The Trello boards I use every week to stay organized and on top of things

As a marketer and manager, I have a lot of things to track, projects to manage, and people to help. I used to organize everything in dozens of different places or — eep — by keeping it all in my head.

No surprise: this didn’t work.

Trello works!

Here are the three boards that I use most often these days. I hope you might find some inspiration here, and I’d love for you to grab the Trello templates and use them yourself!

Note: For even more Trello inspiration, their team has collected a huge number of popular Trello templates that you can make your own.

1. OKRs and goal-setting Trello board

I built this board to track my OKRs at Buffer and share them transparently with my teammates.

Trello board for OKRs and goal-setting

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If OKRs are new to you, just picture a very organized system of goal-setting. OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results. Basically, you brainstorm 3-5 outcomes you want to achieve, and these become your Objectives. Then you come up with 3-5 measurable goals that will help you achieve your Objectives; these become your Key Results.

I wrote more about how OKRs work at Buffer in this blog post on the Trello blog.

The board itself contains a series of lists that help with ongoing goal tracking and idea collecting. There are lists to celebrate when goals are met (yay! 🎉) and to look back on past OKR results. Here’s how it all works.

Lists:

  • Objectives — The first three to five lists are for the Objectives you come up with. Each list is titled with a brief name for the Objective. Then the Key Results for that Objective become cards within the list.
  • Done! — When a Key Result is met, I move the card from an Objective to Done. And celebrate!
  • Ideas — This list is a catchall for ideas and future goals. If I see something that I might like to add to my next OKR cycle, I’ll drop the thought here. If I have some leftover OKRs that didn’t make the final cut, I’ll add them here in case they make sense to revisit next time around.
  • History — At the end of every OKR cycle, I create a new list and move all the past cycle’s Key Results cards into that list.

Cards:

Each Key Result card follows a similar template. The card name is a brief and catchy abbreviation of the actual Key Result. In the card description, I add the full text of the Objective and the full text of the Key Result, and I include a section to link out to relevant docs and other Trello boards.

(Example)

I’ve found that my OKRs tend to be one of three types and that particular Trello features suit each of the types:

  1. Target goal, e.g. Get 5,000 new signups by the end of Q1. For targets like this, I create a waterfall graph to track progress week over week. I’ll take a screenshot of this graph and add it to the card so I have a visual of my progress. Occasionally I may even put in a checklist with a series of dates throughout the period to make sure I’m checking the stats regularly.
  2. Shipping goal, e.g. Ship new brand guidelines by August 15. For dates, I simply add a due date to the Trello card. Depending on the project, I may also include checklists with a breakdown of the steps to complete the project.
  3. Output goal, e.g. Write 10 thought leadership articles on my personal blog. For output, I’ll turn these into a checklist with a box for each piece of output. This also works well for ongoing goals like “have a 1:1 with my manager every week” or “chat with the data team every two weeks.”

Labels:

Once all the cards for an OKR cycle are on the board, I’ll add and update labels as we go. This is the list I use:

  • Planning
  • In Progress
  • On Hold
  • Done (for now)
  • Done

2. Personal brand Trello board

I use this board weekly to keep track of my social media profiles, website and blog, and email newsletter.

Trello board for organizing my personal brand

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There are a lot of different ways to build your personal brand, and I recognize that my board covers just a couple of common (and personal favorite) ways. The board has evolved and matured quite a lot over the years. It used to be an editorial board for my blog, and it has since expanded to include my newsletter and my social profiles.

Here’s how it all works.

Lists:

  • Social profiles — Each of my main social media profiles has a card on this list, and there’s a bonus card at the bottom that keeps track of all my assets like profile pictures and background images.
  • Ideas — In this list I add anything interesting that catches my eye and that I think might be fun to create or explore. Since I’m quite content focused, this can often resemble a blog post idea list. But it also occasionally features other ideas: at the moment, I have a card for a book reading challenge, podcasts I want to be on, and a list of online learning courses to take.
  • Drafts — This list is for blog posts that I’m currently working on.
  • Ready to publish — This list is for blog posts that are finished and waiting to be published.
  • Cornerstone content — This list contains the five to 10 blog posts that are my very, very best and most popular and most loved (and most searched for). The idea of cornerstone content is well explained by Copyblogger, and it’s similar to the Hub and Spokes strategy that Jimmy Daly has written about.
  • Newsletter — I send a semi-weekly newsletter about marketing and management. The newsletter contains a lot of my favorite links and resources, which I keep track of on this Trello list. When I’m ready to send the newsletter, I come to my Trello list and grab all the links I’ve saved. All links get sent to this list automatically whenever I favorite an item in Pocket, thanks to this nifty IFTTT recipe.

Cards:

Most cards on my board stay pretty simple. The cards for social media profiles might be the most complicated ones; they contain a link to the profile, the last date it was checked and updated, the next date that I’d like to recheck it, and a checklist for whatever I’m working on at the moment. Sometimes the checklist tracks a goal like “reach 5,000 followers on Instagram” or it tracks experiments I want to try.

The cards for blog posts have a link to the WordPress draft in the description.

The cards on the Ideas list can be whatever they want. Some have no description, some contain links, some have comments.

3. People management Trello board

This board helps me stay organized and connected with the people whom I manage. I can track important dates, keep notes, followup on careers, and much more.

Trello board for people management

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I started using this board after a year or so of people management because I was eager to have a way to coordinate all the various details, notes, conversations, and progress I was making with my teammates. I tried keeping all this info in a Google Sheet. I tried keeping it in Evernote. Nothing quite worked until I added it to Trello.

What I love about this solution is that Trello is visual, and the visuals of seeing my teammates faces help keep me centered on the reason why management is so important. I get the privilege of helping people thrive. I’m really happy that Trello has helped me keep that thought front and center!

On my board, each teammate has their own list, and every list has the same types of cards.

Cards:

  • About — This card contains all the info about the teammate: profile picture (added as an attachment and made to be the cover of the card), name, job title, address, blog or website, spouse/partner name and birthday, kids and birthdays, and bio.
  • Career growth — On this card, I either link to the teammate’s role description or add it straight to the card’s description. I also use the checklist to keep track of when we’ve had career conversations; each time we do, I add a checkbox. The comments section of this card is where I’ll add individual notes about career things that catch my ear when we talk or other resources I find and want to mention in our next chat.
  • Birthday — Simple, this card is a birthday reminder. I add a due date for the teammate’s birthday.
  • Work anniversary — Same as the birthday card, this one tracks work anniversary. On this card, I also use labels. Each label represents a year at the company.

Note: I also recommend adding 1:1 notes to this board, somewhere. If you need an extra nudge to hold regular 1:1s, I’d suggest making a separate 1:1 card and putting a checklist on it. If you already have a good system for 1:1s and note-taking, you could link to your notes from the About card or add a recap after each 1:1 as a comment on the About card.

Over to you

What are your favorite Trello boards and use cases? I’m always eager to find new ways to get more Trello into my life. I’d love to hear what you use. Send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn, or drop me an email.

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I lead the marketing team at Buffer, a SaaS tool with a blog of over 1.2M monthly visits. Let me show you how we got there and how we plan to grow.

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