Cat pyramid graphic

It’s almost guaranteed that no one in the history of being productive has ever completely finished their to-do list.

To mark every task as complete seems almost as impossible as locating the ever-elusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Just when you think you’ve successfully reined in your tasks, another one swoops in, as you shake your fist at the universe snickering over your misfortune.

Even though ultimate task completion may seem like a far-off fantasy rather than a realistic goal, there are better ways to prioritize your to-do list in Trello and self-manage your time and workload in the process.

What Is Self-Management?

Self-management enables you to prioritize, take responsibility for your efforts and end results, and better equips you to evaluate your work so you can improve going forward. This results in a less-stressed you, and collectively, a more productive and happier team.

According to scholars Nina Cristina Magpili and Pilar Pazos, organizations that encourage employees to explore and expand their own daily self-management will see higher levels of engagement, motivation, and productivity among their teams. Focusing on self-management can help your team identify and nurture future leaders and lay a foundation for performance management and individual development.

Successful self-management means that you’re able to regulate your emotions, stress, motivation, goals, and personal and professional development. This is definitely a tall order, but it turns out that being in charge of your own destiny isn’t only suited for Disney storylines or Celine Dion. You, too, can inspire and achieve greatness—all you need is a little discipline and self-awareness.

Celine Dion GIF

Peter Drucker, author of the book “Managing Oneself” says: “Knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own chief executive officers”.

This means that you are the primary captain of your own ship when it comes to that growing to-do list. The effort you put in is (ideally, life happens!) equal to the reward you reap. But why is this important?

Techniques For Improving Self-Management And Task Prioritization

Now, let’s take those stars in your eyes and put them to good use while exploring the ways to actually put self-management to work and prioritize those pesky tasks on your to-do list.

The GTD Framework

Coined by David Allen, the Getting Things Done framework helps you do just that. The idea for the GTD approach is simple—clear your mind for important things by capturing and organizing all the tasks that need to be done in a logical system. This allows you to take control of what needs to be done, avoiding any mental distractions so you can focus on execution.

The GTD framework is based on five steps:

  1. Capture all the things! Your ideas, recurring tasks, long email responses, meetings—all the little details.
  2. Clarify the things you have to do. This is the time to decide if that task needs action or not.
  3. Organize those tasks by priority and category. Assign due dates when possible.
  4. Reflect on your to-do list. This is when you revise all the tasks and evaluate the system as a whole to get a clear picture of what your upcoming week will look like.
  5. Engage and get to work. At this stage, all your tasks are organized by priority and broken down by actions. You know exactly what you should be doing.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Bring clarity to your to-do list with the Eisenhower Matrix, a prioritization method built by the 34th President of the United States who used it to make fast and confident decisions on his (probably much more important, let’s be honest) daily tasks. The matrix works by organizing tasks by importance and urgency and then makes it clear which to tackle first.

Eisenhower Matrix Graphic

Now that you’re a task-flinging, prioritization-pro, it’s time to break out the Trello boards. With the help of these methods as well as a few essential Trello features, you and your team will be one step closer to crushing projects, and dare we say, getting ahead?

How To Use Trello To Self-Manage And Prioritize

Below are four Trello Power-Ups and features that when combined with the GTD Framework and Eisenhower Matrix will be sure to flip the switch on your and your team’s projects and workflows.

Let’s start things off with learning how to implement the GTD Framework and Eisenhower Matrix into your Trello workflows.

The first order of business is to capture all of the nitty gritty details in order to get a full picture of what needs to be done. Create a card for each task and fill out the card description with those details—no matter how big or small. Then, arrange the cards in a list, often users name this list ‘Incoming’ or ‘To Do’, until you start working on them, at which point they can be moved to an ‘In Progress’ list and finally, the ‘Done’ list!

Then, it’s time to establish which tasks are the most important and urgent. Once you’ve placed your tasks into the corresponding spaces in the Eisenhower Matrix, you can determine which tasks are high, medium, and low priority.

