It’s easy to get stuck in the monotony of life—the “rinse and repeat” of your tired day-to-day routine: go to work, sign off, take care of yourself & the family, maybe treat yourself, and repeat.When your blinders are on, offbeat aspects of your life such as trying new hobbies, volunteering in your community, or giving to charity can slip through the cracks. When things are out of sight, they easily make their way to the very back of your mind. While they may not be your top priorities, it’s still nice to give them the time and attention they deserve.
Born out of a recognition that there simply were too many little pieces of my everyday life that were being overlooked, I finally took pen to paper to make a physical list of all my “buckets of life”. The natural next step for me was to digitize this list so that I could easily monitor and modify over time. Now after a few years, I have been using what I like to call my "life board" in order to keep various aspects of my life in order.
“Those who work at a messy or otherwise unorganized workspace spend 1 ½ hours (on average) looking for misplaced items.” (Timezy)
There’s a saying, “Cluttered desk, cluttered mind.” I’ve taken this to heart and have applied it to how I approach the making of such an all-encompassing board.
My motto: Cluttered Trello board, cluttered mind.
In this guide, I will be sharing some tips and tricks that have helped me stay organized and on top of things—for my own sanity. My hope is that this will help you find a little more order in the chaos, no matter what messy season of life you may find yourself in.
Visualize Your 'Buckets' Of Life
You can't organize what you don't see. They say, "out of sight, out of mind", and it was precisely for this reason that I was first compelled to visually map out the aspects of my life in a tangible way.
To this end, what I have found extremely helpful is carving out some devoted alone time to sit with your current situation and map things out. First, list out the "buckets" or areas of life to lay the groundwork for your board.
My personal life board looks a little something like this:
Depending on where you are in life, your list could look something like this:
Ask yourself: What's held much of your attention lately? Where has a lot of your time and energy been going towards? Be honest.
Review your list again. Did you notice anything missing? Sometimes, when we are distracted by the curveballs life throws at us, it can be tempting to be fixated on a few things while forgetting about the rest. Go back and refine where necessary.
Get Your Priorities Straight
After you've taken the time to map out the significant areas of your life, take a step back and assess the areas that are most important to you in order to determine which aspects require the most attention. For each life bucket, create a list on Trello. Organize your buckets from left to right—with your topmost priorities appearing first, on the left-hand side.
The way I like to visually prioritize my lists is through intentional and deliberate positioning. For me, ranking them by order of importance spanning from left-to-right, then top-to-bottom, helps me to more easily discern between what is more of a priority (top, left) versus less of a priority (bottom, right):
- For each life bucket, create a list (Hobbies, for instance)
- Position the lists that are most significant to you to the left, and drag-and-drop the lesser ones to the far right.
- Similarly, position cards that appear within each of these lists from top to bottom, with ones at the top that are most top of mind. This way, your eyes will be drawn to the ones that appear first.
- Use card Labels so that you can easily spot progress to help inform its ranking.
As your priorities shift, so will the order and sequence of how your lists and cards appear. While your life continues to evolve, naturally, so will this board.
Features To Make Your Lists More Actionable
"A goal without a deadline is just a wish."
Checklists and deadlines make the world go ‘round. Taking an iterative approach to make steady progress is important. Now it’s time to define the work.
Use the Checklist feature within each card to map out each subtask of the bigger project at hand. If you’re a user of Business Class, you can even assign separate due dates for each subtask by using Advanced Checklists!
At this stage, it is important to identify concrete tasks to tackle by being as clear and specific as possible. Starting small can help make seemingly intimidating task lists way more approachable and manageable. Here are some examples of groups of work across three different life buckets:
- Maintenance: Use the Card Repeater Power-Up to set up recurring reminders i.e., monthly bill/rent payments, staple grocery items, cleaning the bathroom
- Reno project: Send briefs to contractors, call suppliers, buy paint
- Interior decor backlog: Gallery wall wishlist, living room accent pieces
- Prep for a busy week: Review calendar schedule, prep for meeting, draft emails
- Mentorship/Networking: Call my coach, LinkedIn inbox
- Self education/Thought leadership: Read article, post blog post
- Practice your instrument: Vocal warm up, learn a new song
- Inspiration station: Add to mood/vision board
Remember, each life bucket (list) is meant to be unique and will warrant its own respective set of checklists (cards). The goal isn't to try to populate all of them evenly as this will largely depend on the unique level of effort involved. Rather, the goal is to create checklists that you can feel good about, excited to tackle, and confident to work through.
Personalization: Make It Uniquely Yours
There's a reason why playful, fancy notebooks and stationery sell well—it's because they motivate you to have a little fun with your notes-to-self and to-do lists. The same thing can apply for Trello boards. One thing I like to do is to apply a visual theme or motif through a custom background to add a little oomph to my boards!
Need a little inspiration? Here are some fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing:Home:
Celebrate Wins And Plan For The Future
Taking time to pause and marvel at your beautiful, comprehensive life-board is important. Strides of progress and personal victories, no matter how big or small, deserve to be celebrated. Finishing that personal project, building an action-oriented checklist, keeping things organized, and being honest with deadlines—all these strides in progress add up. Nothing feels more satisfying than checking that last item off a list and archiving it. Look at that checklist go!
At this point, you've taken inventory of the abstract facets of your complex life and have mapped them out in a way that's easier for you to follow, monitor, and manage. You've built out smart checklists that you can get behind and chip away at. You've incorporated pops of personality and have added your own spin to it, making this organizational system one that is truly unique to you, and one that you are actually looking forward to revisiting time after time.
Life can get messy. Unplanned events can occur that slow down your timeline, priorities can shift, and new interests can arise. Trying to keep up can be tough because there are a billion and one things you’re having to think about, plan for, and respond to at any given moment.
Having the ability to learn and adapt as quickly as possible demands a tool stack and framework that adapts along with you. By taking a step back, gaining some perspective, and being honest with what parts of your life require the most attention, you can slowly but surely take control of your life—one Trello list at a time.
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