring the flow of a feature from idea to implementation.

We manipulate Trello to what we want it to do. That’s no bad thing, but instead of diving in and designing your Trello board to perfection, you need to do your prep to see if it’s the correct tool for the job.

Plan Your Trello Board

  1. Write down the purpose of your Trello Board
  2. Write down all the things you want your Trello board to do
  3. Write down all the problems you want Trello to solve
  4. Think about why you want this information stored in this way and how you’re going to use the information.

Once you have this information you can set up a SIMPLE Trello board and see how you go.

Don’t become distracted with coloured labels or Powerups that integrate with Pipedrive, Fedex or Mailchimp (and the list is growing all the time). It’s easy to be distracted by these powerups which is why it’s important to plot out the purpose of your board.

If you’d like help deciding whether Trello is the best tool for you, I’m always delighted to help. I’d hate for you to have sleepless nights trying to work out why some piece of tech, in which you’ve invested so much time setting up, isn’t working. Better to get it right first time.

Louise Lee

Louise Lee runs Saunders and Lee, helping business owners improve productivity, embrace technology and avoid the IT learning curve.