Here’s an easy way to do this:

  • Urgent/Important = High priority
  • Important/Not Urgent = Medium priority
  • Not Important/Urgent = Medium priority
  • Not important/Not Urgent = Low priority

Then you can assign due dates to each task, and use the Calendar Power-Up to get a birds-eye view of your week and month at large.

1. Add Labels To Visualize Priorities

Once you’ve established the level of priority for your tasks, you can use Labels to visualize them within your Trello board. To create labels for your board, click into any card, and select ‘Labels’. From there, choose which colors you’d like to display and edit the name of each one. Keep in mind that a card can have more than one label, for example: ‘Low priority’ and ‘Work-related’.

Trello Labels Screenshot
Trello Labels on Board Screenshot

If having every task displayed on your board gets overwhelming, you can filter your board so only cards with a specific label are displayed. To do this, go to Menu, then select Search Cards, and select the label(s) you’d like to filter by.

Trello labels filter GIF

2. Use Advanced Checklists To Keep Yourself (And Your Team) In Check

In the spirit of getting things done, users of Business Class and Enterprise can enjoy Advanced Checklists to help team members hold themselves accountable during a project. When creating a checklist item, quickly add team members and due dates that will then appear in your Calendar view, as well as in the ‘Your Items’ tab on your Trello Home screen.

Trello Advanced Checklist GIF

Advanced Checklists are also a handy tool for team meetings. As items are discussed, managers can add checklist items, assign teammates, and due dates, and then everyone can leave the meeting with a clear understanding of who is tackling what.

If the checklist item gets unruly and starts taking on subtasks, it’s easy to convert the checklist item into a card. The assigned member and due date information carry through to the new card.

3. Let Butler To Do The Heavy Lifting

Are repetitive administration tasks weighing you down? Just tell Butler, Trello’s obedient automation robot, to perform actions for you by setting up commands.

There are 4 types of Butler commands:

  • Buttons that run an action on a card or across an entire board or card in a single click.
  • Rules that are instantly triggered by a set action.
  • Scheduled Commands that are performed on specific days of the week, month, or year.
  • Due Date Commands that run in relation to approaching or past due dates.

Butler automatically reacts to your actions on the board, helping minimize the number of clicks needed to perform different tasks. Here’s an easy due date command to run to ensure an upcoming deadline never slips through the cracks:

Trello Butler Due Date Command Screenshot

With this command, two days before the card’s due date, Butler will add the ‘red’ (high-priority) label to the card and add it to the top of the ‘Up Next’ list.

There’s so much to uncover with Trello through Butler—it’s definitely worth the time to explore, test, and automate. The more you use it, the more it learns your behavior to make tailored recommendations thanks to its AI capabilities.

Butler is available to all Trello users, and Butler for Business Class and Enterprise comes with even more advanced features and automation capabilities.

4. Create Custom Fields For Added Organization

The Custom Fields Power-Up brings context to your cards by displaying text and number fields, drop-down lists, checkboxes, and dates.

A great way to manage your time is by adding a front-facing Custom Field to each card that displays the ideal amount of time you should spend on it. This way, you can identify the most high-priority, time-consuming tasks that will likely take up the bulk of your day or week.

Trello Custom Field GIF
Trello Custom Field Screenshot

This is just one way to use this great Trello feature—the unsurprising thing about Custom Fields is that they’re customizable. The freedom is yours to make your cards display whatever helpful information you want!

Take Back Your Time And Uncover More Trello Treasures

The fun never stops with what Trello can do for your tasks. If these measures do in fact enable you to reach that elusive pot of gold—the end of your to-do list—bravo, you’ve conquered the assumed impossible!

By harnessing Trello’s mystical powers, managing yourself, prioritizing tasks, and encouraging your team to do the same—the productivity possibilities are truly endless. Cheers to the goal of getting ahead, and leaving your to-do list in the dust.

Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!

Next: The Ultimate Guide To Remote Team Bonding

6 ways to use Trello for effective self-management