If you’re a project manager working on a budget, it’s extremely helpful to use Trello for project management. The free, Kanban-based task management tool helps you manage projects and collaborate better with teams.

There are a lot of project management tools out there. But Trello stands out from the crowd with its simplicity. It provides a straightforward system for organizing and monitoring projects at a glance.

It’s so simple that you might be tempted to pass it up.

But Trello’s simplicity can be a strength. Let’s take a look at how it can turn you into an organizational ace.

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What is Trello used for?

Software developers, ad agencies, and designers are just a few examples of teams that benefit from the project management potential of Trello. Whether you need to organize an entire team or just boost your own productivity, Trello can help you:

  • Follow your production workflow
  • Manage your development schedule
  • Keep an eye on a content marketing campaign
  • Organize upcoming projects
  • Track the hiring and onboarding process at your company

Without physical conference rooms, bulletin boards, and other conventional project management tools, it can be challenging for remote teams to stay organized.

Fortunately, Trello is great for remote teams too.

Remote Agile teams can use it to store their Scrum boards. If you’re more into the Kanban methodology, you can manage a Kanban workflow with Trello instead.

Trello project management features

Trello isn’t just for kicking off projects. It will also help teams throughout every step of the process, from planning through execution. If you’re new to project management, here’s a quick breakdown of what the entire process entails:

  1. Planning – As one might expect, the planning phase is when you conduct research, establish goals, and map out the strategy of your entire project. The idea is to identify the scope of your project. You’ll establish goals with stakeholders and put together a budget.
  2. Setup – With your strategy in place, start putting the pieces of your project together. Whether your team is in-office or remote, it’s best to host a meeting to go over the details. Share the project plan, cover everyone’s responsibilities, and answer any questions. This is also a great place to get input from your team and make changes before you start.
  3. Implementation – This stage is where ideas become actions. While you may start to feel like the bulk of your work is behind you, that’s hardly the case. It’s important to remain hands-on. Join meetings, collect progress reports, and provide updates to stakeholders as the big picture begins to come into focus.
  4. Closing – This is where you and the team put the finishing touches on your projects. While this stage is cause for celebration, you’re not quite done. The difference between good and great project managers is their ability to self-evaluate. Once the project is complete, take notes on what worked, what didn’t, and how you can make things run smoother in the future. It’s best to do this as soon as possible while the journey is still fresh in your mind.

Trello works at all of these phases. Here’s how you can implement it for better project management.



How Trello works

According to a 2020 survey, companies that undervalue project management report that 67% more projects fail outright. However, only 22% of organizations use project management software.

Tools like Trello are designed to ensure that your projects don’t become another statistic. With Trello, you can:

  • Use the timeline view to plan projects
  • Switch to table view connects work across boards
  • Integrate with calendar tools to help with time management

See board statistics and project data

After browsing through some tutorials online, it might be a little jarring to see what projects look like once they’re in full swing.

But, like all new things, you simply have to break it down into smaller pieces. Here are the basic components you’ll need to understand in order to manage projects in Trello.

Boards

Trello board

Before tools like Trello, the bulletin board was a popular way to organize thoughts. While technology has advanced quite a bit since then, the concept is still used digitally.

Trello boards are basically virtual bulletin boards. These boards will become the space in which you “hang” your other tasks, to-dos, and notes. Unlike a real bulletin board, Trello helps you get a bit more organized so clutter isn’t an issue.

Lists

Trello list

Lists are columns for grouping subtasks for projects. These are the first layer of organization for your Trello boards.

As you dive deeper into your projects, you’ll create more and more lists. You might title them things like ideas, research, or backlog.

Once you’ve got your board organized, it’s time to start adding tasks.

Cards

Trello cards

Cards are the basic building blocks of Trello — think virtual Post-It notes. You can move them around into different lists, add due dates, and assign them to different teams.

You can also label cards for better organization. Create your own color-coded labels by adding a ‘#’ followed by your created label. Here are some examples:

  • #lowpriority
  • #highpriority
  • #newfeature
  • #Q4

When you click on a card, you can add text, attach files, and even add a checklist to break tasks down even further.

Task Assignments

A project management tool is useless without the ability to assign tasks. Fortunately, Trello task assignments allow you to share your boards with your entire team. There are two ways you can accomplish this:

  1. Assign to a card: Open up a card. On the right side menu, select Members and search for your teammate(s).
  2. Assign to a checklist: Add to-dos within the checklist of a card. You can type @teammember next to any line item. This will also trigger an email notification if the assignee has them enabled.

Timelines

Trello Timelines

Timelines are one of the newest features in Trello. By entering your board’s drop-down menu, you can switch to timeline view.

Similar to a Gantt chart, a timeline view lets you see all of your projects by the due date. Horizontal boxes give you a visual representation of how long each card will take to complete.

Additional filters allow you to organize your timelines by time frame, user, or label.

Calendars

Like other project management tools, calendars help teams stay on task with various projects.

As a project manager, you manage your own calendar and your team’s — and occasionally an individual’s as well.

Trello doesn’t come with a calendar view by default, but you can enable it with a Power-Up. For a project to go smoothly, it’s a good idea to do that.

Productivity Metrics

Trello’s built-in automation tool Butler allows you to gain some limited reporting access.

Unfortunately, it’s a little challenging to use.

For stronger reporting, Trello pairs well with Power-Ups — easy-to-configure integrations with popular reporting, HR, and marketing tools.

This is a bit more cumbersome than other project management reporting tools. However, if you’re using Trello for project management, you can find workarounds to give you the data you need to do your best work.

Trello is a great email replacement

Email is chaotic. It might be a necessity for talking with clients and having quick conversations, but it’s not a good way to organize and plan.

