Trello Everything: 28 Ways to Maximize Your Work with the Visual Task Management Tool

Alison Groves
Alison Groves / September 8, 2015

Post-it Notes are just small pieces of paper, but they're incredibly flexible. You can jot down tasks, create a checklist, organize belongings, and stick them on your fridge or computer so you'll never forget them. There are apps to digitalize Post-it Notes, but nothing quite captures their flexibility.

That is, except for Trello. It's built around brightly colored boards, "cards" that act like digital Post-it Notes, and lists to organize those cards however you want. You can drag the cards around, jot down notes and checklists, and add colored labels or photos to keep things organized—and you can even toss old cards in the trash when you're done.

It's a Kanban board tool, something you might at first assume is a boring project management tool for enterprises like Toyota. But Trello's so flexible, it can be used for just about anything—from managing a hiring pipeline at work to mixing up a personal dinner menu. A Trello board can be anything you want it to be: a virtual cork board of things to remember, a place to brainstorm and remix ideas, and so much more.

Trello's simple enough that anyone can use it, but it's also incredibly powerful—especially when you pair it with Zapier integrations. In this article, you'll find some of the best ways people are using Trello to get things done and have fun, along with some of Trello's best hidden features and ways to make it more powerful.


How to Use Trello for:


How to Set Up a Trello Integration with Zapier

Best Trello Integrations
An example Trello board highlights the many integration possibilities of Zapier.

Zapier creates connections between Trello and your favorite apps, so it can automatically pass data from one app to another. But before we talk about popular app combinations, let's cover the basics of how Zapier works. (If you're already a Zapier pro, skip ahead to the Task Management section.)

Here's an example: with Zapier, you can transform any Gmail email into a Trello card just by starring the message. That two-app combo is called a "Zap." When you set up a Zap, you'll be prompted to connect your Trello and Gmail accounts to Zapier. Then, you'll set up the specifics.

You will choose the Trello board and list where you want Zapier to create the new card, then choose a name for the card by clicking on "Insert Gmail fields". By clicking "Show advanced options" you can even add things such as a checklist or due date.

Trello fields
Setting up a Trello integration with Zapier involves just a few steps

Now, every time you star an email within Gmail, a new Trello card will be created on a board and list you chose. Cool, right? Let's check out some other ways you can automate Trello to organize your life and increase productivity.


"Trello and Zapier have become indispensable tools. From copywriting to imagery to site design, we feed all projects through Trello and Zapier."- John Adams, E-Commerce Manager at URBANARA


Task Management

Set Up Recurring Cards: Daily, Weekly or Monthly

Web and app designer Jay West relies on a daily routine to power his productivity. By using Zapier and Trello, he never misses a beat: his favorite Zap automatically adds recurring cards to the "doing" column of his Trello task list.

"I believe strongly in the power of well designed morning and daily rituals," West says. "Each of the most important tasks I want to make sure to do on a daily basis are automatically put directly in my agenda ahead of anything else. When I wake up in the morning, my routine is already laid out for me and it makes it hard to resist doing what is most important, which otherwise may have been neglected."

Duplicate Cards

When you work for yourself, organization is paramount. Michael Ibara, an independent consultant to pharmaceutical companies, turned Trello into a dashboard for his business by leveraging duplicate cards.

"I use Trello to organize my consulting projects, writing and speaking projects, references and business ideas," Ibara says. "And I use Zapier extensively to ensure an efficient and smooth workflow in and out of Trello.

"When I have a new project, I create a new list in a Trello projects board, and I use Zapier to pick up the list name and add it to a 'Projects' list, so I always have a simple running list of my projects."

Turn Emails into Cards

It's easy to use your inbox as a to-do list. An email comes in, and you think, "Oh, I need to do that!" Then, instead of taking action, you move on to the next message, leaving your inbox bloated. Ibara also relies on a Gmail-Trello integration to rid his inbox of overflowing tasks.

"Feeding items into Trello is easy with Zapier: if I have an email to review for a project, I give it a specific Gmail label and Zapier adds it as a card, along with a link to get back to the original email," Ibara says.

If you use Office 365 or another email service, Zapier can be put to use, too.

Organize Multiple To-Do Lists

There may be instances where you have more than one to-do list. Maybe you collaborate with your team in one app, and use another for your own list; or you might use one at home and one at work. In either case, Zapier can help you create Trello cards from tasks in other to-do apps. By automating tasks from one list to another, you'll never drop the ball on a project again.

