Using Trello as a Virtual Kanban Board

Whether you’re an indie author like me, or have a plethora of goals you’d like to complete in other areas of your life, I think we can all agree on one thing: goals are difficult to achieve if we don’t have a system in place where they are written down and visible to us on a daily basis.

Over the past several years, I’ve been a dedicated viewer of Sarra Cannon’s Heart Breathings channel on YouTube, where she posts videos about writing, self-publishing, and productivity. For years, she’s mentioned that she uses a kanban board: a visual representation of her goals at three different stages of progress. In one of her most recent videos, she referred viewers to an online resource called Trello if we would rather use a virtual kanban board than having one displayed on a wall, like she does.

For the past two months, I have used Trello as an additional way to keep track of my goals for June and July 2022. While most people who use the kanban board system plan for quarters of the year, or 90 day segments, I shortened my initial board setup to monthly increments to see how I like it. Today, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Trello so far.

What is a Kanban Board?

Introduction to the Kanban Board Layout

Before going into my thoughts on Trello, I’d like to briefly explain the layout of a traditional kanban board to those who may be unfamiliar with the system. Kanban boards, from my brief exposure to them prior to Trello, are boards that are divided into three main sections: To-Do, Doing, and Done. So, at the beginning of your planning period, you’ll write down a bunch of to-dos you would like to accomplish during the period, breaking them down into achievable, bite-sized tasks. These tasks are often written down on sticky-notes. Each week, you’ll pick tasks from the To-Do section to accomplish, moving them to the Doing section. Once you complete the task, you’ll move its sticky note to the Done section. The system is supposed to keep the To-Do section’s initial integrity throughout the month, so random, additional To-Dos are not to be added unless they are absolutely necessary toward the main goals you need to accomplish for the month.

How Trello Works as a Virtual Kanban Board

Trello offers users the same kanban board layout–To-Do, Doing, and Done–on virtual boards. Instead of using sticky-notes, however, it allows you to make task cards that can be dragged and dropped from one section to another, as well as color-coded, edited, time-stamped, etc.

My Thoughts on Trello

Color Coded Goals/Tasks

My absolute favorite feature on Trello is that it allows you to color-code up to 10 different labels and covers for the task cards. My main goal sections right now are: Authoring Arrowheads, Writing, Editing, Publishing, Instagram, and Amazon/Vendors. By labeling each in a different color, I’m able to see where most of my focus is going, and in what sections I need to improve on.

Complex Task Editing

Trello allows users to edit tasks for ultimate efficiency, including features such as scheduling completion dates, creating checklists, adding attachments or descriptions, or even tagging members. Some of these features are too complex for my simple needs of just moving goals from one board to another, so I’ve just stuck with color-coding for now. I’m also using the free version of Trello, so I’m sure there are additional features offered with the paid version.

Adding Bonus Boards to the Standard Kanban Layout

At the end of June, when my first kanban board round was complete, I wasn’t sure what to do with all my completed June tasks at first. Then, I realized I could create a bonus board where I could display all my completed June tasks to look back on, and moved them there. I really like this feature, as it allows me to go back and see what I did in previous months, and how I broke down certain tasks.

Seamless Transition from the Web Version to the App Version

Trello automatically updates any changes you make and updates it across your devices. Other apps (of all kinds, not just productivity), I’ve noticed, can lag between updates, but Trello updates within the snap of a finger whenever I have both the app and the web version pulled up.

My Thoughts on How It’s Benefited my Productivity and Goal Organization

Y’all… Trello has been a game-changer for me. In the past, if I came up with a goal I wanted to achieve, I just placed it on this massive list at the front of my planner and hoped I would get to it within the year. Now, I can take that list and have a way of breaking it down into bite-sized tasks, motivating me to actually get stuff done. Within my first month of using Trello, I marked off four tasks that have sat uncompleted on that list for several months, maybe even prior to 2022. When I say this thing is a form of kick-you-in-the-butt motivation, I mean it. It’s also really satisfying seeing all those tasks trekking along during the month and winding up in the Done section.

While, no, I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do in June, it helped me better prepare for July, and allowed me to make much more progress than I would have just randomly assigning the bare-minimum tasks I needed to get done during the month in my planner.

Talk to Me, Arrowheads!

Do you use a traditional kanban board, or Trello, to keep track of your productivity and goals? If you use another method, tell us about it in the comments!

Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.

-Allyson 😀

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As an author and blogger, my goal is to teach writers that there is a way to write realistic, thought-provoking, redemptive Christian fiction that honors God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world. 

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