Even one-on-one email chains can get confusing. You’ll spend a lot of time searching for attachments and other details. This can hurt your productivity considerably.

Trello conversation

Long email threads containing multiple people are even worse. It can be really hard to follow along and find the information that pertains to you.

When used correctly, Trello acts as a replacement for those long, dreaded email threads. You can even tag specific people for increased clarity.

One of the great things about Trello is that conversations are all included within a card. This way, everything stays in the same place.

If anyone has clarifying questions or thoughts to share about a task, you don’t have to spend time looking for it. It’s all there.

Room for improvement: Where Trello is lacking

Trello is one of the most popular project management tools on the market, but it does have its fair share of shortcomings.

Users have cited interface issues, platform compatibility problems, and an overall lack of tangible data as areas where the project management tool comes up short.

Trello user review

But what exactly do these issues mean for Trello users? Let’s explore them a bit closer.

No budgeting or invoicing tools

Unlike other project management tools, Trello lacks budgeting and invoicing features.

It’s one thing to track projects, but how do you know what they’re costing you? If you can’t see labor, materials, and training costs, it becomes challenging to stay on budget.

You can track these items separately using spreadsheets or specialized software. Alternatively, you can upgrade your Trello plan and get access to some basic invoicing features.

Limited upload sizes

When managing your projects, you’ll probably want to share files that you’re working on within Trello cards.

While you can do this in Trello, you might experience some frustrating storage limitations. In the free version, you’re limited to just 10 MB uploads. This is pretty small depending on your line of work.

Other tools like Hubstaff Tasks are more enticing to designers, content creators, and other creatives that frequently share large files.

Too much flexibility

Trello has evolved and added features over time. While this makes it a flexible tool, it can be confusing to use, too. For instance, users have expressed frustration with the inability to close down cards.

While you can archive cards in Trello, there’s no way to mark them as complete. This makes it really challenging to manage larger, complex projects across multiple teams.

If you have tasks that need to be completed across multiple projects, that can be a challenge to organize. Other project management tools achieve this through the use of Epics. Unfortunately, Trello misses the mark here.

Managers may also be frustrated by the inability to see each team member’s responsibilities.

Limited organizational features

Individual team members have difficulty viewing their own responsibilities. To-do lists, sprint views, and other ways of organizing information don’t come standard in Trello.

Other project management tools let you isolate your tasks from the project as a whole. You can also drag and drop your assignments and order them by the highest priority.

While you can label boards based on priority, they contain tasks that others need to complete as well. This can get pretty confusing, especially for people who need to work on multiple boards at the same time.

You can “watch” cards that you’re affiliated with, but you will invite even more notifications for subtasks within the card that don’t directly apply to your workload.

No Gantt charts or dependencies

Trello has a nice timeline view, but it doesn’t really hit on what it sets out to accomplish.

What sets Gantt charts apart from timelines is the ability to add dependencies. Instead of one linear timeline that shows due dates for tasks, Gantt charts illustrate what tasks need to be completed in order to move to the next phase of your projects.

The lack of a true Gantt chart feature makes it difficult to see these dependencies. With other tools, you can see which of your tasks are triggered by the completion of others. Some tools even automatically adjust all project deadlines when you alter the timetable of a single subtask.

This makes it much easier to prioritize work, provide progress updates, and avoid and eliminate bottlenecks.

Relies heavily on integrations

Like most project management solutions, Trello integrates seamlessly with a number of other tools. Some of these Power-ups are great additions that can help you solve unique challenges. However, others just address oversights.

For example, a Google calendar sync and a Power-up with the popular storage tool Box are there because Trello’s basic features aren’t powerful enough for many teams.

Since Trello relies so heavily on Power-ups, you can expect to need a lot of them to get the functionality you want.

Wrap up

You don’t have to be a certified project manager to handle projects like a pro. With a little effort and know-how, you can simplify even the most complicated of projects with Trello.

If you are looking to take your project management skills to the next level, check out these resources for producing better projects:

Slack Project Management

Remote Agile Project Management

Frequently asked questions

Can you tell me how to sync Trello with Google Calendar?

Source: Trello support

  1. Open the board menu
  2. Go to Power-Ups > Calendar. Click Add Power-Up
  3. Click Edit Power-Up Settings
  4. Copy the URL from the iCalendar feed
  5. Open Google Calendar and click on the ellipsis icon next to Add calendar (on the left side)
  6. Select From URL
  7. Paste the URL and click Add calendar

What should I do with completed cards in Trello?

Unfortunately, Trello cards can’t be deleted or automatically archived like in other task management apps. However, you can mark them as complete. They’ll stay in their current list until you manually move them or create a Butler command, though.

What is Butler?

Butler is a no-code automation tool that comes with Trello. You can create custom commands that Butler can use to automate tasks and workflows for your boards.

Butler is free for Trello users, but you may experience limits or have to pay additional fees for certain automations.

How many Trello boards can I have?

With the free version of Trello, you can have up to 10 boards at once.

How can I archive cards in Trello?

You can archive cards by going to a card’s back and selecting Actions > Archive card. You can also hover over any card and use the C keyboard shortcut.

Where can I find archived cards in Trello?

Enter the following into the Trello search box: is:archived is:done

What does watch mean in Trello?

To “watch” an item in Trello means you will be notified when a user makes a change to that card, list, or board.

For cards, you’ll be notified when:

  • Someone adds a comments
  • Due dates are changed, added, or approaching soon
  • The card is moved or archived

For list or boards, you’ll get the same notifications for cards — but for every card in the list or board you’re watching. You’ll also get notifications about newly created cards in said board or list.

Where is data stored in Trello?

Trello stores all data in the U.S. It also utilizes the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework for personal information from the EU.

This post was originally published in May 2019. It was updated in October 2021.