If Trello is your task-management mainstay, and your need to get tasks into another app for your team, try these combinations:

Create Cards from Notes

You take good notes, right? During meetings, at conferences, at your desk; you jot down every important point. And if those notes contain actionable items, you'll want them on your task list. With simple automation, you can turn mismatched notes into Trello cards, and maintain a centralized view of your projects.

Copy Cards to a Notebook

Or maybe Trello is your note-taking platform, and you want to backup that data elsewhere. In that case, use Zapier to copy a card's notes directly into apps like Evernote and OneNote.

Add To-dos to a Calendar

At Zapier, we announce new app integrations almost daily, and we rely on Trello and Google Calendar to manage the pipeline.

On a Trello board called "App Launches," each new card contains the name of the service, and a checklist of tasks to complete before launch. At a certain point, the card gets a "Due Date," and it's moved from the "Launch Planning" to "Launch Date Set" column. That's where Zapier comes in: A Zap automatically adds cards in the "Launch Date Set" column to my Google Calendar. Now I can manage the new app launch schedule alongside my other events.

Catalogue Completed Tasks

What have you done this week? It's such a common question, but the route to an answer is generally a tedious review of to-dos ticked off, emails sent, and projects completed. There's a better way though, and it involves Trello and the app of your choice.

"Trello is my go-to tool for what I need to be doing in the future, but RescueTime is the place I like to store the definitive list of what I've done." says Robby Macdonell, vice president of product development at RescueTime. "Whenever I drag a card to a 'Done' column in Trello, I use a Zap to automatically log a 'highlight event' in RescueTime. That way, I can keep a list of my accomplishments along with my logged time. I actually have several Zaps set up depending on the board, so I can keep a distinct list of my personal accomplishments, work items, etc."

You can track your Trello accomplishments in other apps, too, such as Evernote, Google Sheets and Smartsheet. When consultant Michael Ibara finishes a client project, for example, a Zapier integration logs details about the job in a Smartsheet spreadsheet.

"Zapier assists in reporting on projects: it scans for certain characteristics in Trello cards, and if found, it adds the information to a Smartsheet table, which is easily sorted as needed and which I use for reporting out on projects," he says.

Turn Team Chats into Tasks

Have you ever had that moment when you're chatting with a teammate in your team chat room, and a to-do pops up mid-conversation? Do you stop and write it down somewhere, or keep the conversation going and completely forget about it? If you combine Zapier and Slack's "star" feature, one click can turn those action items into Trello to-do's.


Project Management

Create Cards for Form Submissions

Bluefoot Digital Start Orde form

If you work with clients on tight timelines, you know that speed is key. To work faster, digital agency Bluefoot relies on Zapier to kick off the process for new client projects.

"We use a Wufoo to Trello integration to take Digital Start Order submissions from our sales reps and add them to our projects dashboard in Trello, attaching any files from the Wufoo form directly into the Trello card," says Adam Ladrach, the web team leader at Bluefoot. "This saves us a lot of time in manually adding these."

URBANARA, an online homewares store, relies on Zapier to integrate Google Forms with Trello and keep their teams in sync.

"To ensure internal processes within our production department are as streamlined and efficient as possible, Trello and Zapier have become indispensable tools," says John Adams, an e-commerce manager with the UK-based company. "From copywriting to imagery to site design, we feed all projects through Trello and Zapier."

The URBANARA team fields requests from other teams for things such as images, newsletters, and weekly homepage banners using Google Forms. To streamline the process, they set up a Zap that creates a Trello card for each new request—in this case, those requests are logged in the Google Form's corresponding Google Sheet. These cards are added to URBANARA's "Overview Board" in Trello.

"The 'Overview Board' acts like a hub for various projects, allowing different tasks to be split off to different teams," Adams says. "It's great to be able to manage timelines and queries from one place; that way we keep everything on track."

Whether you're using Wufoo, Google Forms or another online form app, Zapier can create the connection between your software and Trello.

Get Alerts for Board Activity

Progress updates help teams stay on track. At Zapier, we get alerts about new activity on Trello for things like help documentation tasks and editorial calendar updates. By setting up a quick alert in your team chat app or via email, you'll never have to wonder if a task is waiting on you.

Think that getting alerts about all of your team's Trello activity might cause information overload? Narrow your search down to a singular board to ensure you're getting exactly the alerts you want.

Start Tracking Time

New projects are accompanied by excitement around the new initiative, and anxiety around the massive list of tasks to finish. If you're a freelancer, be sure to start tracking your time from the start. Rather than wasting time on logging hours, freelance graphic designer Cynthia Bartz automates it with Zapier.

