Deciding on a book and reading it is only part of the self-improvement equation. All these new ideas floating around in my head don’t do me much good if I don’t put them to practical use and change something about my life. I’m sure some readers have a detailed plan and read books in one area that build on each other. However, that is not me.
I hear about a book on a podcast, read about it on a blog review, have a friend tell me about one or simply stumble upon it while perusing the new book shelf at the library. My life is scattered in so many different direction, so my reading list is as well.
What do I do when I read a book about parenting one week and one about financial responsibility the next? I need a method to keep track of all of this information. I have two tools I love to use for this kind of organization. One is Trello. If you don’t have an account- it’s free! Go do it now using this link.
Trello is a digital workflow chart. I first discovered the platform while working as production editor for a magazine. I had to keep track of each article, the writer, the contact information for the people being interviewed, what photos we needed and if the proofreader had returned the corrections. I found the best way to do this was in Trello because I could move items through the workflow as they were accomplished and I had a visual as to what still needed to be done.
While it helped me work more effectively, I thought it might help me in my personal life as well. I love Goodreads for keeping track of books I want to read and how many books I’ve read each year, it has its limitations. I could write a review of each books, but reviews are not reflective of what I learned and how to apply it. The first thing I did in Trello was to make a list of book I’ve read in each large topic area.
I have a checklist in each topic to write down the name of the book, but there is plenty of space for notes so if I think I will want to come back to a book later, I can make note of the contents in Trello.
You can create an unlimited number of boards for free in Trello. On another board, I have lists of characteristics about myself I’ve discovered. My Myers Briggs result, my Enneagram number and my SHAPE profile all have their own cards. I put my result there plus any information about my personality that I should keep in mind when I’m struggling. These insights will help me make plans and overcome obstacles in the future.
Now all of this information is in one place. I can access it on my PC but also through the Trello app on my phone or tablet. In this screenshot, I took all of the information from Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, that focuses on habit building and put it on one card. Now when I try to plan my days and weeks, I can make informed decision on how to structure my time to be the most productive. For example, I work better in the morning and I like to finish a project before moving on to the next one. So I know I need to set aside work time early in the day and I should prioritize my tasks so I get the most important things done first and then can move down my list.
Another great way to use this is for a workflow. Just as at work, we have tasks to accomplish at home that need multiple steps and reminders. With Trello, I have a board for each month for my goals. This is just an example of how I set it up.
At the beginning of each month, I list the goals I have. A lot of these I break up into smaller tasks. For example, if my goal is to pack up the summer clothes and replace them with fall/winter clothes, I have a checklist with each kid’s name. I’m not going to do them all in one day. But when I finish with one kid, I can mark it off (and feel accomplished!)
Any phone numbers or e-mail addresses I will need can be put right into the comments so if I end up waiting for ten minutes in the school pick up line, I can call and make an appointment. Making my goals visual is a great way to see how much progress I’ve made and what still needs to be done. It helps me better schedule my time as well.
This is also a great tool for goals like improving financial responsibility or eating healthier. For money management, saving $1000, paying off credit card or starting college savings accounts could all be goals. Monthly, as you examine your statement, you can adjust the amounts that you have saved or the new balance on the credit card. Watch that debt decrease as you check off your financial goals.
Links to recipes can be dropped directly into Trello cards. A simple board with each day on it allows a canvas for crafting a menu for the week. If you want to add calories, fat content or grams of carbs, there is plenty of space for that as well. If I have a menu when I go to the store, I know exactly what to buy. If I have a menu, I don’t stand in the kitchen at 4pm wondering what to make and just throw together whatever is easiest. The fewer snap decisions I have to make, the better it is for both my physical and mental health.
This is a very basic look at Trello so you can get started today making plans with your information. There are a lot of other options in there if you want to learn them. The labeling is useful. A color can be added to cards to sort them (recipes that have meat, books I want to reread or more information is needed for this task, can all be denoted with a different color). Due dates can be added and then there is a calendar mode. It produces a monthly calendar with all of the tasks highlighted by their assigned due date.
You can change the background, the order of the cards or columns, connect it to your Google Drive to embed documents or pictures into the cards and so much more. Trello has a great blog about all the uses for boards. You could honestly run your entire life–work, home, parenting and all–through Trello.
This is one of two productivity tools I regularly use. I’ll cover the other one in the next post. Bullet journaling may sound like the exact opposite. It requires no technology at all. But it’s infinitely adaptable to help you improve your life, schedule your time and meet your goals.