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Today, we have a special treat! Community Leader, self-proclaimed Trello nerd, software engineer, blog author, and productivity guru extraordinaire @Brittany Joiner is with us to talk about an extensive love for automation, what productivity means today, and of course, the best secrets on organizing all the things with Trello.
My name is Brittany Joiner, and I’m obsessed with Trello. I’ve been a big productivity nerd ever since I was a kid. When my friends were reading Harry Potter, I was reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. (Don’t worry - I’ve since read Harry Potter.) So now I love to incorporate my love for tech and my love for productivity.
Ever since I discovered Trello about 8 years ago, it’s been such a delight to solve so many organizational problems with my digital whiteboard. When I’m not writing or talking about Trello, you’ll find me coding at my full-time job as a Software Engineer at Elastic, OR playing with my pup, reading a book, traveling, or taking a walk around the levee with my partner in Baton Rouge, LA (where I live!).
(view from the Levee!)
I was first introduced to Trello about 8 years ago when I worked in a marketing agency and they used it to keep track of projects for clients. I was like, “This is so easy to use!” I then became more familiar with Kanban and decided I wanted to organize my life in the same fashion as agile methodologies (you know, with sprints, retrospectives, etc), and I thought about using Trello to do that.
Funnily enough, at the time I was choosing between Asana and Trello and I chose Trello because I could add labels to things for free (at the time that was a paid feature in Asana). So I picked Trello and then have constantly been amazed at all the things it can do - besides just labels 😂. Not only was it easy to use when I first started, but it was also so powerful and easy to customize as I needed it to do more complex things.
For the longest time, we’ve all thought productivity was about doing more and doing it faster. It took me years of burnout before I realized productivity is actually about doing less, and only doing the right things that are most valuable. If I’m working 60+ hours a week, that’s not productivity for me… that’s laziness and lack of prioritization.
Trello helps me sort out all the things I can do, and then make sure I’m only focusing on the ones that matter. I’ve created systems in Trello to help with that, such as only adding tasks if I can add a label to it, and each label is a priority category for me (like relationships, career growth, etc.). If I add a task to my board but can’t figure out what label it fits under, it’s probably not a priority and I shouldn’t do it.
I’m also able to keep track of what I’m working on and force myself to focus on what I’ve determined is a priority, rather than chasing every idea that pops into my head.
I use Bulk Actions quite a bit for making changes to a Trello board, like mass applying labels or due dates or deleting cards - it’s perfect for when I need to clean up a board.
If I’m doing anything at all with contacts on a board, I use Crmble (I previously wrote a blog post about how to build a CRM in Trello, and then the Crmble team created a power-up that automates all the things I mentioned in there plus reporting, so that’s really helpful for organizing contacts in my Trello boards).
Blue Cat just released a Forms Power-Up that I was able to beta and I’ve got about five new boards I want to create with it because it’s so useful. You can create a public link with a form, and whenever someone fills out that form it creates a new Trello card and can map those answers to a card description or custom fields or date fields! Going to start incorporating that in a bunch of workflows, and I already built a “CBT” tool for myself to help with my anxiety (I fill out the form to talk myself through specific questions when I’m feeling anxious and it helps me process them without letting my brain run amuck).
I get a lot of people ask me about Trello and how to do things and if I have any courses, and at the moment my answer has typically been “oh there’s a random video here, random video there, you can find my blog posts on the Trello blog…” but I realized it would be much nicer to have an organized all-in-one place to keep my Trello shenanigans :)
So I created a blog/newsletter where I can curate content that I’ve written and just have a space to write about anything that interests me, like why I like Trello better than Monday.com or how to plan a trip with Trello. Sometimes I just write about new things I’m doing with Trello or new features/power-ups I’ve found, but I also let my readers decide what I write about by filling in a topic on a Trello board and then upvoting those topics!
I’m a big fan of Apple Notes - I think it’s a super underrated tool and it’s really great for brainstorming and taking notes in, but I’ve recently started playing with Obsidian, which is another note taking tool that lets you write in Markdown.
I’m also a big fan of the Google Docs suite for sharing documents like spreadsheets/word/presentations (and of course linking them inside Trello). I also love to organize myself with some Zapier automation - I have a zap for things like sending me an email reminding me to donate and offset my carbon anytime I book a flight.
For a newbie, I recommend playing around with labels. They’re a really powerful way to organize your board because you can filter your board by them, it’s a great way to visualize how your tasks are organized. When you’re ready to go to the next level there’s tons of automation available with them.
Speaking about the next level… If you're ready to up your Trello game, I recommend diving into Automation for Trello. And if you’re like, “Yeah, I’ve set up a Butler rule before, so I’ve done that,” head back into the Automation section and look at all the things you can do. Even if you’ve already started playing with Automation, there’s A TON you can do with it; I feel like even I’m just scratching the surface of it sometimes.
Just last week, I built a couple rules that let me seamlessly move cards back and forth between the correct lists on different boards so I could have one big "Backlog" board and one “Current Sprint" board. (I’m working on a course about Trello Automation, so make sure you’re subscribed to my Substack if you want more info on that!)
For every meeting that could have been an email, there’s an email that could have been a link to a Trello card. Asynchronous communication has become more important now than ever since many of us are not in the same place when we’re getting work done.
And while it’s nice to be able to hop on zoom or send emails and discuss project updates, if your team is actually using Trello, there’s no need to waste anyone’s time with “status updates” because all of that info can live right inside the card. I’ve been able to work asynchronously with colleagues across the world to launch ad campaigns just by communicating directly through our Trello cards.
My magic wish would be that you could apply custom hex color values to labels because I even though it's not a feature I need, i feel like it somehow stops a lot of people from using Trello or turns them off to the idea of using Trello because it's a basic feature they expect to be able to use.
That being said, there are a handful of Chrome Extensions that will let you customize labels and do some really cool things to them, so this shouldn't be a limiting factor for folks!
I’m looking forward to some international travel! Currently planning a trip to Italy and Netherlands!
I’m very active on Twitter, so feel free to head over there and say hello, and subscribe to my Trello substack and you’ll get all my latest and greatest Trello details and also be able to get in touch with me over there. You’ll also see me pretty active around the Trello section of the Atlassian Community.
Thanks so much, Brittany! Check out her pieces on the Trello blog, and be sure to subscribe to her Substack for even more Trello fun.
Content & Programs Manager
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