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Using trello to prioritise my time

I'm a huge fan of trello. At work, my team use it for managing our backlog of work, but I often create my own trello boards as well.

When I started using trello I thought it was quite basic, but I came to realise it's simplicity is what makes it so great. Simple and flexible tools FTW.

Nowadays I use it all the time. Here's a couple of things I'm using it for that help me to be more productive.

Tracking personal tasks

Where I work now I have a reasonable amount of control over my work, but I also have a lot of demands on my time that aren't part of my team's backlog, and this has forced me to get a lot better at prioritising the things I need to do.

People have different ways of tracking stuff they need to get done, but I like to use a personal trello board for this. Just having somewhere permanent to track things helps me resist the urge to jump on every new request as it comes in, so I can minimise the amount of context switching I'm doing.

A really good way to prioritise is the Eisenhower matrix. You divide things into important/not important and urgent/not urgent, so there are 4 quadrants.

In trello you can do this with 4 columns, or you can create two columns and use the vertical position of the card to indicate the relative urgency of things.

TOP TIP: You can use a divider card to separate things within a column. This is just a blank card with a pattern as the cover image.

A divider card

The point of having 4 quadrants is to encourage you to respond to different kinds of tasks in different ways:

  • If it's urgent and important, just do it.
  • If it's important but not urgent, schedule time for it
  • If it's not important but it's urgent, see if someone else can do it or make it less urgent
  • It it's not important and not urgent, don't do it

The idea is to spend time mostly on important, not urgent things, so you're not racing around trying to meet deadlines.

I sometimes schedule stuff by booking a meeting with myself in google calendar, which reminds me to do it, and also communicates to my coworkers that I'm busy working on something. If it's likely to conflict with other priorities, then I might check with my manager first.

If something I'm working on is tracked on my team board, I usually don't add it to my personal one, because I'm usually only doing one ticket at a time, and I'm not going to forget about that. My personal board is for everything else, like people I need to speak to, boring admin tasks, or things I'm contributing to outside of my immediate team.

This format works pretty well, although I do mess with it from time to time. I recently added a column for "things I've agreed with my manager" which I use to write down feedback I've received, or things I want to think about.

Learning goals trello board

Another trello board I've created for myself recently is a plan for learning Java. I've done some Java before, but I don't have much professional experience in it, and there are huge gaps in my knowledge. I'm currently working on a team that uses Java, so this is something I want to fix. To do this I set aside some time to study, and I created this board to help me make the best use of that time.

Learning Java board

I started by identifying a bunch of resources I had access to, and pinning down exactly what I was struggling with. This helped me reduce all this stuff to a small amount of tasks that I actually have time for.

I've only spent a few hours on it so far but I feel like I now have clear objectives and a plan for achieving them, so I'm going to keep using this board to work on this over the next month or so.

Top comments (1)

cripstian profile image
Cristian Popescu

Thank you for the pointers, will definitely try out the Eisenhower matrix.

I have tried to organise stuff in my professional life and personal, but couldn't really keep a tight schedule.
Being a software developer sometimes kind of goes over board and pass deadlines. Sometimes, things just don't work as fast or as flawless as you planned, or worse, they don't work at all 🤔.

In the past, I tried multiple task trackers to be able to check things off lists.

For example, right now I'm using Google's Tasks, which is nice, it now integrates with Gmail and it is easy to use. You can set deadlines per task and do secondary tasks lists. The only flaw I see there is that you cannot see a nice view of completed tasks, to feel accomplished.

Trello, as you say, is quite a spectacular tool, also free. I love that it integrates with Bitbucket so you can use it as a task manager for your project with a direct link to your code. Also great mobile app and very useful. The fact that you can add anything on a task is beautiful and helpful:

  • files
  • task lists
  • comments

Good luck with learning java and keep up the good work.