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How to Use Trello For Business Systems, Workflows, and Processes 

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The Complete Guide to Consistent and Easy Systems that Eliminate Overwhelm

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Without question, having amazing systems, workflows, processes, and project management (essentially your operations!) in your business is the difference between feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and underpaid to sustainable, profitable, and scalable growth with ease. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to create effective and efficient business operations with Trello!

This guide was created with the specific lens of introducing you to (the power of) Trello, what it can do, and most importantly, HOW to begin creating AND implementing systems into your business that feel amazing.

No matter if Trello is something you’ve never heard of before, or if it’s just another app you signed up for because you saw people raving about it but never understood the excitement, this guide has you covered.

I get it. 

I was the exact same way. I signed up for Trello with excitement but didn’t understand why I couldn’t get into how it could work for me. It’s been a few years since I first signed up and tried Trello, and I’ve figured out how to make Trello work and am excited to help you started for yourself!

This post includes affiliate links to products I use, love, and totally stand behind.

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Chapter 1: What is Trello?

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What is Trello Used For?

Without question, having amazing systems, workflows, processes, and project management (essentially your operations!) in your business is the difference between feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and underpaid to sustainable, profitable, and scalable growth with ease. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to create effective and efficient business operations with Trello!

This guide was created with the specific lens of introducing you to (the power of) Trello, what it can do, and most importantly, HOW to begin creating AND implementing systems into your business that feel amazing.

No matter if Trello is something you’ve never heard of before, or if it’s just another app you signed up for because you saw people raving about it but never understood the excitement, this guide has you covered.

I get it. 

I was the exact same way. I signed up for Trello with excitement but didn’t understand why I couldn’t get into how it could work for me. It’s been a few years since I first signed up and tried Trello, and I’ve figured out how to make Trello work and am excited to help you started for yourself!

This post includes affiliate links to products I use, love, and totally stand behind.

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Why I Love Trello and Recommend It So Much

I could go on for days about why I love Trello and how it’s helped me grow my business SO much. In short, it really checks the boxes on two of my core values, freedom and ease, which then leads to it ticking my third core value’s box, too: joy!

How Trello Compares to Asana (or other similar platforms)

Here’s what I have to say when it comes to comparing Trello to other project/task/organization management software: use what makes you feel good and inspired to keep using it for consistent growth!

It really comes down to personal preference and how it makes you feel. I tell my clients all the time that I could create the most amazing and elegant system plan for them, but if it doesn’t feel orgasmic or inspires them to use it, then it doesn’t matter, right? Notice how big an emphasis I’m putting on feelings and emotions when it comes to systems? That’s how orgasmic operations are created (with head and heart). Focusing solely on an app’s technical features don’t honor you and how you work as a whole.

Using Trello makes me feel so damn good. I love structure but not rigidity. Trello feels dynamic, flexible, and the other reasons I listed above, which at the end of the day, makes me feel free. You do you, boo.

So, if you’re someone who:

Trello is for you! All right, ready to dive in?

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Chapter 2: How to Use Trello

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There’s nothing like staring at the Trello blue screen of death.

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Because Trello is so flexible, the most common problem I hear and get asked for help about is how to set up Trello boards that make sense and work.

This guide is going to solve that problem by giving you some quick start tips and examples that you can adapt to your own needs. Because every person has their own unique way of looking at things, it’s impossible to show all the ways to set Trello up. I’ll show you some ideas and frameworks to get you started so that you can refine the details on your own boards.

Trello Basics

Let’s dig into some Trello features, terminology, and what each can do for your systems, workflows, and processes so that when we get to examples in the guide, you’ll already have a good foundational understanding of how each aspect plays an important part of your business operations.

Boards

Boards represent a project under development, a concept in planning, things that need organization, or an ongoing workflow such as content creation or promotion.

Examples of Trello boards include (but not limited to):

Lists

Lists divide a board into different categories or workflow stages of progress, so that related cards (typically in the same category or stage) can be populated. If your board is set up with lists that have an action-taking aspect to it, you’ll want to set your lists up so that your tasks (cards) flow from left to right.

Examples of categories:

Examples of stages/workflows:

Cards

Houses an item related to your board and list, such as a:

You can attach files, images, comment, add checklists, assign a due date or people to each card.