"I have a Zap set that creates a new project in Toggl whenever I create a new board in Trello," Bartz says. "This ensures that all of my project names match across different platforms and means that I'm ready to start tracking hours immediately."

Want to create tasks for those projects, too? Zapier can help: Any new Trello card you create can also create tasks inside your time tracking tools.

Record Card Activity

Wish you could have a backup of activity and information you document in Trello? Connect to tools like Google Sheets and Evernote to backup or archive card activity and never worry about having certain information only logged in one app.


Marketing

Robby Macdonnell Trello example

Curate Content Ideas

"I'm constantly seeing articles or blog posts about working smarter or happier, and many of them have ideas that I'd like for us to explore further on the RescueTime blog," says Robby Macdonnell, vice president of product development for the productivity app. With Trello as a critical tool in his workflow, he turned to Zapier to make a part of his company's content curation.

"I usually see these articles in passing, don't have enough time to fully digest them, and when it comes time to meet with our content team, I've completely forgotten about them. Now, I just save the article with Pocket, give it a tag, and it automatically ends up in the 'Ideas for Future Posts' board."

If you rely on Feedly to find inspiration for a blog post, Zapier can be of assistance here, too. You can set up a Zap that creates new Trello cards whenever an article is tagged or marked with "Save for Later" in Feedly.

Prefer to keep things simple? Instead of connecting another app to Trello, use a Zap to create cards for new items in an RSS feed.

Manage an Editorial Calendar

If you're orchestrating a flood of blog posts, articles and guides, you need a solid editorial calendar. To break down the process for her team, Ophelie Lechat, editor-in-chief of tech education resource Sitepoint, employs two Trello boards: one for brainstormed ideas and topics in process, and another for scheduled and published content.

As soon as an article hits the scheduled stage, a Zap copies the card from a team's Trello board to the scheduled list in Lechat's master publishing Trello board. Then, using Trello's calendar view, she has a view of all scheduled content, regardless of the topic.

Promote Content

Trello checklist

Creating content is only half the battle—once it's published, promotion pushes your article to the next level. Danny Liu, author of The Black Belt Entreprenuer, turned to Zapier to automate this step of the process.

"I run a small self-publishing operation, and I need to automate as many routine tasks as I can to help streamline team efficiency while keeping my hourly costs down," Liu says. "With Zapier, I leverage automation in both my marketing and promotions as well as my book development workflows."

He does this by setting book promotion events in his Google Calendar. Thanks to the Zap he set up, Trello cards are created with due dates that are 10 days before the event. A checklist is added to each card, too, ensuring that his team is ready to execute on promotion activities.

Stay on Top of Social Media

Social media management is a full-time job, but when you're stretched thin, social marketing gets mixed in with other responsibilities. Freelance graphic designer Cynthia Bartz, stays on top of her social profiles with a process that includes Trello and Buffer.

"I set up a Zap that grabs the date of my last Buffer entry and creates a reminder for me in Trello to go and add new content to Buffer before it runs out," says Bartz. "I'm not sure how many hours it actually saves me, but it definitely helps me keep things from falling through the cracks. When you are a soloprenuer and doing everything yourself, every little bit of help you can get is appreciated."

Organize Case Study Candidates

When you go about writing a customer success story, there are several moving parts. To start, you must identify a user, find that person's contact information, set up an interview time and then construct a story around the use of your company's product or service. Managing that process efficiently can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful case study—not to mention a happy and unhappy customer.

At Unbounce—an app that helps anyone build professional-level landing pages—the team relies on Zapier to help them manage their pipeline by integrating Intercom with Trello.

"Adding a tag to a customer creates a new card where we can keep follow-up information on customer case studies," says Gary Allen, the academy lead at Unbounce. "This helps us have visibility across different teams about how far along things are, what kind of story is being developed, etc."


Development

Track Product Development Progress

Regardless of the product development methodology you implement, the process must be tracked. A simple visualization of the process is a fantastic way to ensure tasks are completed in a timely manner, and everyone can see progress. Trello can help here, laying out the entire status of a project in one simple view.

"We are using Trello with our team as a Kanban-like dashboard for all of our projects," explains Alban Amouroux, senior product manager at home security company Myfox. "Our Trello board is set up with the following lists: To Do, Doing, Waiting for Someone Else, Done. I have connected JIRA with Trello through Zapier so I receive all new JIRA tasks from our development team as new cards added to the 'To Do' list automatically. I also customized the cards to have an effective quick view: title with number, priority and name of the task, content with description of the task.

