Why I love Trello

Recommending tools to people is a risky business. What if they hate it? What if they hate me for ruining their previous workflow? What if they don’t want efficiency, they want familiarity and predictability?

Wailing Baby

Waaaaaaa!

At times in our lives the best we can do is survive. We aren’t all striving for greatness with the same intensity at the same time. Far from it. Stability is underrated to those who live for today, but for those recently battered by storms of misfortune, or childbirth, it is enough to simply go through the motions. It happens to all of us.

Human beings aren’t machines.

Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times

We make a difference in many different ways. Some of us are steady contributors; others are dead-weight for long stretches before making transformational impacts in micro-moments. We didn’t build the team and we aren’t here to judge anyone; we are here to help.

Everything I do must start with a human and end with a human.

To forget humans at any point in systems design creates only noise and technical debt.

When I set out to design a “website” I am really designing a system interface between the client, their users, and the world at large.

And by system interface, I mean a rapid Vulcan Mind meld which leads to a secure value exchange and sparks a new long-lasting and mutually-beneficial relationship.

Vulcan Mind Meld

Vulcan Mind Meld

It’s powerful stuff to grok the value propositions of the client and the true needs of the users, all while filtering out the noise and technical debt that has polluted the air.

Clients and their value propositions are shockingly difficult to understand.

We do our homework but at some point we take on faith that they have something to offer. We can’t know their business or their clients as well as they do. They know themselves but the Gordian knot of spaghetti code tangled around them has obfuscated their vision. They don’t know the way forward but fake it bravely every day. They are kings and queens lost in their own jungle and now so are you.

Medicine Man

Australian medicine man with magic healing crystal.

You were brought in as a medicine man. You are here not to make a “website”, but to untangle the true nature and place of their value propositions in a competitive digital world. They need you to understand who they are, what they do best, what they suck at, and how to improve them drastically without changing them much.

You are here to show them how to unblock their creative energies, find themselves as a brand, as a business, as a team, and as individuals and maybe even have a little fun. They assume you can do that unobtrusively in eight to ten weeks with a “website”.

They are blissfully unaware that no piece of their human-based value-exchange system exists without the other. They are in denial. A “website” isn’t what they need. Re-discovering who they are is what they need; the website is simply to share their journey. It must tell a story of self-discovery with a killer value proposition and a happy ending.

Somewhere within their best intentions exists a genie that can’t get out. They are trapped by their tools and their familiar workflow and perhaps, momentarily, by their humanity. None of this is their fault, per se.

But there is a way to help.

How? Surely Trello can’t do all this?

We want to help in big ways, transformational ways, but, again, people don’t always want to be transformed. Give them a pill to lose the weight. Better yet, cast a spell over my tanning booth. Wait, forget the pill and make the spell have me lose weight, get a tan, and pay my bills k-bye-thanx!

What does this have to do with Trello?

Trello Welcome Board

Trello Welcome Board

I am hopeful that Trello will be the tool that gently leads us out of the jungle and safely back home.

Water Stick

Water Stick

Trello is my water-stick. It will lead us out of confusion, noise and technical debt and into the clear, a plateau high above the plains, where together we will see from horizon to horizon how vast their kingdom is.

It will nudge them to rethink everything about who they are and what they are doing. Because Trello surreptitiously forces you re-organize your entire workflow into manageable bits. And you have fun thinking about building ontologies and workflows without knowing that you’re doing it.

What’s more, Trello can integrate my clients, my teams, and my projects directly into my personal workflow.

What does that mean?

I use the Scrum method to get things done. It consists of making four living lists.

Backlog: a long to-to list of tasks in a project.
Today: my short list to-do now.
Yesterday: the items I completed yesterday.
Archive: All the yesterdays. Trello auto-archives as well.

Scrum boards in Trello

Scrum boards in Trello

I build these cards into every Trello project board.

I use a Pomodoro Clock and work in 25 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks. Each morning I map out my day into 30 minute blocks with about 12 Pomodoros baked into the schedule. That’s 5 hours of actual work and one hour of breaks. In an 8 hour day, that leaves two hours for meetings and lunch. More meetings means fewer Pomodoros.

Pure fantasy. More likely I’ll get 5 – 10 Pomodoros, and pause the clock for interruptions. Other times I might just reset the clock and keep working or I might rearrange all of it on the fly. Whatever works and keeps me working on the right things at the right time. These are living lists and I’m only human.

This method fits into Trello as if it were made for it. Trello helps me learn to chunk my work into measurable units and better estimate my time. It helps me stay productive and focused. It helps me rearrange, clarify and optimize on the fly.

I even made template teams for new “website” projects within Trello to bootstrap the process of on-boarding new clients.

Trello Client Project Template

Trello Client Project Template

I am hopeful my clients will use Trello early and often to help sculpt my backlog into a turn-by-turn map out of their jungle.

Even if they don’t use it I can integrate their documents into my Trello workflow and simply manage the project alone. If necessary I can print it out and show them my project checklists. Being humans, many of them will completely ignore Trello but they will sleep well knowing I wield a mean water-stick.

That’s why I love Trello.

Thanks for your time.