Wednesday, 31 January 2018

5 Reasons Why You Want to Use Trello to Keep Track of Your Projects

Today I have writer and freelance editor Misha Gericke as my guest.

Thanks for having me over, Patsy!

A few weeks ago, Patsy got in touch with me and asked me to write a post about using Excel to keep track of writing and submitting projects. She did so for a good reason. For one thing, I adore Excel. For another, I have been using Excel to keep track of my goals and projects basically for as long as I’ve been writing. (Almost seventeen years. Shhh!)

Here’s the thing, though. Last year, I found something that works miles better than Excel for tracking projects. It’s called Trello, and I think if you’re anything like me, working on multiple story ideas in a year, you’re going to want to make the switch too.

These are my Top 5 reasons why:

1) Excel is actually designed to be a big, automated calculator.

It’s true. While the cells in Excel are good for making color-coded blocks, to fill in the things you need to fill in, and to see things quickly, those cells are actually there to take formulae, automate mathematical calculations, and to make sense of large amounts of numerical data.

Would you want to keep track of your deadlines on what amounts to a glorified calculator? Yeah…me neither.

2) Trello is designed as an app/website aimed at project management.

In other words, it’s literally made for you to know at a glance what’s going on, not only on one project, but all of them, simply, easily, intuitively.

3) Trello is easy and flexible to use.

When you sign up, you get a quick tutorial outlining how everything works. I suggest you play around for the tutorial for a few minutes, but I think you’d be able to do your thing immediately if you’re so inclined.

Basically, though, Trello is like a virtual pin-board with virtual post-it notes. You can make your tracking board as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

More than that, Trello is available as a smart-phone app, so you have exactly no issues with updating your tracking board if you get news while you’re out and about. This right here is probably my number one favorite thing about it.

4) Trello at its most basic has everything you’ll ever need to keep track of your project status.

Easy duplication of tasks between boards? Check.

Color-coded labeling: Check. (Oooh, I do like a bit of colour coding!)

Space for comments, descriptions, updates? Check.

Easy-to-create check-lists: Check.

Easy-to-see due-dates? Check. (Those due dates also automatically change color the closer you get to them.)

It’s almost ridiculous how much information the cards can hold on Trello, and how Trello has managed to pull all that information together to both have everything at your fingertips and not overwhelm you with all that information.

This picture is of my general to-do list, because that’s where I make use of most of the functionality, to give you an idea of the information I can see at a glance:

And then, let me click into one of these cards so you can see what that looks like:

Another cool thing: Trello is awesome if you need to work with someone on something, because you can invite people to a board to coordinate.

But that’s not even the best thing. That would be:

5) Trello is free.

You read that right. While Trello limits the functionality for free users, the free version is so comprehensive and just plain useful that you don’t need anything more. And if you do want some of the extra services they offer, they’re not that expensive to get. In fact, you can get some perks just by inviting people over to coordinate with you.

So why not give Trello a try? You literally have nothing to lose.


Misha Gerrick is a fiction writer and freelancer who lives near Cape Town, South Africa. When she’s not working on either her own stories or someone else’s, you can find her reading, watching movies and series, needlepointing, or hanging out with her horse (which is the cutest thing you’ll ever find).

You can find her at these social networking links:

And at these freelancing platforms:

I'll confess that I do use Excel to track my submissions – yes, it's a big calculator, but it's a glorified one! ;-) How about you, do you have a system in place which works? Has Misha convinced you to give Trello a try?


Helen Laycock said...




Captain Black said...

Endorsing a particular software or service is always going to be a subjective matter. Everyone will have their favourites and everyone works in different ways.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Trello is not the only project management tool, just as Excel is not the only spreadsheet tool.

For those, like me, who enjoy using spreadsheets but don't want to fork out to Microsoft, there's always LibreOffice Calc for free. It works on non-Windows platforms too. Just an example, though I suppose I am endorsing it ;)

Georgie Faye said...