"According to the tagged JIRA tasks, the cards are assigned to the product team member in charge, who will review and validate the tasks as they are completed. Thanks to Zapier, the Trello and JIRA connection is a powerful tool to follow development of our products and, most of all, for gaining time."

Kick Off QA Testing

Testing: it's the most critical part of the development process, and it requires collaboration and input from your team. Organizing tasks in the testing process helps you ship a better product at a faster rate.

Using Zapier with Trello helps Joshua Bennett, a business operations analyst at software development firm vCreative, keep his staff up-to-date on testing progress.

"We're big fans of HipChat, so having the QA team's chat room notified every time a development team member moves a card to 'ready for testing' really keeps everyone on point."

Prioritize Software Issues

Oh My Green Trello bugs board

With software bug reports coming in from development, support, and QA teams, the right prioritization system can make all the difference.

Michael Heinrich, founder of healthy snack food serivice Oh My Green, used Zapier to connect GitHub and Trello for bug tracking and prioritization.

"We have everyone in the company file bugs onto the Trello board. Those are verified by our tech team, and added to GitHub as an issue," Heinrich says. "Once in a GitHub repository, Trello pulls the issues into a work-in-progress card. The bugs are then prioritized within Trello, and we move them along until they're finished."

You can also use Trello to track any issues that arise, using a designated board and list to pull in issues from GitHub.

Act on Customer Feedback

One area of the development process that can be a struggle is gathering and acting on customer feedback. Other departments might be fielding suggestions, but how does that advice make its way back to the development team? Brad Shimp, a product manager for small business CRM maker Batchbook, has devised a process that's working well for them.

"At Batchbook, we love learning from our customers," he says. "One thing we do is an entry survey and an exit survey. This helps us figure out what customers most want out of Batchbook, and where we might be able to make some improvements. We get a lot of responses, and I find that Trello really helps me to keep those responses organized and shareable.

"We use Formstack for the surveys, and it's an easy connection between Formstack and Trello via Zapier. It's great knowing that when I have time to deep dive into what our customers are saying, I can jump over to Trello and read and organize responses by category."

To keep the customer feedback organized, Shimp has boards for each survey and uses lists to sort the responses into categories.

"I use this approach for our quarterly customer surveys as well, but for those I use Typeform. Thanks to Zapier, I can replicate the same workflow even though I am using a different web form software."

If you rely on another online survey tool, like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo, Zapier has you covered, too.


Support

Manage Help Desk Volume

For some teams, having an indicator of support volume outside of a help desk tool can signal when it's time to prioritize answering tickets over other activities. This is how Codisto Connect, the maker of an eBay plugin for Magento, employs a Zapier integration between Zendesk and Trello.

"We use Zapier to automatically create a Trello card for every new or re-opened support ticket received in Zendesk, which makes prioritising and managing the tickets much easier and far more flexible," says Joachim Schiller of Codisto Connect.

Oversee Help Doc Creation

Well-written help documentation is critical to customer success, and that isn't something we take lightly as Zapier. Although we're adding multiple apps per week—we now support over 500 app integrations—we make sure there's help documentation in place before a new app is rolled out to users. Organizing and collaborating on that amount of work would be impossible without some sort of process. Enter Trello.

When a new app comes to Zapier, the app's developers kickstart the help documentation with a few key pieces of information submitted as a Google Doc in a shared Google Drive folder. When the new file is entered, Zapier creates a Trello card on our "Help Documentation" board, where we can move it through the process to completion. Without this system, the information would be in someone's inbox, and much harder to collaborate on.


Operations

Get Timely Task Reminders

Business operations are easy to overlook. But efficient processes for tasks like accounting, reporting, and payroll can save you hours each day.

"For us, a combination of Trello and Zapier have helped us manage our growing library of processes," says Kyle Gray, the content manager for WordPress hosting service WP Curve. His team relies on more than two-dozen recurring Trello cards—and Zapier automatically adds cards to their boards on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

"Each Trello card that we create via Zapier is automatically linked to a Google Doc that has precise instructions on how to carry that task out," Gray says. "We use this to create recurring tasks for our admin team, including daily bookkeeping, checking PayPal balances and making transfers if necessary, paying affiliates monthly and drafting our performance updates to staff."

Clayton Cornell, general manager of energy sales company SolarLeadFactory, relies on another method for timely reminders: he pulls upcoming Google Calendar events into Trello via Zapier.

