Changing Perspective using Trello

I think I was in 9th or 10th grade when my older brother brought home a copy of Getting Things Done. I don’t really remember the way he described it or what convinced me to get in to it but he gave me a copy and I dug in. At that age you’re easy to influence and like many I’m sure whose brother came home with beer or drugs, I got in to GTD at a time that it greatly impacted my perspective.

I picked up GTD at a time where I needed a map for life but now I think it’s been leading me off course.

I started using Things in the early beta days and used that through highschool and college. A few years ago when I learned about people who were using OmniFocus and really trusted it, so I made the move. You’re always changing so your processes should evolve too and eventually I felt over OmniFocus. It just didn’t fit the model of how I wanted to work and live. I don’t believe that switching software can lead to transformative change but I do think it can help nudge your habits enough to starting seeing things differently–from a new perspective.

Trello is about giving you vision in to what you’ve written down, not about actually doing it. It’s almost a stale trope at this point, but I’ll reiterate it anyway: we don’t need to do more things we need to be more conscious about the things we do. Just like the world around us not really caring about what we do, neither does Trello. It doesn’t sit there taunting us, telling how much we haven’t gotten done. A blank card is just a blank card. It’s not an obligation, a promise to yourself, an expectation, or another opportunity for you to let yourself or someone else down. A card is just a card. Use it for a project you want to do, a reminder for a thing you should say to someone special, a divider or break point in a list, a thing that makes you happy and that you should do more often. The card isn’t begging you to check it off as done then evaporate. There isn’t even a check box on the card. Let your Bucket List sit right beside your Today list. Who’s to tell you that your work today is more important than the rest of your life? Leave it there, let that list sit in front of you all day, everyday. Don’t let that thing disappear. Let it fester as a reminder of what’s important to you and let fade away your little tingly feeling of marking off another thing as done.

From the Trello launch blog post in 2011:

Trello is probably the simplest thing in the world: it’s a web page where you make a bunch of lists. Each list contains cards. Each card is a thing that someone might want to work on.

It is simple (and you should keep your life that way). Here are some things I like about Trello:

  • It’s a website
    • Forget about sync, updates, OS compatibility
    • The web links a lot better than apps, internally within Trello and externally
    • Trello’s success isn’t at the hands of Apple approving their updates (I’m becoming that guy)
    • Web back ends have APIs
      • I’ve wasted so much time hacking at things like of-export to get information
      • HTTPS is king
      • I could actually build reliable tools using Trello data
  • The back of a card is a workspace
    • It does markdown
    • Half of this post was written on the back of a Trello card
    • OF’s notes field and file attachments suck
  • Comments
    • Leave comments/log for myself
    • More than it’s done but how I did it
    • See progress as an idea evolves
  • Trello, Inc
    • Now its own company, not a part of Fog Creek
    • Joel knows how to build exceptional companies

Maybe some day I’ll go in to more detail about how I use Trello but I think that’s less relavant since the process of setting it up fresh without a lot of bloggers telling you how to use it is a great opportunity for introspection on the way you work and good practice in figuring out what you need. I’ve been using it full time for 3 months now actually kind of enjoy using it. It’s given me what I need and nothing more. I don’t obsess about what’s in Trello or how it’s organized like I did with OmniFocus. I don’t need to do maintenance to keep it useable. I go in, get my work done, and get out.

I’m starting to reduce what value I perceive these tools to be in my life and that’s causing the perspective shift. GTD was a user manual for a tool that I followed until I began to master the craft. With a little more experience, I recognized that the tools just helped guide me through the craft until I was comfortable doing my work without those instructions. I used to depended on them for success but now I can lift my head out of the manual and go learn something else.