Productive is Pretty: Using Trello to visualize project management for effective organizations and fun-loving people

When organizational systems work well, it’s not only useful--it’s beautiful! Academic libraries require dozens of intricate workflows for every facet of the organization. We can help you make your workflows visually coherent, intuitive, and efficient. This session will focus on using Trello to create and implement new or existing workflows for collaborative teams (yay, transparency!) and individuals (take that, to-do list!).

No matter what library department you work in or what organizational problem you need to solve, this session will result in a solution.

  • Your colleagues persistently plan events using a 100-message email thread?

  • You need to track dozens of library instruction sessions and delegate responsibilities?

  • Your student workers are accountable for dozens of recurring tasks every week?

  • You are frustrated that details about past projects reside in your @#$%& email?

We use and love Trello, a free, online project- and task-management system that is visually appealing, easy to learn, fun to use, and powerfully customizable. As a visual organization tool, Trello can facilitate pretty productivity in a variety of ways:

  • To accomplish daily/weekly/recurring tasks

  • To track a project or many projects

  • To help a team communicate

  • To set goals

  • To train new hires

  • To lesson plan

  • To prioritize and delegate tasks

We have spent the last four years maxing out Trello’s capabilities as a project-management and communication tool (we still can’t believe it’s free!), and we’ve learned how to begin with a goal and end with a custom solution. Get ready to create systems that will streamline work, keep projects visible and organized, and improve efficiency.

We are confident that you will agree the beauty of visual organization increases productivity by making work fun again!

Beginning with the Basics

At the core of Trello’s versatility is its basic Kanban-inspired setup of three lists titled To Do, Doing, and Done. This structure is intended to encourage your work to progress through through to completion instead of lingering in the still-dreaming-about-it category.

To Do, Doing, Done is the underlying framework of any intricate, customized Trello workflow. So here's an exercise for beginners:

  • Start with those three lists.

  • Then determine one, two, or three additional phases your work normally goes through, or should go through!

  • Add a list for each of those phases and reorder your board to integrate them after To Do and before Done.

Intermediate Optimization Skills

Identifying and implementing Trello power-ups for customized productivity will not only level up your efficiency, it’s also a ton of fun! Below are lists of our favorite Trello integrations, power-ups, and Chrome Extensions. Oh! And don’t forget to learn Trello Hot Keys--they save time and make you feel like a fast-typing hacker in the movies.


Browse and filter all Trello power-ups here.

Apps & Integrations

Chrome Extensions

  • Trellius: an alternative to the Calendar power-up, this extension creates a drag and drop calendar that’s embedded right above the lists on a board.

  • Ultimello: a features pack that lets you do things like fancy card sorting and display the number of cards on a list.

  • Trillor: a card mirror to “manage personal tasks from several boards.”

  • Trello External Window: takes Trello out of your browser.

Advancing to Automation

Automating and delegating tasks are two of the most effective ways to free up time. Trello’s was built to make work transparent and collaborative, so it’s a natural fit for delegating tasks and empowering teams. But Trello is also ideal for automation, and the list of possibilities grows everyday!  Use automation to creatively problem-solve and to take workflows to the next level.

The most common way to automate tasks in the digital world is to use If This Then That (IFTTT) or Zapier, services that allow you to create your own recipes for how Trello interacts with other apps.  See Trello-specific examples below!

Alternatively, combining power-ups is another way to automate tasks (note: this does require Trello Gold or Business). Example: Try Card Repeater + Card Aging. Use that in tandem with Due Dates and Calendar View. BOOM.

Automation Tools & Trello Bots

Make Your Productivity Pretty!

Beautifying your Trello experience is not only fun--it also makes you more productive! With Trello Gold, you can add background images to your boards, which helps you identify them quickly.

The Trello blog has some great tips for making your boards pretty. To find images for board backgrounds, we are partial to Pexels and Dress Your Tech, which features gorgeous desktop backgrounds designed by artists.

We also recently discovered the Stylish Chrome Extension along with ALL THESE OPTIONS for Trello themes and skins. I am currently in love with Modernized Trello.

Using Trello in Libraries

This post is a summary of our presentation at the 2017 Collective Conference, We created a Trello Team for participants, along with an Ultimate Idea Board for Using Trello in libraries.

We’d love to hear how you are using Trello for your work, personal life, or in your library! How has Trello made you more productive? What problems have you been able to solve? How has visual project management impacted your team?

Let us know in the comments!