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  • Writer's pictureDr Sam Lynch

Tools You Need: Trello

Updated: Mar 28

I’m definitely a sucker for a new app or tool. I blame it on getting my first email account just as I left university and being a MSN messenger addict. Later in my career I had a love affair with Wunderlist then cheated on it with Apple Notes but in the end I just got bored. At home I made friends with Amazon Alexa (to play BBC Radio and do my shopping list) and not forgetting the old pen and paper which has been my steadfast friend since the year dot. I tried bullet journals too and still toy with them once in a while, but I have found digital tools often provide a more flexible format for getting things done efficiently particularly when you have a lot on your to-do list.

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This leads me on to work tools such as Asana, and Slack - you’ve probably heard or know of some of these tech tools being banded about as the supposed answer to keeping all the work project plates spinning. But I recently caved and thought I would give Trello a try to see if it could help my workflow and productivity. Do you know what? So far so good. I talk a lot about career goals, productivity, surviving and thriving in academic life on the blog and I am all about working smart. So here's my lowdown on Trello - perhaps it might work for you too!

What is Trello?

Trello is like a more productive version of Pinterest for work! Well that's how I see it anyway. Here's a quick tour of trello you can read or the a quick youtube clip if you are up to your eyeballs in academic reading and can't be bothered looking at even more text this afternoon. If you are keen for more here's a whole tutorial to watch from the team - go on, you know you want to.

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What are the main features of Trello?

Trello is great, if a to-do list, apple notes list, outlook task list or bullet journal just isn't quite cutting it anymore. Instead of having a to-do list as tall as Mount Everest here you can create lots of smaller to do lists and to sharpen your focus on your key priorities. It's a nice way to feel a bit more in control when you are struggling to fit everything in. It's flexible too, so you can move priorities and lists as things change. You can integrate it with your iCal or Google calendar too and share parts or all of your board with others. If you manage a team - post comments and tag others in tasks to cut down on emails. Especially those reply all ones - don't get me started on those. The tool begins with a board which you can create lists on and within each list you can add cards (think of these as bullet points on your list).

Device usability?

Download to your Mac as an app (if you’re one of those Microsoft types, respect - I struggle to find my way around a MS desktop these days), your iPhone, your tablet and if all fails, you can access online via the Trello website.

Getting started?

Easy, peasy. Your three year old will master it faster than you. Hop over to and sign up for an account. I didn’t find I was bombarded with emails when I signed up which is a big plus, so far the only emails I have received have been triggered by me so here’s to not clogging up your inbox. Don't go overboard - create one board and use it well. Put everything on it and then if you really have to set up another board and move the information. One board works really well for me and I would be very reluctant to start setting up others without good reason. Again - depends what you are doing, your team size etc.

Good to know

  • Trello is great for managing team and group projects, but if you are flying solo as an academic it works really effectively just for you when you are flooded with tasks. Planning teaching during a global pandemic definitely fits in that category.

  • Widgets - there are a ton of widgets (or power-ups) you can add to the board - very snazzy. I'm keeping it simple for now. Perhaps I’ll do a Trello update later down the line if and when I choose to enhance my board.

  • You can get template boards - perhaps my one doesn’t fit the bill or you just want to have a sneak peak out there. Its accessible on Trello under the templates section

  • It’s free - the bog standard Trello is free, nada, no cash required. I see some PhD students raising their eyebrows with interest lol! I hate paying for something that I can do myself already and I think it’s the beauty of it. You can up your Trello to Trello business or Trello gold if you need additional features or are a business.

  • You can make boards public and private - perhaps you want to share one with your writing group and another with your programme team. You can also share individual parts of your board.

Access your ready-made Trello Board

Now over the years I have realised that all of these tools, while great, do not replace your ability to think, so approach with quiet caution. The tool should not take up more time (apart from initial set up) and should make you more efficient. I've done all the work for you, so here is a shiny new Trello board to get you going. Feel free to copy it over - i've left some instructions on how to do that here just scroll down to the section marked 'board'.

Access our Trello Board by visiting our store here

Try it out, see what you think. I'd like to know what you think and how you are using it. Either drop me a line via twitter @drsamlynch or DM me via insta also @drsamlynch and let me know how it's working for you. If you have any tips of your own please share.

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