Thanks Patsy, Misha and Captain Black it's always useful to learn about different tools. I guess I'm old fashioned and stick to Excel's To Do List with Project Tracker it gives me task, priority, status and calculates percentage achieved. My problem is I can spend so much time project managing I forget to write!

Patsy said...

@ Helen - that does make it more tempting, doesn't it?

@ Captain Black - You're right that there are lots of alternatives. If people have a system which works for them, it makes sense to continue using it. If their current system doesn't fully meet their needs, or they're yet to set something up then it's a good idea to look at a few alternatives. It's also great to know what works (or not) for other people.

Personally I use Open Office Spreadsheets. This is fine for tracking submissions I've already made, but I don't think I'd find it so helpful for scheduling tasks.

@Georgie - hmm, yes there is that danger!

Misha Gericke said...

@Helen, the fact that it was free and virtual definitely attracted me to it. I actually first started using it because I wanted to move away from a paper and pen diary for tracking my day-to-day tasks. But then when I used it, I realized just how handy it is to keep track of my projects. :-)

@Captain Black, absolutely. I'd say this post is pretty much aimed at people who feel like Excel isn't working for them.

@Georgie that's why I actually ended up moving all my tracking except for word-count calculations to Trello. I just find it's a lot faster to stay on top of everything with Trello, since it only takes me a few minutes at most to create a card, put it where I want it on my priority order (or, since I tend to prioritize by deadline, to just stick a deadline on the card and let Trello sort out the order for me), and create a check-list of everything I still need to do to finish a specific task. I used to do that on Excel, but it almost always made the spreadsheet too unwieldy. And then to keep track of my progress on Trello, it's a matter of dragging something, or clicking something, and then the update is made.

@Patsy, I'm a bit of a schedule fiend. I don't try to plan every hour of my day, but I try to give myself deadlines for nearly everything I do, because that encourages me to get them done. Now, even if I don't make the deadline and I have to move the date up, I'm still aware of that thing because I was reminded of it when I did my overview.

Julia Thorley said...

I use Excel at the moment, but it is a bit unwieldy. Maybe I'll give Trello a whirl.

Unknown said...

Well, I just tried out Trello and... bye-bye Excel! This makes keeping track so much easier and cuts back on the amount of time used moving things around from 'to-do', 'In-progress' and 'Completed', and using separate sheets, etc. I have also been using Evernote, which has a great tagging system and is better for bookmarking web pages (like short story markets, for instance, by genre or pay rates), but I think Trello is more user-friendly and easier on the eye for keeping track on what you are doing and when.

Great tool -- thanks for letting us know!

The Story Smith said...

(Sorry for leaving this a second time but, for some reason, it posted as Unknown!)

Well, I just tried out Trello and... bye-bye Excel! This makes keeping track so much easier and cuts back on the amount of time used moving things around from 'to-do', 'In-progress' and 'Completed', and using separate sheets, etc. I have also been using Evernote, which has a great tagging system and is better for bookmarking web pages (like short story markets, for instance, by genre or pay rates), but I think Trello is more user-friendly and easier on the eye for keeping track on what you are doing and when.

Great tool -- thanks for letting us know!

Ingrid Senger-Perkins said...

I am most definitely going to give Trello a go. When it comes to project management systems, I get quite confused - not difficult to do! Many are created for the executives, so I get that is how they are designed.
I have been thinking about how I am going to keep track of all the projects, and was going to open a new Excel document until I read this! Looking forward to playing around with it. Sounds much better than Wunderlist :)

M.J. Fifield said...

I like Trello. My computer-savvy significant other suggested it to me a while back to help manage my writing projects, and I've found it to be incredibly useful. I recommend it to my writing friends all the time.

Misha Gericke said...

