People talk about completing tasks or learning new skills “when they have time.” I am a firm believer in making the time for things that matter. It’s easy to complete passive activities, like watching Netflix, and it’s important to plan for down time, like reading a book or scrolling through Instagram, but if you’re like me, you spend (often, waste) an unhealthy amount of time on your phone. I’m always looking for way to improve my productivity without burning out, and I recently found one. My friend and fellow writer, Stephanie Mirro (whose debut vampire novel Birth of the Bacchae just came out), told me about an app called Trello a couple of months ago. I’ve been using it ever since, but you don’t need the app to get something out of these ideas. I just find the app easy to use. They are not paying me, unfortunately, to write this.
How Trello Works
I’ll keep this brief. In the app, you can create BOARDs. Under each BOARD, you can create a number of LISTs, and to each LIST you add CARDs. You can put notes, checklists, due dates, images, etc. in the CARDs. It’s really just a bunch of lists that you can easily categorize. You can use it on your phone as well as in a browser, which is key here for me. You can pull up tasks based on due dates if you select HOME rather than BOARDS from the main menu. It also allows for collaboration, but I don’t use that feature. If this intrigues you, definitely check it out. I’m still getting a feel for it and have not used it to its full potential yet.
One of my biggest struggles is that I don’t have many long, uninterrupted blocks of time anymore, at least, not like I used to. Sometimes I find myself with a short chunk of time perhaps while the baby is getting fed or bathed or strolled by my husband. I don’t want to delve into a big task, or one that involves a lot of materials, so I sit and waste time on my phone because I can’t think of a good way to spend that time. After this 15-minute window is over, I usually remember some task that needed doing, but now it’s too late.
The solution? I’ve created a board in Trello where I’ve listed a number of 15-minute tasks. This way, when I have that short bit of time, I don’t have to figure out what needs to be done, I can just pick what needs doing off a list. These tasks range from pre-writing a chapter to household tasks, like vacuuming or starting a load of laundry. Most of these are tasks that would otherwise take up my writing time. The more household tasks I can complete in these short opportunity windows, the more I’m able to use my longer blocks of time for writing or editing, which I find works best if I have at least 30-45 minutes.
I have a list in Trello under my Writing board called “blurbs.” Back cover blurbs are short enough that I can manage writing/editing them on my phone, and I can easily jump into them when I’m stuck somewhere, like waiting in line. I find that I agonize over blurb-writing quite a bit since it’s so hard, and this allows me to work on it anywhere.
Also under my writing board, I have an outline for the last book in The Kepos Chronicles. It’s the rough, short-form outline that hits only the main points, like the hook, pinch points, turning point, climax, etc., so again, it’s not paragraphs of writing. It allows me to look at the sequence of events and make changes or comments. I can then go into Trello on my computer browser and update Scrivener, or vice versa and update Trello, depending on where I’ve most recently been making changes and improvements. It’s much easier to do this via the browser because I can copy and paste the most up-to-date ideas.
I have an entire board devoted to my next series. As I get ideas, whether in the middle of the night or while I’m eating lunch, I save them in a central location. I then transfer them to Scrivener and reorganize them easily, copying and pasting via the browser version.
Setting Writing Deadlines
Putting deadlines down in writing can be a powerful thing, and using Trello made it easy to pop in deadlines for myself. I’m not the greatest at meeting self-imposed deadlines, but seeing them every time I open the app and look at the things I need to do does help me. For example, I gave myself a July 5th deadline for finishing my first pass of editing. I’m going to have to work to make that deadline. Normally, I would just push it back, but I’m going to put in some extra time this week, waking up earlier than normal, so I can get in those kid-free editing hours while my son sleeps.
What’s your favorite productivity app? Or do you prefer pencil-paper?