Trello Alternatives to Increase Productivity
I love Trello. I was hooked as soon as I started using it and realized how flexible it is to use for all kinds of lists. (Something about that drag-n-drop interface made me feel in control of everything!) There’s no doubt that Trello is great… until you discover its limitations. But to be more productive or work with teams, there are some amazing Trello alternatives (and yes, still free).
Like many things in life, the very quality that made Trello strong, also revealed itself as a downfall. With the flexibility to create lists of lists, Trello was definitely a great storage area for all my ideas but it quickly became overwhelming.
In particular, it never helped me answer the question;
“What should I be working on now?”. Which, after all, is all that really matters.
Here’s why you should consider some Trello alternatives for increase productivity…
Trello is great for storing ideas
As David Allen said in Getting Things Done;
“Our mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
A tool like Trello is fantastic for stepping up to the plate in this area. You can have lists of anything you can think of! Trello lets you drag things into different lists or use different boards, and you can easily share your lists with team members. This is a great way to capture and organize ideas.
But Trello doesn’t help plan your day
The thing is, capturing ideas isn’t really the hard part about being productive. It’s easy to write down a list of 20 (or 120!) things you want to get done. In fact, you you can readily find way too much ideas telling you new things to do – even in specific subject areas. Just try Googling the answers to questions like “ways to improve your LinkedIn presence”, “how to win more customers”, or “what features should your software include” and you’ll be inundated with a gazillion things you should be doing.
Most smart people have no shortage of ideas.
Yes, these ideas should be captured somewhere, but this can really be done in any list (notepad, Evernote, Google Sheets, or a multitude of other places).
The crux of productivity is not about creating lists
The real crux of productivity comes from prioritization – knowing what to do today and focusing on that thing.
Of course, this sounds easy, but don’t let the simplicity fool you.
Prioritization is hard.
Focus is hard.
We need all the help we can find to get ourselves to do those hard things that are always far more important than everything else on our list.
When we use a long list of to-do’s – like the way Trello presents information to us – we inevitably do the easiest, least challenging things on our list. (It’s not our fault – our brains are hard-wired this way!)
Using a tool like Trello, we’ll get busy and make progress – but not on the most important things. Unfortunately, the reality is that almost all of the time, our biggest leverage comes from doing things that are difficult or challenging in some way. And these things are likely to remain sitting on our Trello boards.
Organizing Trello for Prioritization
You’re probably screaming at me right now saying that Trello boards can of course be set up to help with prioritization.
Yes, you can set up the standard “To Do”, “Doing”, “Done” Kanban system which can be effective. But typically what happens is that the “To Do” list becomes incredibly long and it’s hard to know what are your top priorities. You can spend a lot of time reshuffling to mimic your priorities but it quickly becomes ineffective.
So then, you set up more lists. Maybe like; “Next”, “Within 3 months”, “Later” and you’re shuffling things from one to the other.
But nothing moves – there’s no momentum
If you’re disciplined, you choose things off your “Next” list, move it to “Doing” or “In Progress” and start work on it. But most of the important tasks are big.
How did you go with “New Website” or “Hire Salesperson” today? You might have made progress but unless the task is finished, you can’t move it to “Done”. So you finish the day feeling unaccomplished. You’ve completed nothing. You become despondent and you’re losing motivation for tomorrow’s work.
But you start the next day – this time on picking up your task that is now “In Progress”. Over time, you find that many big tasks stay in that “In Progress” status for days, weeks or even months at a time.
Nothing is moving on your Trello board and you’re losing any motivation you had.
This might not sound like a huge problem, but the fact is that our psychology is really the main factor in our productivity. How we feel about our work matters – a lot more than we might think. So using a system that makes us feel unaccomplished and like we’re not making any progress is a very bad idea.
The Solution is a separate Daily Action List
If you study the best productivity thinkers from current times or history, the predominant recommendation is to use a daily action list. That is, almost all top performers start their day by writing out a short list of their most important actions. Then, they get disciplined about doing those things – in the order they previously decided.
