Power Tools: Trello

In taking the most active approach to my writing career as I can, I’ve opted to look at my creative activity as a business, a profit generating enterprise. An essential aspect to any business, especially one that runs on cycles of creation and consumption, project management is crucial to the operation. For this week’s blog, I wanted to share one of my favorite project management tools: Trello.

Trello is based off of the Kanban Board application. In the 1940’s, engineers from Toyota would put colored cards (“kanban” is the Japanese word for “colored card” or “signal”) into three different columns: to do, in progress, and done. It was an excellent way to visualize the work that needed to be done, what was already under way, and what had been accomplished. I learned about the idea of a Kanban Board while reading an article on software developers trying to increase productivity. Liking the concept, I’ve adopted it and modified it for my own use.

Enter: Trello. Trello is an online Kanban Board, essentially. A Kanban Board can be paper and post-its, index cards, but can get kind of messy – my troubles were relieved in finding Trello, and I got a lot more out of it than just the card and columns I was looking for!

This is how I put Trello to work for me: I have a master board, which I keep all of my projects in my sight. My three columns for my master board are “Concept,” “In Development,” “In Production,” and “Retired.” Each project gets its own board for use – I have a board for Days of the Phoenix and the queries I’m sending out (those columns would be: “to query,” “query sent,” “full manuscript requested,” and “declined.”); for my current work in progress A Law of Constants I have the traditional set up: “to do,” “in progress,” and “done.”

For the Board for Days of the Phoenix, I will create a card for each agent that I have researched and think that my work might pique their interest – I create a card with their name and the company they work for (so that I’m not querying multiple agents from the same company at the same time). Trello will allow you to make checklists inside of a card, this is where I put the query requirements (cover letter, first chapter, first ten pages, etc.), that way I know that I am paying active attention to what the agent is looking for. I will put the company’s address in the card body as well, that’s just me being thorough.

You can also add notes and comments in the card as well; if the agent sends an auto email that they’ve received the submission, that is good to note, if an assistant from the agency reaches out to you for more information, log the activity.

Once the query is sent, I’ll move Joe’s card to the “Query Sent” column and such. It’s good to keep track of the date of your submission as well – Litery Agents are busy (we’re talking getting upwards of a couple thousand queries a month) and it may take two or three months to get back to you. Keeping track of the date will also keep you from being a hemorrhoid and blowing a potential chance with an agent who might have liked your work.

Trello is exceptional for every day use, not just for writers or software developers. It is very common for me to keep a Trello Board for a lot of my other needs: household projects, event planning, collaborative event planning – Trello has the ability to invite others to participate in your board! If you are working on a large project with others, get them all tied to your one board; you’ll be tracking collaborative progress in no time!

You can sign up for your free Trello account at www.trello.com.

If you have any tools that work for you, I’d love to hear about them. I am always eager to maximize my productivity.

Until your next trip across the Millerverse: go out and be awesome!

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