 

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Labels

Labels let you categorize and sort cards in any way you want. You can apply an unlimited amount of labels to each card. You can simply use the color of a label to organize your cards or give each label a name for more descriptive filtering. And with label filters, you’re able to see only the cards you want to see when you want to see them for improved focus and productivity.

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Checklists

Checklists allow you to create subtasks or smaller steps within a card. They can be added, edited, or deleted at will. You can convert a checklist into a card if need be and assign team members to specific items on the checklist. This makes it super easy to break down big projects and tasks into manageable action steps.

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Teams

Trello gives you a way to group your many boards into similar categories called Teams. For Business Laid Bare, I split my Trello boards into “Business Laid Bare”, “Business Laid Bare Playbook”, and “Business Laid Bare Clients”, because that’s what makes sense for me. Like everything in Trello, you can set up Teams however you like:

It’s not worth it to create a new team with just 1 board in it, unless you really have no choice. This is an important part of how to use trello effectively; eliminate clutter!

Visibility/Privacy

You can set the visibility of boards to private, team-visible, or public.

Trello Shortcuts

There are quite a few shortcuts you can use with your keyboard in Trello. I’m not going to list them all here to add clutter. Below are the ones I use most commonly and recommend you use if you’d like to start:

You can find the complete list of Trello shortcuts here.

Trello Web vs Trello App (iOs/Android) vs Trello Desktop (Windows/Mac)

Trello gives you three ways in which you can use its platform. My preferred method is running Trello on Google Chrome. This allows me to capitalize on all the power-ups and Chrome extension features that the mobile app and desktop applications won’t allow.

I absolutely LOVE their mobile app. They make it so easy to use when I’m on the go and need to make little notes, comments, archive cards, or upload images. Moving both lists AND cards around are so elegantly simple and intuitive! The only downside to the mobile app is you only have access to 3 power-ups (Calendar, Custom Fields, and Voting). When I use Trello on my phone, I’m not looking to work it hard anyways, so it doesn’t bother me.

Trello for Desktop allows you access to all the Power-Ups Trello has to offer. And the biggest edge using the desktop apps has is your ability to create highly customizable and granular shortcuts. But, it doesn’t give you access to the Chrome extensions you’ve installed. I’ve tried the desktop app, and it’s honestly not worth it to me.

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Bonus: How to Use Trello to Organize Your Life!

I’m more than my business, and I know you are, too. With everything you’ve got going on in your life, it’s important to keep organized with as little friction as possible (can I get a HELL YES?!). I love that Trello allows me to easily plan and organize things in my life.

Groceries and Meal Planning

I cook at home as much as possible, and there’s nothing like that dreaded feeling of not knowing what to make each day (which inevitably delays my grocery shopping). I’ve solved this problem by creating a Meal Planning + Groceries board so that every single recipe I can make (along with the link to the recipe if I need it) is right there. It really makes choosing 3-5 meals really easy. Then, I populate my shopping lists with the stuff I need and refer to this shopping list in Trello on my iPhone. When I’ve found something I need, I move it below my separator line.

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House Projects

At the time of writing this, my partner and I are planning to sell our house. I created a Operations: Sell Our House! board that documents everything we need to remember, know, and do to make this process as stress-free as possible. Everything our realtor suggested got written down and turned into action items that we’ve been slowly working off of. The smallest detail gets added, because I know as it gets closer to putting our house on the market, those details will be easily missed.

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Vacations and Adventures Planning

I’m a sucker for finding things I want to do thanks to Facebook videos and Instagram images. Yet, in the past, when it came time to planning vacations and things to do, I’d draw a huge blank. I created an Adventures board that listed things I wanted to do and experience. I broke down the board by places to scuba dive (because diving is TOTALLY our thing), restaurants to eat at (thanks Netflix), and creating lists for time-sensitive and not time-sensitive experiences.

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PRO TIP: Create a new team (or teams) exclusively non-business related so that it’s all organized. Trello’s Personal Boards aren’t helpful, because when other people invite you into a board, it gets populated there. My Personal Boards quickly became the Trello equivalent of a junk drawer.

