My OCD Tendencies
One of the positive things that came out of moving to Purdue from my Northeast Pennsylvania abode was that I was able to break out of “the way I always did things” and start from scratch when it came to organizing various aspects of my life. I had a fresh email account, a clean personal drive awaiting a folder structure and a file naming convention, a new desk with fewer drawers than before, and a new living space with much more storage than ever before. How could I take advantage of all of these new things by setting them up in ways that worked best for my workflow? I was committed to working “smart” and to setting myself up for efficiency. I spent a lot of time organizing my physical spaces in ways that made the most sense for my daily living habits. Since moving brings a lot of nuances with starting and stopping utility payments, beginning a new insurance plan, and keeping up with various renewals, it was also important to manage electronic information effectively. I did this by making spreadsheets with notes for each month. When it came to projects at work, I was intentional and strategic about filing away relevant emails to OneDrive and keeping meeting notes in Google Drive. I am careful to keep my Google Drive account organized with archives of important documents and ideas. All of this is helpful, but I was introduced to a tool I had not used before that revolutionized the way I both track projects and collaborate with team members. It has been the best program for providing project updates. It is called Trello, and it is an obsessive compulsive’s favorite program.
What is Trello?
Trello is a web-based program used primarily for project management. It makes use of boards and cards. It can be likened to a bulletin board with notes stuck on it with thumb tacks, except it’s an electronic version of that. That might not seem useful until you discover all of the features that go along with it.
Boards are used to categorize. For example, here at Purdue we have a board for “Special Projects.”
Cards are posted onto boards and are activities that fall within a category. For example, the building of a TA training is a special project we are working on. Cards can easily be moved from board to board as project statuses change.
Trello allows each user to add other users to a card. The users can choose to subscribe to a card if they would like to receive email updates when any activity occurs on that particular card. Each card can contain a checklist of tasks in order to track progress. Attachments can be added to the card to show the iterations of a project or to link important documents that are relevant to a project.
How Can Trello be Used?
Purdue’s Course Design and Development Unit uses Trello to track instructional design projects. We move cards to new boards as we make progress on each project. We start out with a “planning phase” board and end with a “continuous maintenance” board. Team members make notes about their work on the course so that if others are assigned to the same course in the future they will have some background on what has already been done and have some context for the project. It is helpful to refer to Trello during team meetings to receive updates on the current status of projects. It is also easy to delegate projects to employees by simply creating a project card and adding them to the card. The comment box allows one to note expectations, initial ideas, background information, etc. for the project.
Some other ideas for the use of Trello are as follows:
- To-do lists: Daily lists/weekly lists/monthly lists
- Travel plans: Lodging, dining, event tickets, finances associated with trip
- Chore lists for yourself or your kids
- Client contacts
- Group projects
- Moving projects along a sequential path (e.g. “stakeholder buy-in stage”, “project charter stage”, “initial planning stage”… etc.)
Trello is a preferred project management tool for two main reasons:
1) It stores all materials and notes relevant to each project in a central location.
2) It facilitates collaboration among team members by keeping them “on the same page” (or maybe the same card!), providing a quick and easy view of stages of projects and progress made.
It’s web-based and free to use, so try it out if you are looking for a way to stay organized or are seeking to build cohesion and efficiency among your team, professional sphere, family, or friends. Manage your daily activities in ways that make sense, and that will help to make the most of your opportunities.
I still use other tools, such as Google Drive, to collaborate on documents and to archive materials for future reference. Trello is not a replacement tool for collaboration and archiving but is rather a nice addition to the suite of organizational tools. It specifically helps in managing projects and tracking their progress. Enjoy!