Few things are as much of a pain as having to keep track of your projects. While most big companies or large projects use things like Microsoft Project there are easier (and less expensive) ways to manage work projects that are on the smaller side.
One of the best free online solutions you’ll find is Trello. It’s one of the most intuitive project management solutions out there. Trello is cloud-based and allows you to manage work projects without having to download anything.
This is especially useful since it turns out that 93% of people surveyed say that working remotely makes them more productive. In this article, I’m going to go over the basics of Trello and mention a few of the useful features too.
Table of Contents
Getting Started With Trello
The first thing that you have to do is register a Trello account. That’s pretty easy, just head over to Trello.com and sign up. Once you’ve completed the registration, just log in and we can start with the first step in every Trello project.
At the first screen you see after logging in, you want to create a new “board”, which is the basic organing principle of Trello. Each project or each major component of a larger project will have its own board. So go ahead and click “create new board”.
Now you can name your board and decide whether it will be private or not. For now, it’s probably better just to name it and leave everything else as is.
The Nice List
Admittedly, there’s not much to look at on your board at first. To the right, you’ll see a column labeled “menu”. Ignore that for now. We care about the left of the board where it says “Add a list”.
If you click on this you get to give a name to the first list of your board. Before you do that, let me explain what the point of a list is.
Most projects have phases or steps. For example, if you are a writer and create articles for a publication, the article may go through several stages of development. Generally, each list represents a specific phase.
For our purposes, we’ll just name these lists “step 1”, “step 2” and so on.
Just imagine that each list is an important phase in your project. What use are empty lists?
One important feature of a list can be accessed by clicking the three little dots at the top right of a list. Here you can click on “subscribe” to get notified about everything that happens on that list.
Let’s go over the meat of Trello: cards.
Pick a Card
The card is the component of a Trello board where the most action happens. To create a new card, just click “add a card” in the relevant list. Type the name of the card and click “add”.
When you manage a work project there’s usually a few people involved and cards are where you’ll be able to add additional members. There’s much more than that to cards, however.
Each card represents a task that has to go through the various phases of your project. To make sure that everyone on your team knows what that task is, you can put a detailed description right at the top of the card when you have it open.
Each card also has a full and independent comment system where team members can discuss it.Each comment can have its own attachment, you can mention team members by name and even link other cards.
You’ll also notice that there’s an activity log for each card so that you can always know who did what on that card. It’s all automatically saved.
There’s even more you can do with your Trello card. For one thing, you can subscribe to it exactly the same way you do to a list. Every time someone comments or otherwise modifies the card you’ll be notified.
Other really useful things include adding a checklist to the job card or a due date. This helps team members and you keep track of the status of each task.
You can also attach files and links to Google Docs by clicking the “attachment” button. Possibly the most important feature is the ability to add other people to a card so that they know what cards they are responsible for. Just click “members” to do this.
What’s on the Menu?
Another feature that really helps to manage work projects is the main activity log. You’ll find it to the right of all your lists on the board. You can hide it by clicking the little “x” at the top right of the menu.
This is also the place where you can add members to that board and change the background color.
Manage Work Projects On the Go
One of the things that are really great about Trello is that the experience of using the website is pretty much the same as using it on a smartphone or tablet.
Using it on an iPad feels very intuitive and makes keeping tabs on a project while on the go an absolute breeze. Almost everything said here about the main web version also applies to the mobile version.
Free for All
While Trello does have a paid tier, all the important functions that are actually related to productivity are free for everyone to use. You can do more cosmetic changes with the paid version of Trello, but at no time will you feel limited by sticking with the free service.
Manage Work Projects Like a Pro
Trello can have a transformative effect on how productive you and your team are. Working with people who may be scattered all over the world goes from a huge hassle to being easy as pie.
With Trello boards, eveyone in the team can collaborate and assign projects to other members without letting them forget anything about their task(s) as it also sends email updates when someone adds a note in the project thread. Depending on how big your team is (and how many ideas you have), you may (or may not) need different boards to log every idea.
The tablet and smartphone support are really great too, it makes you wonder if you even need a laptop.Don’t forget that you can also link to Google Docs such as Forms from Trello, to make a really powerful combo.
All Screenshots by Kees Friesland