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How to Set Up Trello

The Most Basic Trello Board Set Up

The easiest and most basic board you can consistently set up in Trello for productivity is the Inbox | To Do | Doing | Done board. That’s 4 lists that flow logically and intuitively from left to right. You definitely can (and most likely will) add more lists to this board, but this is the foundational start of how you’re going to be productive:

I’ve found that after setting up Trello boards for my businesses and numerous clients in varying industries (sex education to potters to spiritual coaches) it comes down to these three set-up categories:

Planning and Organization

This is the board where you’re only wanting to braindump, plan, or keep a log of information in an organized fashion. Whether it be your content ideas, like a membership site content roadmap (with lesson ideas), e-course modules and their corresponding lessons, or even a virtual summit broken down into subject content for each day, creating lists that serve as appropriate categories will help you get everything out of your head into a board where you can see everything.

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Execution/Action-Taking

This is the board where you only see the tasks that are going to be done (like To Do | Doing | Done). What immediately comes to mind for this board are issues/requests/bugs that automatically get populated from other sites into Trello, like Zendesk. For example, a customer submits an issue that they encounter OR sends a help request message via the Zendesk chat box, and it automatically gets populated into the Inbox section of the Trello board. Then the response team will decide what to do with it: dismiss it, queue it up to fix, etc. I personally use this one the least, because I like to see all my planning and tasks in 1 board, which leads me to the final way:

Planning and Execution Hybrid (My Personal Favorite!)

This has become my personal favorite way of setting up my Trello board for ultimate clarity and productivity! The reason is, I do all this planning for whatever project I’m working on, and I have noticed over time that all the things I plan end up becoming tasks I have to do anyway. If I’m planning out e-course content material and breaking them down into modules and lessons, those lessons and accompanying worksheets and resources (if applicable) have to get created anyways. 

So, how I set up this hybrid board is by adding the Execution/kanban lists to the end of my planning. Except, instead of using the word Inbox, I call it Queued. This is the list where I’m queueing up tasks I want to do next from the planning section. And if you don’t like the idea of moving your cards around, because you want to keep them under their respective sections, the Custom Fields Power-Up (which I discuss this very issue in Chapter 5) will be your best friend.

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PRO TIP: Switch out the solid background colors for the stock photos curated by Unsplash! Ever since I started putting images as backgrounds, I’ve been wanting to interact with Trello more!

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Chapter 3: Trello for Business Systems, Workflows, Processes, and Project Management

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All right, this section is where the magic happens! Your systems, workflows, processes, and project management make up your business operations. Having amazing and effective business operations is the difference between:

Your Business Systems and How Trello Plays An Important Role in Them

What is a (Business) System?

A system is a repeatable method used to achieve a specific result. Whether consciously know it or not, you create systems for a lot of things in your life. Think about how you do laundry. Pretty much the same way every time, right? While the clothing changes, it’s more or less wash, dry, fold, and put away. Or, think about how you invoice a client or make your pottery, you’ve got a system (regardless of how efficient or consistent).

When it comes to business, I like to tell my clients to think of a system like a folder, where all your important information and components to achieving that specific result lives: workflows, processes, action plans, resources, tech and team member information, and any other important things you need to keep track of to make achieve said result.

This folder becomes your guidebook that you can use over and over again to achieve the same results with less effort, less time, and more efficiency. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel each time. Once it’s created, it shouldn’t require intensive thought or effort to follow and repeat. You know the phrase, “Work Smarter, Not Harder?” Systems are what makes that reliably happen.

If you’re asking, “How do I even start to create a system when I don’t know what things go into it?” My favorite suggestion is to create a mind map that puts the thing you want to systematize in the center and branch out from there. The branches will include tasks, goals, stages of work, tech and application needs. It doesn’t have to be orderly, logical, or make perfect sense, yet. Just get it all out. What you’re doing with this mind map is essentially a strategic brain dump to see what all the needed pieces are and how they connect to another. You might see that some things you thought you needed will become extraneous or add something you never thought was needed!

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PRO TIP: Create a mind map with the aspect of your business you want to systematize in the center with branches that point to all the things your system needs to work.

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Why is Trello Perfect for Business Systems?

If you’re someone who needs to see the Big Picture of everything to understand the logic to feel organized, like me, Trello satisfies that by illustrating how interconnected everything is to the system as a whole and also how those smaller parts stand up on their own.

Trello is a perfect platform to house your systems because it has the capabilities of keeping all your information organized at the 10,000 feet and folder level. You can easily hand this “folder” off when you’re ready to delegate and just as easily refer to it yourself.

