How Trello is maintaining my sanity

By Gavin Davies on 8 Septmber 2012

my life is incredibly busy at the moment…

I recently posted about thriving in times of change. Times they are still a’changing and I thought I’d write about how I’m (mostly!) coping – what tools I am using, what strategies.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Jesus Christ, recorded in the Good News according to Matthew, chapter 6 verse 34

As I said, change isn’t inherently good or bad, it’s just a different set of circumstances. It can be stressful, though, when a lot changes at once, and hard to keep track. I’ve been thinking about what Jesus said here and how I can focus on what I can actually impact today and not worry about what I presently have no control over. For example, if a stinking letter from the bank arrives on Saturday at 1pm, and I can’t call up to query it, I gain absolutely nothing by worrying about it. I can, however, ring up and query my phone company about this weird direct debit that I don’t remember setting up…

With this thinking in place, I use a Kanban board, supplied by Trello. This is a kinda Kanban board. I only have a loose understanding of what Kanban is, but to be honest, the Head Chap (software architect, all round chap) at work explained it clearly enough in 60 seconds for me to find it useful. I think the beauty of this vague approach is you can tailor it!

Trello allows you to define “lists”. Each list has “cards” on in. You can drag a card between lists. That’s about it!

My Trello in action
My Trello board

My lists are:

  1. Backlog – all the tasks I have to (or would like to) accomplish. This is a mix of things like “sort out direct debit for phone”, “read Head First C book”, “arrange my lady’s birthday” and “build app to monitor cooker” (don’t ask about that one!)
  2. This week – what I intend to achieve this week
  3. Doing – I put a maximum of 3 things in here. This is the key to the whole thing! The must be achievable, or at least progressable. See my blog post on how short term goals improve morale for why!
  4. Done this month – everything goal I’ve achieved this month

At the end of each month, (4) gets archived – I can still check back, and there’s a great satisfaction in seeing it pile up – I rarely feel discouraged by the mountain of stuff I need to do any more!

You might find this approach useful. You may prefer a hand-made Kanban board with post-it notes or something – it really doesn’t matter – it’s just a way of organising information simply and getting a sense of progress (or velocity).

And the main thing?

I’m only worrying about what I have in front of me. Just knowing that the task is in the backlog (i.e. in my exocortex) means I don’t have to keep it all in my top level brain memory – I can swap it out entirely. This, ladies and gentlemen, has reduced my stress to manageable levels!