By Tom Sandford on June 12, 2020

The Trello hack that boosted our productivity

It’s been a busy few months for us here at Future Content. Of course it's been nothing compared to the rush that NHS staff and other key workers have had to face. But we’ve definitely been going at it hammer-and-tong for the last three months, in our own small way.

For us, lockdown has meant tearing up plans and starting afresh - doing whatever was needed at a moments notice (as we mentioned in previous newsletters 1. 2.)

All good stuff. And fun, too. But when you couple extra work on reduced budgets with a reduced team, and then your business partner heads off on paternity leave (congrats Marc and Laura!) … Well, the result has been an increase in workload that my task management strategy wasn’t able to deal with. 

The result? Working harder and longer with frustratingly less and less out-put. 

I know from speaking with clients and other business owners over the last few weeks that I’m not alone. So I wanted to use this week's newsletter to share a new trick I’ve used this week which has been an absolute God-send for my personal output and sanity.

Enter Cal Newport

I’m a big fan of Mr Newports working. I’ve shared many of his articles in the recommended read section of this website. I’ve gifted more copies of his book, Deep Work, than any other. 

So, on reflection, it was perhaps unsurprising that, when I was feeling close to breaking point and went for a walk, I chose to listen to his first podcast.

In it, Cal describes how, in order to deal with the new workload lockdown had landed him with, he turned to Trello - a tool I’ve been using for almost 10 years. 

Long story short, I pinched his method and it worked a charm. 

The Hack

  • I first created a mega list of all my to do’s from various inboxes I have. Email was of course the big one, but also Slack and Trello (we run our clients editorial work through Trello), my notepad too and the weekly planning doc I use to keep track of work. 
  • I then created a board for each of the work roles I have - client, sales, marketing, finance, leadership and training, and operations.
  • Each board has the same structure. A column for backlogged tasks, a column called ‘waiting for response’ and another  ‘working on this week’. 

Once I’d added all of my tasks to their respective boards, the reason for my stupor was immediately clear; everything was in the ‘working on this week’ column!


Seeing it so starkly, so visually, was a moment. A real turning point. From there, you can guess the rest. Swift prioritisation, an urgent need to delegate more. Cancellation of non-essential Zoom calls and the most productive - and enjoyable - week in months.

As mentioned a moment ago, we collaborate with clients exclusively on Trello. So to make life simple I just copied the cards to the ‘Client work’ board. I then used the “attach by Trello option” to link the cards together. (Trello will automatically suggest the original card making this an incredibly swift process). By doing things in this way I don’t feel I’m duplicating work. Rather, I’m using the ‘Client work’ board as a task dashboard to jump back to the main card.

For those areas where we’re not already using Trello (sales, for example, where we use the Hubspot CRM), I don’t add all the small ‘follow-up’ tasks as new trello cards. Instead I have a ‘sales follow ups card’ (2x 1 hr sessions) and then keep all those bitty tasks in the CRM.

With everything laid out in this way, I’ve found planning the week and days far, far better (I use Cal Newports other tip - Time Blocking - too).

Most important to me, I feel way less stressed. The ‘waiting on’ column is arguably the most impactful. It means that I'm not keeping all those moving parts in my head.

So, thanks Cal. An example of the right content in the right format providing real help and benefit. I hope that, by sharing my recent experience, it will inspire some idea that helps you manage, too.

Guide: How to adopt ABM

Published by Tom Sandford June 12, 2020