Keeping my project artifacts – notes, journaling, plans, where I left off… used to be quite difficult. Getting out of work in the evening and trying to spend an hour working on my side project, I’d have to spend the first 15 minutes trying to get my mind right.
On top of that, I had thing scattered, papers, notes, in Evernote, notebooks, post-it notes, bookmarks, etc. You get the idea.
All this setup time would eat away at work time till I found a way to remember everything instantly.
I could start, get going and organize thing at a glance.
- Without racking my brain to remember where I stopped
- Or trying to remember where I kept that image that I wanted to add to the blog post
- And I can search, delete what I no longer need, and restore it back if necessary.
You can’t reclaim wasted time
The problem was that every minute I spent searching was a minute I could have spent working. Every second I spent in set up was time lost that I would never get back.
You need a way to get to productivity faster. You need to find a hack to eliminate your slack time.
You just need to get better at sitting down and getting to work immediately.
But it’s hard and it’s kind of difficult to know where to start.
When you clean your desk then you kind find your notes. When your desk is messy then you can’t seem to get in the zone there seems to be no win in site.
You need a system that serves as an extension of your brain that lives outside of your head.
Your preferred style of mess
The fact is that some of us are really organized. But for the rest of us normal people. We have to find what works for us.
A pristine desk might not be our best solution. On top of that we might have a certain way that we like to organize things and sometimes there is just not enough space for it in our home offices. And, speaking of home offices, it leaves us location locked.
Taking your prep work and your notes with you
The other challenge that gets posed is that if we do decide to take the notes with us then again we are at the mercy of having a great system that will allow us to organize, sort, and put the information we need in the order that we need them to be.
And you might think that going digital is the solution with a notebook like Evernote or Microsoft one note but there’s a better solution out there.
Trello to the rescue!!
On the one hand, you’re correct that a digital notebook tool like Evernote is the right solution for the advantages it brings.
- Available on all your devices
- Allows you to store a ton of information
But if you’re looking for a system to allow you to quickly recall everything you need instantly then you don’t want to rely on your memory at all.
And there lies the advantage of Trello.
You don’t want to have to open up Evernote or google docs or your email because there are things there that are not related to your project. Instead, you can upload things to Evernote and attach only the things that are related to your project on your board in Trello. You’ll see how this works in a bit.
Your external brain
Trello is a project management and organizational tool that gives you a visual drag and drop interface so that you can add your notes on cards and order them in columns of lists.
With Trello you can set it up visually and put the things in a way that your brain digests information best.
You like pictures? Then add pictures to your cards. If you’re a checklist person then do just that.
But the advantage is that when you’re using the setup as you personal external brain then you can add the things that you need to quick reference so that you can find it at a glance.
An example to bring it home
I get up from my bed and go right to working at my project. I’m usually not all that awake.
For that reason, I need to find everything at a glance.
I set up my Trello Board with five essentials
- Journal: A journal card of where i stopped before so i can pick up and just start working
- Reference: A collection of articles, books, and guides that I find my self-referencing often
- Directives: A collection of directives, how-to’s, and procedures that I use often (like the steps I follow when editing my podcasts)
- Assets – graphics I created, articles I finished that I need to post, things of that nature, I attach them so I can just use Trello as my one stop shop for transitioning tasks in my workflow
- Active: Active reference – So this is where I collect things that I’m going to work on over time. Like a list where I brainstorm ideas for new posts, and things that I just keep looking at every day.
With those 5 lists and all the cards in them I can crawl out of my bed in the morning and without having to use my brain at all I can get going.
And that’s it really.
How to create your external brain using Trello in 3 steps
- Sign up for Trello at http://trello.com if you don’t have an account already
- Create a board and name it after your main project
- Create the lists – feel free to copy my examples above and modify it to fit your working style.
As you find things that relate to your project that you would normally have to remember just add it to your board.
Side note: You can do this with a physical board with post-it notes but it’s not portable and you can have multiple boards for different projects.
And when you want to work you’ll just sit down, open your board and know exactly where you left off. Zero to productive in no time flat.
Most times we rely a lot on willpower when a simpler system or process is what we need.
What are the categories of things that you find yourself having to remember most?
How can you modify your external brain to eliminate that thought bottleneck so you can spend time focusing on your projects?
Think about it and make it happen.
Good luck, and keep doing things that matter.