Here are some examples of how to use Trello for your business systems:

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Use 1 Central “Hub” Board: great for when you bring on new team members so you can onboard them without having to sound like a broken record. It saves you time by not having to go over the same spiel again and reduces room for error or forgetting to let your new team member know something. You can easily link to other smaller boards for ease.

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Sabrina Torres of Be Truly Social is my go-to for all things social media!

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Using Trello Teams to Create a Playbook: Create a new team (this acts as your folder) to house all the boards of things you want to systematize. You can have a membership site creation board if you create membership sites often. You can have a Blogging board that breaks down your blogging system. In essence, each board is a chapter/section of your overall book.

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Your Workflows and How Trello Plays An Important Role in Them

What is a Workflow?

A workflow the way work gets done through distinguishable and essential stages. To make it easier to visualize, workflows are like roadmaps with visible mile markers (another word?) along the way from START to FINISH.

Think of it literally as work flowing from one stage to the next, whether that’s through you, a contractor, tool, or another process. You can execute a full workflow alone (like writing, editing and publishing a blog post), or it can involve multiple people (you write the blog post and someone else edits).

Workflows are an important part of your systems because it allows you to see where work can get stuck so that you can fix and optimize for it. For instance, if you’re trying to get a blog post out, and your card spends a LOT of time in the drafting/writing section, it’s easier to understand where the block is happening and to find ways to fix the problem (like writers block, not knowing what to write, imposter syndrome, etc.)

In terms of improving efficiency, you may find tips and tricks to help you write your blog posts better and quicker. Whether that be creating bullet points for your blog posts first, finding topics to blog about (with conversion-worthy headlines), or speaking and getting your words dictated into a document, it’s improving upon the workflow and worth documenting.

Or, if you notice that you’re spending way too much time in the “Editing” stage of your YouTube video workflow, it’s time to optimize that stage by either simplifying your editing process or outsourcing it to people who are great at it.

Why is Trello Perfect for Workflows?

Trello is PERFECT for creating workflows easily. The best way to set it up workflows is by creating lists.

That’s it. Each list you create in your Trello board is a workflow stage (unless you’re using the board for JUST idea generation and planning and not actually getting something done). Trello makes it so intuitive to create, edit, and re-arrange your lists to your heart’s content.

Don’t worry if your workflows aren’t perfect right off the bat. Business operations, in general, are a living, breathing, and ever-evolving entity, just like your business.

Workflows are really handy when there are multiple people involved in executing your system/business goal. If you outsource your blog post editing task, for example, you can create a stage in your workflow that signals to your editor that your draft is ready for them to edit when you move it into the “Editing” stage. This minimizes emails and eliminates confusion. Your editor will always know when a blog post is ready to be edited, and when they’re done, they can move the card to the next stage in your workflow, signaling back to you to take over.

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I always will know what my video editor is doing and when videos are ready for me to upload to YouTube. Thanks, Nelson!

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A GOOD Workflow:

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A BAD Workflow:

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When it comes to creating great workflows, here are some tips to remember:

Here are some more Trello workflow examples  to help you create yours:

(Sometimes I refer to Trello workflow examples as Trello roadmap examples)

Your Processes and How Trello Plays An Important Role in Them

What is a Process?

A process is a series of steps and decisions involved in the way work is completed. In other words, it’s like an instruction manual where you follow the steps in a sequential/numeric order.

Processes are essential for making your system work effectively because this is where the action takes place. A process is the fuel that makes your system engine run (while workflows keep it all orderly).

Processes further help you remain consistent in your business. It’s the cherry on top that helps you maintain peace of mind knowing that if you (or your team members) followed the steps from start to finish, you’re not going to miss or forget anything.

When you use a process to complete something, you’re following a set of instructions which (aside from minor tweaks) remain consistent every time. This means that any project you complete by following a process will have much more reliable results, giving you more consistency in what you deliver to your clients, customers, and peers.

Here are some process examples:

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PRO TIP: Screen-record your processes! It’s the easiest way to start creating process, especially around things you do often. My go-to app for this is the Loom Chrome extension or Quicktime Player for Mac.)

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Why is Trello Perfect for Processes?

