Using Trello for Impromptu Meetings

As a manager at Fog Creek, there are a lot of people I need to keep up with, and quite a few others that I want to keep up with. But these people are usually engaged in actual productive work, and I want to be respectful of their time and attention.

For a while, I tried making Thursday my “one-on-one day”. Not only was it grueling, I don’t really want to dictate to people when they should meet with me. I want natural discussions and I want them to happen regularly and (fairly) organically.

So here’s my lightweight Trello-based system.
At the beginning of the week, I label everyone in the Frequent list with the green label. It’s easy with Trello’s keyboard shortcuts. I just hover over each card with my mouse and hit the 1 key. Over the course of the week, meetings with each person happen naturally. They’ll often start at lunch and continue in my office afterward. Or sometimes I’ll bump into someone in the kitchen and just have an impromptu talk there. I usually have my phone on me, so I can use the mobile app to pull up notes from previous meetings.

Afterward, I put a summary of our meeting in a new comment on their card. Then I remove the green label from their card and put them at the bottom of the list. By the time Thursday rolls around, I usually only have a couple people I haven’t talked to, and it’s not a hardship to email or chat them and ask for some time.

For people I meet with infrequently, it’s even more important that we don’t go too long between catch-ups. Time can slip away from you. I make my notes on their card and set a due date for the next meeting.

All in all, the biggest benefit of this system is not what it does for me, but what it does for the people I work with. With this new system, I cause fewer interruptions. When something springs to mind, I just open that person’s card and add a new comment. If I’m away from my desk, I can just do it on the mobile app.  When I feel the urge to wander down the hall and interrupt a coder who might be in the zone, I put my thoughts in the card instead, and move on. Next time I meet with them, I bring their card up.

It works much better than my old system.

(At eye-level, on the inside of the door to my office.)