Trello: How I Found Balance in My List Obsession

Once upon a time, I was a habitual list maker — grocery lists, to-do lists, prioritized lists, wish lists, work lists, personal lists, kid lists, husband honey-do lists — my lists had sub-lists. I would drive myself crazy with lists of things to do that never got done. It was some kind of self-injurious behavior I was using to validate my negative self-talk. Twisted, I know.

Why write about a twisted personal behavior for a public, professional blog post? I don’t think I am the only personal who battles the list-making defect, and this affliction affected me personally and professionally. Why not share my experience on how I overcame this nasty habit.

About 8 years ago, I came to realize I had to change a whole lot of things, and I began an adventure in learning a new way to live. In this adventure, I took to abandoning my list addiction. No more lists. I was no longer going to measure my successes or claim failures by what I did or did not get checked off a list. I was free…..

Sort of free.

I personally felt a freedom based in the changing of my internal belief system. I did learn to release a lot of my need to control and hyper-organize (a lovely, insidious form of procrastination). I learned I was not the sum of checked boxes.

Professionally, I needed to keep up with all the balls in the air. I came to realize my memory was not what it used to be. I leaned on spreadsheets and calendar reminders rather than handwritten lists. I lined up post-it notes in columns on my desk, on whiteboards, pinned to corkboards. I cannot help but laugh when I think back on it all.

At some point during a team meeting, I was challenged on my opinion of list making. It was brought to my attention that I had just switched from lists to reminders and post-it notes. I realized I still harbored a resentment against lists, yet I had to acknowledge there was a definite need for organization, potentially even via lists. I was ready to try something else new to reduce the insane post-it note consumption.

I was introduced to Wunderlist. “Wunderlist is the easiest way to get stuff done. Whether you’re planning a holiday, sharing a shopping list with a partner or managing multiple work project, Wunderlist is here to help you tick off all your personal and professional to-dos.” I never connected with Wunderlist. As you can imagine the name itself threw me off. In reality, it was not robust enough to take the place of my spreadsheets and post-it notes (circa 2 years ago).

I had already been toying with Basecamp, which “puts everything you need to get work done in one place..,” which was a useful tool with a lackluster user experience. Basecamp 3 was launched at the end of 2015, and I thoroughly enjoyed the improvements to the application. Still something was missing for me.

I was introduced to Trello and immediately gravitated towards this application that mirrored my post-it note column strategy. Trello is “Infinitely flexible. Incredibly easy to use. It’s free. Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details.

Trello uses the kanban paradigm for managing projects… Projects are represented by boards, which contain lists (corresponding to task lists). Lists contain cards (corresponding to tasks). Cards are supposed to progress from one list to the next (via drag-and-drop), for instance mirroring the flow of a feature from idea to implementation. Users can be assigned to cards. Users and boards can be grouped into organizations.” –Wikipedia

I love Trello. It has replaced a majority of my spreadsheets, it sends me reminders when I set them, and it allows me to communicate seamlessly with the team at Sourcetoad. It helps me keep all the balls in the air. I even create lists when needed and check off the boxes happily as items are completed, without any personal attachment to my self-worth. Although I think that’s more of a change in me than a benefit of Trello, Ha!. Still totally worth a mention. Progress, not perfection; professionally and personally!

My suggestion is to try them all and figure out what works best for you. We live and work in a wonderful era full of options for organization and healthy list creation. These applications often tie into other software to provide an even more contiguous organizational experience, and I only scratched the surface of what is available. Feel free to tweet me @DeborahCAN to chat about your experience with habitual list creation and how you popped out to see the other side.