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The To-Do List App That Everyone Needs

Updated: Jan 29


I am a massive fan of Trello. It's the next level when your to-do list is a little more complicated, so I asked a top Trello expert to give us the rundown of setting yours up. Our guest expert is Varvara Lyalyagina and English isn't her first language, but she knows her stuff, so enjoy.


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the best to do list app

Trello could be an amazing tool for organizing processes and information in your business and life. However, it could not be as easy to set it up as it seems. I knew about Trello almost 5 years ago. I was amazed at how smart and simple it looked. Boards and cards that you can use to manage your to-do list and your processes.


I signed up immediately but soon I failed to use it on a regular basis. It was easier for me to manage my to-do and processes in my paper journal. The second trial also failed — I set up the process of working with clients but that was it. No more ideas on what else to use it for.

Now I have all my business and life processes and plans in Trello. More than a dozen active boards that I use for day to day work, strategic planning, travel plans and even the life bucket list.


It took me several years to understand how to set up Trello successfully for yourself, so it really works. If you want to use Trello for yourself, here are some of my tips.


Why does everybody say that Trello is great?


It is intuitive. The tool is easy to understand and you will not need a multi-page manual or complicated training to start using it and understand how the basic functions work.


It is flexible. Michaele Pryor, Trello founder said that they tried to make the tool that will be as clear as an Excel table. The user decides how to name the columns and rows and fill in the cells with any information.


It integrates. Trello integrates with a lot of popular services and tools. Evernote, Google docs, Dropbox, Google calendar, Gmail to name a few. It is more difficult to find a tool that is not integrated with Trello.


It is accessible. You do not have to install any programs on your desktop (though you can as there is a desktop version available now). The access is done via browser and you can access it from any computer that is connected to the internet or from your phone Trello application.


It is free! Most of the functions that you will need are available in the free option. Though the paid version has more functionality in the menu, I never needed it in 4 years of using Trello.


setting up trello

If it is so good, why does not everybody use it then?


It is difficult to start using Trello from scratch. Yes, it is flexible and intuitive however it is difficult to use it from scratch. Same as with Excel. Columns, rows, cells — it is kind of obvious, right? However, before you see a real-life example of how to use Excel for budget tracking and learn how to use formulas, it will not work for you. The same is with Trello.


A lot of useful Trello functions are not obvious. Because lots of people learn how to use Trello intuitively lots of functions are never used. This was why at the beginning I thought that checklists in Trello are just a waste of time and it is easier to cross them on paper than in the program. Sometimes it really is but checklists are just a tiny piece of Trello functionalities.


The switch into Trello in one shot is a mistake. It is very important to understand that setting up a board in Trello is not playing kind of a business solitaire with the cards. This is setting up the processes and systems. And when you try to set up all your systems and processes in one shot it usually does not work because it needs more than just a board with the cards.


The decision to go fully paperless could be a failure. Frequently Trello is considered as a substitute for paper systems. All right, since today no notebooks and journals. Everything will be digital! I will do it all in Trello! Sorry to say, but this all or nothing approach usually fails pretty quickly.


It is not beautiful. Yes, as simple as that. Though the tool seems to be nice at the beginning, if you start using it from 0 you will be offered 9 “kill my eyes” colourful backgrounds. They are killing the desire to use the tool. In fact, you can easily set up a nice background picture for your boards, but it could be not obvious from the beginning.


4 tips to make Trello work for you.


1/ Take it as an experiment. Do not consider Trello as a magical tool that will change your life forever and all the tasks will be done by themselves. They will not, sorry about that. Maybe after your experiment, you decide that a paper bullet journal is the best way for you to manage your tasks. That’s ok. If Trello works for somebody does not mean it will work for you.


2/ Watch how others use Trello. Don’t try to figure it out all by yourself and set it up from scratch. The moment when it clicked for me was the one when I saw the Trello boards of other users that were dealing with similar tasks as me. Not the screenshots but real-time boards. You can find a lot of examples on the Trello website (https://trello.com/inspiration) for any situation starting from travel planning to the blog editorial calendar.


3/ Fine tune Trello for your usage. Try not to copy blindly but to adapt all the board ideas for your processes. When I was treating my boards like set in stone (this is a template, I can not change it!) it did not work. As soon I started to apply the principle “looks like it doesn’t work for me this was. let me try it differently”, Trello started to work for me.  


4/ Give yourself time. Setting up the Trello board is equal to setting up the process. Do not try to do it all in one shot. My recommendation — minimum one week for one process, i.e. one board. Sometimes it could take a month to set up one process.

Written by Varvara Lyalyagina of Start Blog Up where Russian speaking entrepreneurs find support to build their platform.


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