How I got organized using Trello

Steve Johnson
3 min readOct 15, 2023

I’ve used many task managers and to-do reminders, but I think I may finally have found the one for me: Trello.

The old way

I’ve tried multiple approaches for keeping track of things. I already use an extended Kanban board for my projects, so I figured, why not create a similar approach for my operational stuff?

Here’s how I set it up

The typical Kanban board has Ready, Working, and Completed stages but I use two additional stages in my product-related projects: Planned, Ready, Working, Completed, and Released. See my article on this approach.

For my personal reminders, I use a similar approach but focused on what I need to do sooner than later.

Here are the stages I use in my Trello board.

Today. I start each day by reviewing items to be done by scanning the whole board. I pick one or two things that I want to accomplish today.

Saturday. Some items I set aside for the weekend when I do most of my thinking and writing. Like many executives (and product managers), my typical day is often filled with meetings, surprises, and emergencies. So activities that require focused attention often end up on my Saturday list.

This Week. Before I get started on my Saturday project (it’s usually only one thing), I review things I’ve postponed and those in the “Someday” category to move into my things to do in the upcoming week.

Postponed. The items in “Postponed” are ones that I intended to do but never got around to this week.

Someday. Things I want to do but not right now end up in the “Someday” category.

There’s magic in automation

What makes this approach work for me is automation. Trello has a super-easy way of setting up automation routines for a button click or on a schedule. You can do things like “2 hours before a card is due, add the red label to the card.”

Each day, everything I didn’t complete moves to This Week. Each Saturday, unfinished work from This Week moves to Postponed. This is all done for me by Trello automations.

Here are mine:

every day at 5:00 pm, move all the cards in list “Today” to list “This Week”

every saturday at 8:30am, move all the cards in list “This Week” to list “Postponed”

every sunday, move all the cards more than 30 days in list “Complete” to list “Completed items” on board “Archive”

The Archive contains everything I have accomplished. This list is helpful for retrospectives as we consider what we actually completed this quarter or this year. After all, there’s always more to be done than we have resources to accomplish, and it’s good to be reminded of what we did complete.

I manually purge the archive list of unimportant items (such as the reminder to take my guitar in for repair). In the future, I may start marking items as business or personal so the personal items can be purged while the business items are archived.

Whether you report to a manager or to a board of directors, the archive list is also helpful for preparing for an annual appraisal or business review. After all, if you can’t remember what you did this year, you can be sure your manager doesn’t either.

Time is a valuable resource, and an organized approach helps to manage it effectively. Instead of sticky notes taped to my monitor and reminders in my to-do list, this Trello board helps me manage my important tasks, visualize the work to be done, and create a sense of control.

It’s so simple, it works.

By the way, I’m not affiliated with Trello or Atlassian. Just love their tools.

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Steve Johnson

author, speaker, consultant, guitar player. Removing chaos from product management since 1996. Learn how at www.productgrowthleaders.com