Your processes can live on Trello via these ways:

Speaking of consistency again, having a set process allows you to easily track your tasks and optimize them over time. Like workflows, this allows you to identify problems in the way you execute the task and assess where you can save time.

You’ll quickly see where you can automate certain aspects. Meaning, instead of doing it manually, you’d have found a solution that does it for you on the Internet. There are SO many apps and integrations on the web nowadays that getting things to work automatically is becoming more accessible, like Zapier or IFTTT!

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Your Project Management and How Trello Plays An Important Role in It

Are you seeing how important having great systems, workflows, and processes are in your business? If processes are the cherry on top, then project management is like the moment you take a bite and savor your favorite sundae, hence why this section was saved for last. It’s the time where you’re doing the work and reaping the benefits to come as a result of it.

Creating and having effective systems in your business lead to you having better project management skills…also known as the art of being excellent at getting shit done.

What is Project Management?

Project management is the practice of initiating, planning, and executing the work achieve specific goals (either solo or as a team).

Every project has tasks, and sometimes tasks have their own sub-tasks. 

Especially when you have a project that’s ongoing, like blogging or YouTube’ing, the systems (workflows and processes) for completing each project is the most important, so that you can consistently lean on and work them for efficiency and energy/time-saving on your part. When you have projects that are not ongoing, like hosting a yearly in-person event, it’s important to be thorough and document this project journey so that you can turn this into a system for next year and not have to reinvent the wheel. Or use this experience for similar events, like a yearly online event. Keep in mind that the ongoing and finite examples below aren’t clear-cut. You may decide that creating e-courses will go from a quarterly project to something you do weekly/monthly.

Examples of ongoing projects:

Examples of finite projects:

Why is Trello Perfect for Project Management

Project management is pretty much why you did the work to create systems in the first place. Systems, workflows, and processes lead to efficient project management, which leads to higher productivity (and more revenue). And when you have all the components you need pretty much inside of Trello and by following the frameworks and recipes detailed in this guide, you’ve set yourself up for success.

My favorite answer when people ask about how to use Trello for project management is the the Planning + Execution hybrid model for project management, because I like to plan out my ideas and see where those ideas/tasks are all in one spot. 

This is my general process for managing projects in Trello:

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PRO TIP: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, especially if you’re going to be running that project again. Example: if you are planning and project managing your first of many virtual summits, take the time to document and create good systems of what you’re doing while you’re executing. You’ll be so thankful that the next virtual summit you host, most of the work will be done for you already and ready to be implemented.

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Project management turns ambitious ideas into workable and actionable plans. Good systems, workflows, and processes make those workable and actionable plans exponentially more efficient and easier. This is the culmination of working smarter. What more could you ask for?

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Chapter 4: Trello Power-Ups

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What are They?

Power-Ups bring extra functionality, fields, and data to your Trello account. It’s essentially an integration. You could just as easily be successful and productive without using any Power-Ups. By default, Trello is a pretty slimmed down application. It’s features are basic but important, allowing it to be flexible and universal. When you’ve decided what you need from each board, you can use Power-Ups to enhance work.

You can sync Trello with some of your other favorite apps you already use (Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc). There are 100+ Power-Ups you can choose from, and they are constantly adding new ones.

The amount of Power-Ups allowed per board depends on the tier of Trello you’re using:

My Favorite Trello Power-Ups

Below are my absolute favorite Trello Power-Ups. Not every board I use has the same Power-Ups. It really depends on what I’m trying to accomplish and need.

Planyway

The biggest feature I wish Trello had was the ability to see all of my tasks from all of my boards on one master calendar. This Power-Up solves that need! It’s your calendar on steroids: 

They also have a Chrome Extension which I’ve moved to, why waste precious Power-Up space when you can have unlimited Chrome extensions?

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Butler

Butler takes all the things you’d normally do manually in Trello and does it for you. If you get turned on by automation, Butler’s your Power-Up. To explain everything Butler can do is a another blog post on its own. Some of my favorite ways to use Butler:

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Custom Fields

At first, I didn’t understand why this Power-Up was amazing until I sat down and gave it an earnest try. Custom Fields are a way to give cards more quick context, and much more functionality.

You can:

Specific examples of how this can work for you:

Pretty much anything you can think of relating to dropdowns, checkboxes, dates, or having a field to add unique information, this Power-Up is for you!

