How Trello has organized my creative thoughts

If you have a creative mind, I bet you're a lot like me in that you have too many ideas floating around in your head all the time, and if you don't write them down immediately you'll forget them and kick yourself about why you didn't remember "that one great thing you thought of that one time while you were doing that thing."

How I'm using Trello to Optimize my Creative Small Business


I stumbled on Trello a few weeks ago while reading this blog article about getting yourself organized. As a small business owner with a full time job, this particular post from Kath at Create and Thrive (an awesome blog for creatives, btw) really resonated with me. The goal was to organize a schedule for your day by coming up with a list in the morning and strategically planning out your time blocks to get your work done but to also factor in important parts of your day like appointments, relaxing... and eating. 


But in the last paragraph, Kath mentioned Trello. I don't know what made me decide to click on the link, but I did, and my whole world changed. Instantaneously. You see, I'm a note hoarder. I love making checklists. I love writing to-do notes on sticky notes. They cover my desk at work, and my workspaces at home. I carry three (yes, 3) notebooks in my handbag that are each tasked with certain topics so I can jot down notes about my plans whenever I'm not directly next to my pile of sticky notes. But I never get rid of them. Ever. I rarely crumple them up, because I may need that note again... you know, someday. 


And now I can honestly say that I haven't written a single sticky note since I started using Trello a few weeks ago. For those who aren't familiar, Trello is a free organization system that's online and that's also available as a free app. It works like a combination of a calendar, a pile of sticky notes, and Pinterest. The lovely people there do a great job of introducing the concepts of Trello in their overview so I won't go into detail on how the levels of Trello work (if you're interested, go through their demo yourself, it's super informative), but I'll lay it out in terms of what Trello has done for me as a scatter-brained entrepreneur, and how I've been using Trello to manage so many aspects of my business that it's hard to fathom how sticky notes could even compare. 

Trello Boards


First thing's first. Boards. Similar to Pinterest, you make boards for the large picture description of your organizational needs. As you see above, I have four starred boards: one for paintings for Phylogeny Art, an overview of goals for 2015, one for craft show prep, and one for my wedding invitation shop Harmony Mill Paperie. My starred boards are the ones I'm most interested in using, and the ones that show up on the top of the page. As you'll see below the starred boards, that one green one... that's one of my coworkers who decided it would be fun to share a board of things to do for our workplace (a topic I won't go into detail on here, but yes, Trello is a GREAT tool for managing groups and is used by a lot of companies for designating responsibilities for its members... who can then update the whole group in comments on shared boards. Amazing. But not something I'm using actively). 


Clicking on a board brings up the lists within that board (here's where the awesome happens). One of my main issues in my creative mind is that I come up with TONS of ideas for paintings... ones that I'll do when I have spare time (what spare time?). Before Trello, I used to have to flip through pages upon pages of notebooks looking through the ideas I had jotted down once upon a time. Now, I click on my list for Phylogeny Paintings in Trello and this is what I see. I have several lists within this board, but you'll notice that I've separated out my main themes for my watercolors: flowers, butterflies, and birds. I also have a list for oil paintings, which I've just started getting into as a medium but I wanted to be sure to write down any ideas I had as they come to me. 

Trello brainstorming lists

Each list contains the main ideas I've come up with. Flower ideas right now include dogwood blossoms and cherry blossoms, for example. Each of those is called a card, and a card can be used to organize SO many things. You can add photo attachments like I have here (from combing through old memory cards). You can put in a description, like where the pictures was taken or when (and for my purposes, the species name for future reference). 


I can also put in photos of painting progress, like this robin. I had to do it in about 3 sittings, so I took progress photos at the end of each day. In between the sittings, I could look at the current state of it and see what I might want to change, like making the sky more of a variegated cyan, and making the adult robin's chest be brighter orange in certain areas. 

Trello attachments

And then *deep breath to regain composure* is the checklist. Okay, now here's where I go flipping insane with excitement combined with satisfaction. The checklist is exactly that. A to-do list for that particular card so you can write out all of the stages of what you're working on, and check them off as you go along. Talk about satisfaction! You can see yourself complete the tasks. As you can see below, my robin has gone through sketching, painting of all of the components, scanning, and ordering notecards. The only thing left on the list is to take photos of the cards and list them to the shop!

Trello checklist feature

And, finally, the concept of moving cards. My robin card started off in my list for Watercolor Birds, as an idea. A place to collect thoughts about what I wanted it to look like, and some photos to get the wheels turning. When it was in progress, I pulled that little card (literally click and drag) from the Ideas list onto the Paintings in Progress list, and finally from there, to the Completed Paintings list. Wow!

Trello Progress

There are still so many features of Trello that I have yet to try, but I'll be writing more blog posts about this great program over time. I do use some of the color labels in my other boards but I'll have to write about them another time (you can assign color-coded labels for your board, to identify at a glance what your card is about. Mine include a status update for my 2015 overview calendar board, which I'll talk about int he future). You can also assign due dates to tasks, or designate another person that you've invited to the list to do a certain task. They also have great tools like a calendar to see all of your due dates at a glance, and something called Card Aging that changes the colors of the cards as they get older in your list!


Do you use Trello as a creative? Have any suggestions that I didn't cover here for organizing your creative small business? Add them in the comments below!

And if you just love the idea, head over to Trello yourself. It's free to sign up and to use the basic website/app. There are optional additions that you can buy, but I've found that the capabilities of the base level are phenomenal. 

Leave a comment