I’ve been diving into Trello this week. Trello is a free online service for managing to-dos and projects. I now have 17 different Trello boards for managing various projects. You know me — when I get into something new, I love to fully immerse myself in it. Best way to learn quickly. 🙂

In this post I’ll share a bit more about how I’m using Trello. I don’t get paid for referrals since it’s a free service. I received a free year of Trello Gold from previous referrals, mostly to friends, but that maxes out after your first 12 referrals, and the Gold version doesn’t add much value yet. IMO the free version has everything you need.

I especially like using Trello for managing the various steps in upcoming speaking engagements and joint-venture business deals. Trello makes it easy to see at a glance what the next action steps are.

Trello is good at hiding complexity and simplifying multi-step projects. It’s surprisingly fast and easy to use. I can fill out and organize the details for a new project within a matter of minutes.

I also like the Archive feature. If I want to reuse a list that I’ve used in the past, I can retrieve it from my saved archives and modify it as needed. The steps are largely the same for each speaking engagement: confirming dates, booking travel, etc. So once I list out the steps for one engagement, I can reproduce them for another engagement with a few clicks.

Managing Daily To-Dos

I’m also testing Trello for managing my daily to-dos. I have a board call !Today that shows my to-dos for the day. When I’m viewing that board, I only see today’s activities. So when I’m in action mode, I can ignore everything else and just focus on that one day’s board, so I don’t get distracted by pending tasks.

I populate my !Today board by moving in to-do items from my other Trello boards. One of my tasks for today is to listen to about 3.5 hours of audio material for a group recording project. Last night I moved that list of items from the board for that project onto my !Today board. Incidentally, I use the ! sign before the !Today board name to move it alphabetically to the top of the board list for fast access.

Easy Collaboration

Trello is especially great for collaborating with others. I’m involved in one group board that a team of seven people are using to manage our recent recording project. This allows anyone to quickly check the board to see what tasks need to be done next. We have three days’ worth of audio recordings to edit. We’ve listened to Day 1 so far, and this week we’re tackling Day 2’s recordings. So this gives everyone on the team great visibility on our progress. Trello provides a simple way to hold ourselves accountable and make sure we keep moving the project forward week by week.

Rachelle and I have a shared board for just the two of us where we can brainstorm ideas for new things we want to explore this year, with separate lists for her fantasies and mine. It’s a fun way for us to share our desires and expand upon them. It was especially fun to edit our board together while Skyping at the same time (we’re currently in different cities). That makes it easier to play off each other’s ideas and amplify them.

Travel Planning

One nice use of a Trello board is for travel planning. Rachelle and I have been talking about spending a month in Hawaii this year, so this morning I added a board called “Hawaii Trip.” It includes lists like Islands to Visit, People to Meet, Activities, Places to Stay, To Dos, etc.

Since you can create unlimited boards with Trello, I create new boards liberally instead of trying to stuff everything into a monstrous single board. This encapsulates the data for each type of project or activity in its own space, allowing better focus since I’m not distracted by other concerns while working on one particular board.

If it stresses you out to look at your Trello board, you’ve probably put way too many items on a single board. Split off some of your subprojects onto their own boards, and manage those pieces separately. Don’t be stingy on creating new boards.

For traveling planning, I suggest making a separate Trello board for each upcoming trip. That way you can customize the lists for each trip. For my Hawaii trip, I have a list of islands to visit. For a Paris trip, you could have a list of museums and sights you’d like to see.

Creating New Income Streams

If you’re looking to create some passive income this year, one great use of Trello would be for managing your income generating projects. You could create a separate Trello board for each stream you’re creating. This will help you manage everything neatly in one place.

If you’re building two different websites, for instance, you could have a separate Trello board for each site, and customize the lists on each board appropriately. So if site #1 is about raw foods, you could have lists like Recipes, Weight Loss Tips, Raw Blogs for Guest Posting, etc. And if site #2 is about using Trello, you could have lists like Trello Tips, Links to Public Trello Boards, Travel Planning With Trello, etc. This can help you design the content and structure for your sites.

You could also use Trello to brainstorm ideas for new businesses. In 30 minutes or less, you could use a Trello board to hash out the basic plan, take a step back from it, and see how it looks to you. It’s similar to mind-mapping, but Trello lets you go deeper since every node can have more checklists and notes inside of it. And you can easily click and drag to move things around.

I love Trello so far, and I’m optimistic about its future development. It’s developed by Fog Creek Software, a company I’ve known about for many years. I used to read Fog Creek founder Joel Spolsky’s popular Joel On Software blog when I was running my computer games business. Joel has some deeply insightful articles on software development and team project management.