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TeamGantt

While I mentioned Planyway’s Team Timeline view as a simplified Gantt chart, I still have to include TeamGantt’s Power-Up to this list because of how powerful using Gantt charts are. So, hear me out: Gantt Charts can sound icky, because it’s tied to a traditional project management methodology. But, I still talk about how awesome they are and recommend viewing projects this way because I genuinely believe in the power of visualizing a project plan and tasks this way.

This Power-Up gives you the ability to view your cards in a really beautiful timeline sorted by how the tasks (cards) are grouped (list).

I’m a very visual person, so anything I can get my hands on to see things in a way that makes sense gets an A+ in my book.

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Calendar

Even though we talked about Planyway being a calendar on steroids, there’s something beautiful about viewing cards in a simplified calendar format, which is where this Power-Up comes in. 

This is best for any board where tasks are time-dependent. For example, I use the calendar power-up on my blogs board as it helps me stick to my publishing schedule. Once you enable the calendar power-up, you can view all your Trello cards in a calendar view allowing you to have a holistic view of the whole project. You can also use the calendar power-up to sync due-dates in Trello to your personal calendar and then they will show up there. 

There are many times I wish this was a freebie power-up that if you chose to enable it, wouldn’t count, because dates are so important for me visually. Then I realized that not every Trello board I use has date-specific content, like when I plan out membership site content or e-course modules and lessons. This again reminds me of Trello trying to keep things simple.

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Chapter 5: Trello Chrome Extensions

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What are They (and how are they different than Power-Ups)?

Chrome extensions for Trello offer even more enhanced functionality to using Trello that Power-Ups don’t offer. They vary from little tweaks to full on apps (like Trello has their own Chrome extension). I find myself using Trello Chrome Extensions to add smaller tweaks to my user experience. Keep in mind that these extensions only work if you’re using Trello on the Chrome browser.

I like to think of it this way: Trello Power-Ups provide enhanced capabilities while Trello Chrome Extensions provide enhanced usability/functionality.

My Favorite Extensions:

Next Steps

I absolutely LOVE using the checklist feature in Trello, but the problem was, all Trello would show me on the card was a little checkbox with how many things of the total list I’ve checked off…not helpful. Next Steps actually shows you the next thing on your checklist (or 5 or all depending on how you set it up). I absolutely love it because I know what is needed to be done next so I can check it off!

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Separators

This simple extension creates a new card with just a thin divider line. When I have a list that has a LOT of (sometimes random) cards, like in Inbox, grouping similar cards together and then separating them out with a separator helps me feel that much more organized.

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Collapsible Trello Lists

When you have a ton of lists that how you scrolling horizontally for days, this extension allows you to easily collapse and bring up any Trello board.

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Card Color Tiles for Trello

I love using labels to further organize my Trello content, but Trello’s default labels only showcase the color of the label until you click on the card to actually see what that label represents. This extension solves that issue by putting the name of the label right on the outside of the card!

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Chapter 6: Trello Pricing (Trello Gold, Trello Business Class)

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Trello offers 4 tiers: Trello Free, Trello Gold, Trello Business Class, and Trello Enterprise (we won’t talk about Enterprise as it’s pretty out of this article’s scope). 

Trello Gold offers a way for individual users to take their Trello use to the next level, Trello Business Class is intended for multi-user teams to have more fine-grained control over who can access their boards, and Trello Enterprise allows for concierge support as well as additional security features important for large-scale enterprise teams.

Trello Free

Trello Gold ($5/mo or $45/year)

Trello Business Class ($12.50/mo or $119.88/year)

Which is Right for You?

Is Trello Gold worth it? Hell yes! I use Trello Gold myself, and it’s working wonders. Personally, figuring out what Trello plan (free or paid) you need is most likely going to come down to how many Power-Ups you want to enable per board. 

Bigger file uploads issues can be mitigated by uploading your content into Dropbox, Google Drive, or Amazon Web Services (S3). Custom board backgrounds aren’t necessary because Unsplash images are amazing.

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Next Steps!

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All right! From this guide, you’ve got everything you need to start creating business systems, workflows, processes, project management strategy in your business that feel orgasmic, which ultimately lead you to:

Which ultimately lead to more growth in opportunities and revenue (which then leads back to freedom; it’s a beautiful cycle).

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