@Julie, I'm sure you won't regret at least playing around with it for a few minutes. ^_^

@Story Smith, that's exactly what I found when I started. ^_^

@Ingrid, from what I understand, Trello was made for the people actually working on those various projects, and I think that's why it suits me so well.

@M.J. I heard of it from a freelance editing agency who wanted to hire me, because they needed their editors to collaborate. But yeah, I love it.

Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! said...

Hi humans, Patsy and Misha,

I shall say "Hello!" to Trello. Thanks for this, my nice human friend, Misha. And thanks to Patsy, another one of my nice human friends.

Pawsitive wishes,

Penny πŸΆπŸ˜€

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I do like the idea of organizing my ideas more easily. Normally I just keep all my writing in various Word documents or in my stack of journals; that makes it harder to keep track of my writing, especially in the journals because I have to keep riffling through the pages.

The Story Smith said...

UPDATE: I have been playing around with this since yesterday and I love it, so thought I'd share.

I've started a board specifically to keep track of MS submissions. I have set up several columns:
1) Story prompts (for mags that request subs in accordance to a theme)
2) In progress (stories that I've just subbed or are still open)
3) Rejected (self-explanatory!)
4) Rejected - asked for more (self-explanatory!)
6)Edits Requested (for stories that need a tweak before acceptance. This list can then be copied and moved to my workflow board when needed)
7) Accepted & Payment (so I know how much I will be paid/exposure)
8)Publication Date.

As the responses come in, it's easy to simply drag and drop each card under the respective list so I know exactly what each submission is doing in a single view. And for anything that gets published, I'm building a list of my CV so I don't have to go digging around for the details. This is also a really easy, simple way to keep track of the places that have invited me to sub work to them in the future.

I can see this will also come in really handy for stories I choose to self-publish when it comes to editing and marketing.

It's defo a winner in this corner!

Anyway, hope that info helps.

Misha Gericke said...

@Penny, glad to help. Send my regards to Gary. ;-)

@Neurotic, I find Trello really helps me keep all that kind of stuff together, especially since I can use the smart phone app to record notes to a project so I don't have to track down a million slips later.

@Story Smith thanks for updating. I'm glad you're finding Trello as helpful as I do. :-)

Keith Havers said...

I use the Open Office suite of programs including the spreadsheet. I'll have a look at Trello though. Thanks, Misha.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

This looks interesting, thanks Misha - I've never liked Excel as it makes me think too much of numerals and calculations!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patsy and Misha - thanks for these snippets of info from you both and from your readers ... interesting to read about - I've signed up for a free account before I left the UK, and before things got a wee bit complicated here ... so I must look into it once again .. cheers Hilary

Carolb said...

Thanks Misha and Patsy, it's always interesting to find out about these things.

Misha Gericke said...

@Keith no problem. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

@Rosemary I love Excel and I still use it to keep track of my word count totals, but I always found that it's unwieldy when it comes to setting and keeping track of my goals, which is a major thing for me.

@Hilary I definitely think it's worth a look. Hope things are settling down for you now. :-)

@Carol You're welcome. I enjoy sharing news about things I've learned. :-)

Patsy said...

@ Misha, I find creating task lists and keeping a rough time frame in mind, so I can see how your approach could work, even though I'm not sure I want to go that far.

@ Julia, I'll be interested to hear which you prefer after you've tried both.

@ The Story Smith - thank you for reporting back!

@ Ingrid, I hope it works for you.

@ Penny, always nice to see you here!

@ Neurotic Workaholic, maybe this will save you some searching time?

@ Keith, I use an axcel type thing too. That works well for recoed keeping, but not so well for scheduling tasks. Maybe you don't want/need that aspect though?

@ Rosemary, it did remind me of a former accounting job at first, but I've got over that with my enthusiastic colour coding.

@ Hilary, I hope you get the chance to look at it and see what you think.

@ Carol, isn't it? Even if it's not what we want at the time, we might need something different in the future - and even if we don't. I like hearing about other people's methods.