My name is Sarah and I'm so glad you're here!
This blog is where you'll find all my best tips and tricks to organize, simplify, and streamline your business and life.
It’s no secret around here that I kind of have a thing for spreadsheets. But it’s also no secret that I kind of have a thing for Trello, too.
Depending on your feelings toward spreadsheets, you might scrunch up your nose at me when I say that spreadsheets are an incredible and powerful tool for your business. You might even do the same when I talk about how great Trello is.
Or you may be thinking, with tools like Trello at your disposal, why would you ever need or want to use spreadsheets instead? After all, you have to deal with all those tiny boxes and formulas and stuff, and who wants to deal with that, right?
The truth is, both Trello and spreadsheets are incredible tools that can help you organize your business, make important information and data digestible and easy to find, and more!
But even if you can see the value in using both tools within your business, there may be one big looming question — which one am I supposed to use when and for what?
We all want to be as efficient as possible in our businesses, which means not only using the right tools and systems, but using those tools and systems in the best possible way.
So maybe you’ve been curious about the spreadsheet thing for a while, but you’re just not sure when it’s best to use that and when it’s best to use Trello or a similar project and task management system.
Well, today is your lucky day, because I’m gonna break it down for you.
Even though they might look super different, both Trello and spreadsheets actually have a number of things in common.
At their core, they both have pretty simple frameworks. Trello deals with its system of boards, lists, and cards, and spreadsheets deals with its system of rows, columns, and cells.
Both these tools are immensely powerful, but they can also be super intimidating. After all, it’s pretty much a blank slate when you create a new Trello board or new spreadsheet, which means you can do pretty much anything you want with them.
This is a liberating and exciting thing because it means you can do whatever you want! 🙌🏻 But it’s also terrifying because it means you can do whatever you want. 😱 There’s no default way things have to be done or systems and structures you have to conform to outside the super simple frameworks of the boards/lists/cards and rows/columns/cells.
For this reason, it can be a little terrifying to even get started using Trello or spreadsheets, much less figuring out when you should be using each one!
So how about we break it down?
There are a lot of things I love about Trello, but one of my favorites is the checklists.
On every single card, you have the ability to add as few or as many checklists as you want. It’s great for breaking down your tasks for a project inside the card, and it automatically tells you the exact number of items completed, plus its percentage!
This one should probably come as no surprise, considering Trello is a project management system, but in the same way that Trello is great for tracking your to dos, it’s also great for tracking the overall projects that are giving you those to dos.
Depending on your preference, you can manage your projects a ton of different ways within Trello, but whether you do a board or list per project, a list or card per type of task, and a card or checklist per individual task, Trello is fantastic for defining your timeline, assigning due dates to deliverables, collaborating, labeling and color coding everything, and more.
As you might expect, Trello is great not only for internal project management, but external project management. And because it’s super easy to collaborate with other people, it’s great for working with clients!
You can create a board for each client and grant them access. You can lay out the entire workflow and process on that board and aggregate all the information a client may need access to. With the ability to comment on cards, your clients can provide feedback or thoughts right in the app and you can tag them when new items are available for their review or approval!
Similar to working with clients, Trello is fantastic for working with a team.
There are a ton of different features that make collaboration and communication super easy and simple. You can create different teams that help keep your boards organized and add individual members to the team overall, and provide them access to as many or as few boards as they need to see.
While it’s no secret that I use Trello for a lot these days, it wasn’t always that way. When I first started using Trello a couple of years ago, I primarily used it for one thing and one thing only — content management.
The simple framework of Trello makes it incredibly easy to keep track of all your different ideas across different platforms, the labels allow you to color code based on different categories, and tools like the Calendar Power Up allow you to see an actual editorial calendar, easily dragging, dropping, and rearranging content as necessary.
Plus, no surprise, it’s great when you have a team helping you manage content! You can create different checklists for each team member associated in the content management process, tagging them or assigning them the card when it’s their turn to take over.
If you need more than just raw numbers or words, if you actually need those numbers and words to tell you things about your business, spreadsheets are your best friend.
Using tools like charts and graphs, a spreadsheet allows you to aggregate information from different rows, columns, and cells and present it to you in an organized, digestible way that can help you see patterns in your business, which can make decisions like what products and services to continue offering or when to take a long-term break so much easier!
This one should come as absolutely no surprise, considering the fact that it can sometimes feel like the financial industry has cornered the market (no pun intended) on spreadsheet usage.
Yes, the framework of spreadsheets is simple with its cells, rows, and columns. But when you start looking at what those cells, rows, and columns can do, it’s pretty dang impressive.
Thanks to tools like formulas, conditional formatting, and data validation, spreadsheets can make it super simple to create a budget, track spending, project your income, figure out your pricing, and so, so much more!
There are certain events or projects that you may think belong in Trello, but actually work better in a spreadsheet. The big differentiator here is whether or not the info you’re looking at is more helpful to you when viewed side-by-side.
In the same way that putting data into a spreadsheet and turning it into a chart or graph can help you visually interpret the information, putting similar data into a spreadsheet and viewing it all side-by-side can be an incredible tool when you’re managing various aspects of your business.
Now, sometimes it’s not all about one or the other. Sometimes there are projects or tasks that have enough moving pieces that it’s actually the most beneficial to use Trello and spreadsheets together.
When it comes to tracking your leads there are two different aspects to it.
There’s the real time part where you’re actively tracking where your leads are in an inquiry or onboarding process in order to make sure you’re following up with everyone and staying on top of things. Then there’s tracking your leads after the fact and looking at things like what they inquired about vs. what they booked, how long it took them to book, where in the inquiry process you lost them, etc.
For the real time aspect of tracking your leads, Trello is totally the way to go. You can create a board for each step in the process and move them along so you have an easy visual representation of where all your leads are at in the process.
For the after the fact aspect of tracking your leads, spreadsheets are absolutely the way to go. Remember those charts and graphs I mentioned earlier? This is where the visual data aspect of spreadsheets shines. Using those tools, you can see at a glance all sorts of helpful information about your clients and customers all in one spot.
If the idea of adding clients to both Trello and a spreadsheet stresses you out, automate it! You can use a tool like Zapier to automatically add someone to a spreadsheet when they inquire and automatically add them to a card in Trello. Easy peasy!
I know this one might sound kind of weird, considering the fact that I wrote an entire post about using Trello to create your operations manual.
But here’s the thing — the operations manual is only helpful in aggregating all the information about your business if you have that information to aggregate.
Yes, you’ll keep things like checklists and workflows directly in Trello, but there’s just no way Trello can project your income or help you create a zero based budget like a spreadsheet can. Which is why the two work in tandem (along with other tools like word documents and image files) to store and gather all of the important information about your business in one singular location.
These are just a few examples of how Trello and spreadsheets are two powerful tools that, when used separately and together, can help your business immensely! The possibilities with both are really quite endless, so play around with things and see what you come up with!