"We have a central 'SOP' board in Trello for our standard operating procedures," he says. "For our recurring daily, weekly, and monthly procedures we create a recurring Google Calendar event for each task, and this is where the Zapier magic comes in: when one of these Google Calendar events executes, Zapier creates a new Trello card on our SOP board, complete with due dates, assigned people, checklists, and anything else we might need to do.

"So all we have to do now to make sure our business is functioning correctly is to check the SOP board in Trello, and make sure those cards are being completed. Simple but powerful!"

Fulfill Customer Orders

You've made an online sale of a physical good. Now what? Ensuring you get the product into the customer's hands in a timely manner is the difference between a repeat customer who brings good word-of-mouth marketing and a disgruntled customer who won't return.

"Every time an order is placed on our website, WooCommerce tells the order information to Zapier, and Zapier creates a new Trello card for that customer and order," says Scott Michael, who runs an online rental business. When the card is created, he has Zapier add the order number, customer name, time ordered, and any special notes.

"It's handy because in Trello, we can move that card from category to category to track the order progress, such as 'Order Created' to 'Order Shipped' to 'Returned'. Zapier also automatically adds an alarm to the card, where it calculates when the customer should return the product, and notifies us if it's not returned in time."

Juan Vazquez, a customer success manager for software company Enplug, shares a similar use case, employing Zapier with Shopify, Google Sheets and Trello to organize their order fulfillment process.

We receive new orders in two ways: from our online shop via Shopify, and manually submitted orders from our sales team. Zapier helps us consolidate these orders into one spreadsheet in Google Sheets.

Since not every order will be handled the same way, we have different Trello boards for each kind of order. The columns in each Trello board represent a different stage of the order's fulfillment process. Zapier makes it easy to funnel different kinds of orders into their respective Trello boards. That way, we know which orders will be shipped versus which orders will be delivered in person.

It may seem simple, but this is extremely beneficial to our staff. Anytime a customer calls with a question, we can pull up their card and have all their information in front of us. Any notes after talking with the customer can be easily added to their card in the comments.

If you run your business on an e-commerce system other than WooCommerce or Shopify, Zapier can still be a critical part of the workflow.

Oversee Hiring Pipeline

If you use a dedicated email address to collect job applications, like jobs@example.com, employ Zapier to create Trello cards for each received application.

"Back in the day we found it very stressful to keep track of our inbound applications," says Michael Börner of digital agency Edenspiekermann. "Making decisions on applications is decentralised at Edenspiekermann, and we needed a way to send the applications to our colleagues to get proper feedback.

"Now, we generate a Trello board for each job posting, and define a Zap that way," says Börner. "We are sending the inbound application message to an email address that splits the mail with its attachments and adds it as a card on the corresponding board. Further, the Zap assigns the right people to the cards, and from there, we take it in Trello. This way we save time and get a well-handled process."

Exchange Knowledge

Perks help you hold on to all-star employees. But at a point, managing them can feel like a full-time job. Running everything through Trello can help keep everything in line, and everyone happy.

"At Buffer, each teammate gets a Kindle and unlimited books for free," says Courtney Seiter, a content marketer at the social media tools company.

"To keep up with what everyone on the team is reading, we use a Zap that sends each gifted book, which we keep track of through Trello, to our Facebook Group for Buffer team members."


Trello + Zapier: The Indispensable Combo

Email Parser Trello example

The dozens of Trello integrations presented in this post are just the beginning of how you can better incorporate the flexible tool into your workflow to make it, as one Zapier user says, "indispensable." Beyond these business use cases, think of the ways you could use Zapier and Trello for personal tasks, too.

Zapier team member Tony Rule, for example, has Trello cards created each time he receives a new credit card statement in his inbox. Rather than missing an important task in a busy inbox, Rule makes the bill pay a priority by putting it on a Trello board he uses daily. He set up this automation by employing the Zapier Email Parser, a free tool that pulls out the important information from incoming email.

Another Zapier team member, James Carr, keeps up with his wife's recipe collection on Pinterest by automatically adding new pins to a Trello board. Since Carr is in Trello for work, having a handy recipe board allows him to help his wife decide what they should make for dinner.

Zapier integrates with 500-plus apps, many of which didn't make an appearance in this post. So there's is plenty of room for creativity and ingenuity when it comes to new uses for Trello and Zapier.

Do you use Trello and Zapier in a unique way that we didn't cover in this post? If so, please leave a comment on this post sharing how.

To do more with Trello outside of Zapier, check out these great resources:

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Alex Minchin, Managing Partner at Zest

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