Well, the draft for this post has been sitting around since August of last year, so I thought I might as well publish it now. I’ve included roughly what I had saved, a few cleanups, and then a section at the end that goes over some slightly more modern thoughts I had. Eight-month-ago Jonathan knew nothing…
This summer, I have had the amazing chance to work at Fog Creek Software on a product called Trello (trello.com). To give a really quick summary, Trello is a great way of managing to do lists (or other kinds of lists), and includes a lot of nice features for working with teams. In addition to working on it, and using it for work, I have started to use it a lot more for personal things. One of the areas I am getting the most use out of Trello lately has been for Circle K. Trello has done a great job of helping me keep up-to-date with my work as a Subregion C trustee, but I honestly don’t think that is where it is the most useful. It offers a lot to help you stay useful as an individual, but can do even more for helping Circle Ks stay organized as a group.
I guess the best place to start talking would be about how I use Trello for Subregion C business. I have my Trello board split into a variety of lists: Communication Points, TODO, Notepad, and Transition Items. Moving from left to right, Communication Points is where I keep information on the people and groups I talk to. I have a card that just stays in the list for every person I talk to on a regular basis, and I keep the cards updated with a check-list of everything I have thought to ask the person about. When the checklist gets too long, I make sure to schedule a meeting and then leave a comment on the card about what we talked about. This helps me make sure that I am not needlessly bothering people, and also makes sure I have things to talk to people about when I get the chance, and I have a central place with notes about what we talked about. There are also notes here for things like meetings and emails, just to help me stay on top of those too. (for another perspective on what I’m trying to accomplish with this first list, see http://blog.trello.com/using-trello-for-impromptu-meetings/)
The next list is by far the most boring one, TODO. This is probably the most traditional list, I just stick cards in here, with actual due dates, for things I need to take care of. Whenever I find free time, I just look at what is at the top of that list and work on it. This list has included things such as getting bylaws from the Kiwanis staff or writing updates for board meetings. Past that list, the other two are for me just making notes. The first, Notepad, is just where I leave notes that I want to be able to refer back to. This has included things like my personal notes about what we talked about at committee meetings, to some cool ideas for service projects that I think I might want to refer back to latelr (actually, to be totally honest, that is all that is in the list). The final list, transition items, is just about the same thing, however, I’m making these notes for whoever comes after me instead of myself. Honestly, I just wanted a place I could put things I knew should be in my packet without having to be too much on top of things and start my packet.
Now, Trello is great for helping me stay organized personally, however, I think it is much more useful for working with groups of people. One place I used it in the past was for the Technology Committee in the Circle K club at the University of Michigan. The Trello board gave us a good way to organize what projects people were working on without me needing to constantly be bothering everyone (or, at least, that was the idea). For this, we kept a couple lists that were cool ideas we knew we would eventually want to work on. Once we decided that an idea was good enough (and we had the necessary time/experience), someone would pick it off of a list, and start working on it (by moving it to another list and joining the card). Finally, once a feature actually got added to the website, the card would get dragged to a list representing what was done each month, which was helpful when I was working on my MRFs. This was a great tool for me when trying to figure out what people were working on, as well as for when people (finally) finished whatever they were working on and needed something else to do.
For the tech committee, Trello fit extremely nicely (using it pretty much exactly how trello.com/dev is set up), however, this is not how most committees within the club function, or how any boards (yeah, not referring to Trello boards here oddly) function. When I joined the K-Fam committee at the beginning of the summer, I set up my own personal board to help me keep track of what I was doing. It ended up looking a lot like my board for Sub-C stuff (two columns, “Communication Points” and “TODO”), and feel free to draw ideas from that. If I was setting that up for the whole committee, I’d end up using the same idea, but there are a couple more things I’d add that do not apply to me. First, I’d add a column for weekly projects like helping out at the Kiwanis Thrift Sale, or going to meetings of the local Builders Club. These would function pretty much exactly like communication points (leaving a comment whenever you did something relative to the project), however, it would be a more specific place to look when thinking about updates for the projects. Next, since the committee handles a bunch of non-regular projects, I would make a separate list for those. There are some Circle K events (e.g. Service Day) that may be able to make use of their own separate board, however, I don’t think anything more than a card is necessary for most things.
I thought I would come back and leave some comments (past the cleaning up and rewriting that I did above) based on the extra eight months of life experiences I have now.
First of all, regarding the Sub-C Trello Board, I have continuously referred to it throughout the year. That said, there were a bunch of things that I became a lot less diligent about taking care of, most notably notes from meetings. I wish I still did as good as a job with these as I did at the beginning of the year, however, laziness kind of took over and my notes became hastily scrawled on paper instead of the organized masterpieces they were before (yeah, I fail at notes in general, but they were much closer to masterpieces at the start). As far as the K-Fam stuff, UofM’s Circle K did eventually try out Trello, and I made the K-Fam board conform to pretty much exactly what I said…and no one used it. Trello is a fantastic service, however, it’s pretty much useless if no one gets on-board with it and I’m sad that there was not a stronger push towards that than what we had.
I hope that you got some good ideas about how to use Trello from this post. For me, it is a nice tool for staying organized, and I think it has the potential to help a lot more people out with that. If your Circle K is not using it already, I completely encourage you to try it, it can be a huge asset for your club, or any subset of your club.