Almost all top performers start their day by writing out a short list of their most important actions.
This tells us that to be truly productive, we need a repository for our list of tasks (or to-do’s), AND a daily action list. Our daily actions might be smaller parts of a bigger task – and that could be the most important thing to get done today.
Small Actions are the key to getting things done
In the examples we gave above, if you have a task of “New website”, your action for today could be; “Find 3 website designs I like”, or “Contact 3 web designers”, or “Draft the text for the home page”, or “Decide on the new color palette”, etc. Each of these actions will move you forward towards getting the bigger project done.
Now, imagine if you could set up your daily action lists ahead of time and put one of these actions for each day. By the end of the week, you’d be well on your way to having a new website. But more importantly, each day you’d feel accomplished and have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made progress towards your highest priorities.
Most important projects have many steps or require many actions for getting them done. And often there are in-built waiting times (imagine trying to recruit your new salesperson in one day). So, the ability to break down our big tasks into small actions that are scheduled into actual days is a key part to become highly productive.
We developed Actioned to counter this exact problem.
Introducing Actioned: Daily Action Lists AND a Master Task List
With Actioned, you set up a master task list and use this as a repository for everything you want to get done. You can shuffle (yes, drag and drop!) these around into different priorities or timeframes. But importantly, you can also create actions from these tasks.
Your action list is where things actually get done. You start each day and plan out the actions you want to take (they can come from your task list, or simply by thinking clearly about what are the most important things to get done that day).
You can see 3, 5 or 7 days at a time which helps you move things to future days if other things come up. When you get things done, you tick them off. But they don’t disappear altogether – they appear in your Completed Actions list. This helps give you a feeling of progress and success.
To keep you focused and remind you of what you’ve acheived, each morning you receive an email of your accomplishments for the previous day and your plans for that day. This keeps you focused on getting those most important things done.
Trello also doesn’t help manage teams
Using a Trello board with your team sounds like a great idea. Everyone can see what needs to be done and can update tasks accordingly. But the problem is it’s not really set up for this.
For instance, using Trello, you cannot tell;
- What did David get done yesterday?
- What is Harry planning to do today (is that important thing you’re waiting on actually on his priority list?)
- How much Jane has on her plate for this week?
- And most important of all… Is the team being productive?
With Trello, there is no visibility as to what and how much work is getting done. This does nothing to improve team productivity.
If you are looking for a Trello alternative to help you and your team actually get more done, try Actioned.
Using the psychological principles of motivation, we’ve introduced some accountability which helps teams become a lot more productive.
Each team member simply enters their planned actions for the day and then ticks them off as they get them done. The two acts of getting very deliberate about their planned actions, AND publicly declaring these in front of their team members, make everyone a lot more effective.
Multiple Workspaces give Flexibility
If you’re wondering whether you can use Actioned for different work teams, the answer is yes. Actioned uses different “Workspaces” which can be used to separate your different teams, areas of life, or just provide a separation between your work and personal life. (Your team members can only access the workspace you’ve shared with them.) You can think of these as equivalent to a Trello Board.
Actioned is purpose designed for Individual and Team Productivity
If you’re looking for a Trello alternative and would like a tool that will make a big difference to your productivity, try using Actioned. This tool is more effective because;
- Daily Action – Take your long task list and create a meaningful action list. This helps you focus on a handful of high-impact actions for the day and actually get things done.
- Momentum – Seeing your completed actions build up creates confidence and a sense of momentum. You also see a score of how many actions you’ve completed in a day.
- Accountability – If you work with a team, the transparency of Actioned shows you what everyone is doing and makes it much more likely that you’ll actually get those things done.
- Email Reminders – You receive a daily email to remind you what your focus is for the day and show you what you accomplished yesterday. This also shows you what your team is up to – which means you can have much more meaningful discussions.
So whether you’re working by yourself, or with a team, Actioned will help increase your productivity.