Connected: to-do or not to-do

There’s few things in this world more reliable or satisfying than a well-ordered to-do list.

What Trello looks like

What Trello looks like

They’re as individual as any person and can range from meticulously organised through to hurried notes scrawled on the back of your hand.

Memory is fallible, but to-do lists are absolute. They bring logic and system to a chaotic work schedule, they help reinforce a sense of accomplishment that can otherwise be fleeting. They’re the glue that holds your life together.

Now, some people say you shouldn’t mess with something that isn’t broken, but really, the humble to-do list could so easily be so much more with just a little bit of help. You can’t sync them, you can’t easily communicate a paper list with other team members who live in other places, and the editing tools are crude to say the least. The biggest advantage of a paper list is that you’re not bound by anyone’s structure but your own.

To-do list apps have existed for a long time in many forms, but a lot of them have limitations. They can be difficult to edit, structure and maintain. There’s very few things that can compete with the organic nature of pen to paper, the simple checkbox and the ordered approach, the satisfaction of a well-placed check mark or just plain scribbling out a task that is done. The personal nature of handwriting, stationery choice, and the reliability and accessibility of a post-it stuck to a monitor.

But the thing that’s satisfying isn’t the action of pen-to-paper, it’s the completion of the task, or the celebration of its completion. And that’s something that can be replicated digitally through good design.

Enter Trello, the to-do app that lives in your browser.

Trello’s underlying structure is very simple. It takes more than a few nods from agile methodology (a project management system designed by software developers), but the flexibility of the design means it’s useful for a wide variety of tasks. I use Trello to organise not just my work life, but an increasing number of other things in my life. Planning an overseas trip? Start with a Trello. Working on a collaborative project? There’s a board for that.

Trello isn’t going to do your work or your planning for you. You still have to organise, structure and update your lists yourself. But it does provide a very good framework that encompasses both the brevity of a to-do list and the depth of project management. With a bit of initial planning and regular maintenance, it can become an excellent part of your workflow.

I’ve converted my whole team to Trello, and slowly one by one the rest of the PSA staff (but don’t worry, I’m not an undercover shill for Big Trello, I just really like it!). People request my assistance in hushed tones. I’m the one who can ‘show them this Trello thing’ – it’s the closest I’ll get to infamy.

Your mileage may vary, and there may be other tools that work better for you and your way of thinking. For now though, Trello seems to be the one for me and my team.

I still keep paper lists, but they now exist in harmony with my digital lists. Somehow a task feels more real now when I have it saved to my official Trello board.

Trello is available on the web at and apps are available for iPhone/iPad, Android and Kindle Fire devices

By Jem Yoshioka