Trello Strategy: Action-Focused Lists

We have been overhauling a lot of our Trello boards lately. A few of them have been languishing more than others so we've been looking at them strategically, cleaning things up, and figuring out how to make them all function better. Project management system working optimally = we get more stuff done! One thing that has become clear about our work style as we make changes to our boards is that we need our lists to be action-focused, not categorical. Previously, we had some organizational schemes that attempted to categorize our work by area or type - management, research & writing, team tasks - and we therefore had Board setups with category Lists. This caused us to use those Lists more as places to bank tasks or projects and less as ways to facilitate progress. Changing those List headings to reflect actions or project phases forces us to pare down the Cards we keep in a List, encouraging more progress on those tasks. So what did we change the List headings to, and how did it help?

From this:

A screenshot of the "In Progress Board" before it's overhaul.

All those red indicators that Due Dates were long past...eek! We couldn't even get all the excess cards neatly in a screenshot.

To this:

We already had a categorical Label system in place; why weren't we relying on that?

We actually moved to a simpler list structure, returning to the tried-and-true Kanban concept of To-Do, Doing, and Done. It's always fun to come up with a wholly new and exciting way to structure your Trello boards, and sometimes a totally custom solution really is needed. However, in most cases where the board's purpose is to perform task management and track projects a slight customization of To-Do, Doing, Done will work nicely.

Our modifications were to add a list of things to Discuss (either with each other or in an upcoming meeting), and a second Doing list for our biggest project. Research Essentials - the information literacy instruction program we run at our library - makes up such a significant portion of our work that it deserves its own Doing list. Why not a separate board? The Research Essentials Team has its own entire suite of boards. This list is just for the items that don't apply to the rest of the team, to further streamline the the team boards. And our Done list actually resides on our Project Bank board, which serves as an archive of completed items.

So what did we do with all the cards that are no longer languishing in the remaining lists? Well, for starters we were ruthlessly realistic about archiving cards for tasks we never did and project ideas that aren't ever going to happen. Then, we shifted a lot of other items to our Project Bank board (where they really belonged anyway) and created Short Term Hold and Long Term Hold lists there. Finally, supervising and training tasks are conspicuously absent; those all earned their own Supervising board.

All of these changes encourage more movement on our boards. The intention of our In Progress board is to feature only what we're actively working on, making it easier to visualize progress. On the Project Bank board we can shift things from list to list, helping us prioritize upcoming tasks. We see a clear connection between more activity on our Trello boards and more completed tasks.

What strategies have you used to improve your Trello productivity? Do you have a consistent board structure, or do you vary? Let us know in the comments!