Ah, yes – repeating tasks. Buy food every Saturday. Send invoices every month. Schedule a product review every week. Your weeks are most likely full of repeating tasks. You already use Trello to organise much of your life – can you also schedule repeating tasks in Trello? Read on to find out!
Are you interested in productivity? Then you might have come across a method called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a great way to stay focused and work through a list of tasks. A popular way to use the Pomodoro Technique with Trello is the Pomello browser extension. We took a deep dive to see whether Trello + Pomello can help you get more accomplished.
The Pomodoro Technique
Before we get stuck in, it’s worth describing the Pomodoro Technique in more detail. Essentially you set a kitchen timer to 25 minutes. This 25-minute block is called ‘a Pomodoro’. Pick a task to work on, shut off all distractions and work through the task. When the timer rings, you re-surface and take a 5 minute break. After four Pomodoros, you take a longer break of 20 or 30 minutes. That’s essentially it. For full details read the Get Started guide on the Pomodoro Technique website.
Sounds very simple – but does it work? The answer is a resounding YES! People report doubling their workload using the Pomodoro Technique. Bernie and I can vouch for it ourselves as well. There’s nothing quite like it when you need to put your head down and work through a list of tasks.
Pomello – Pomodoro Technique in Trello
An easy way to use the Pomodoro Technique with Trello is to install the Pomello Chrome web browser extension.
Here is the link: Pomello Chrome Web Store
Once installed, the extension lives on the Chrome ‘apps’ page. It’s a bit different in this way – other extensions often leave a little icon next to the address bar.
Launch the ‘apps’ page by going to this address: chrome://apps
Once the app is installed, you need to connect it to your Trello account. Click on the little green floating panel that comes up and hit ‘Connect’ when prompted.
Select the Trello boards
After logging in to Trello, you are asked to select which Trello boards Pomello should be active on. I normally just hook it up to my personal to-do list board – but you can attach it to more boards and make changes as you go along. Pick a single board while you get used to it and evolve as you get more experienced.
Select the Trello lists
Pomello will help you pick the next task to work on. This only works well if you narrow it down to a few lists. Pomello asks you to pick specific lists where you store your to-do items.
As an example: My personal to-do list board has list columns ‘Not doing now’, ‘Scheduled’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’. I only attach Pomello to the list ‘Scheduled’ because that stores tasks that need to be worked on.
There are two advanced settings that are worth tweaking. They are hidden underneath each Trello list that you activate Pomello on:
Add marker to card title
Log events in card comments
These two settings I would recommend turning off, especially on client-facing boards. With them turned on, Pomello will record information to the Trello card itself, which becomes viewable by the other Trello board members. Perhaps desirable but I found it gave too much insight into my personal working habits and cluttered up the card information.
Track productivity through Pomello
This is a good feature if you decide to sign up to a Pomello account
Here are the final settings that worked best for me:
Pomello in action
Once you’ve got everything set up, you can start using Pomello to run actual 25-minute Pomodoros. This part is really easy – Pomello’s floating panel shows you what options are available.
First, pick a task. Where do the tasks come from? From your Trello lists of course!
You’re ready – start work. The floating panel shows you the Pomello timer.
Now it’s time to focus for 25 minutes!
Once you’ve finished the task (or need to take a break), click on the timer to bring up the mini-menu:
Not too many options here:
- The ‘tick’ let’s you finish the task.
- The ‘cross’ cancels the timer completely.
- The ‘T’ text icon allows you to leave a note (type /? for a useful help page)
- The ‘||’ pause icon allows you to pause the Pomodoro.
- The ‘…’ dots close the mini menu.
Just try it a few times, you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Completing a task
The beauty of Pomello is that it integrates with your existing Trello workflow. When you’ve completed a card, you’re prompted to move it to another list on your Trello board. We often use the standard ‘To Do, Doing, Done’ setup in Trello and Pomello lets us move cards to Done very easily.
And finally, when the Pomodoro is up, it’s time to take a break:
The Pomodoro Technique is a brilliant way to increase your productivity. Using it all the time is likely to be a bit monotonous – but when you need to work your way rapidly through a list of tasks, it’s the best way to get things done.
Pomello is a bit time-consuming to install and setup. Once it’s up and running however, the interface is easy to use. The floating panel is unobtrusive and easily accessible whichever application you use. The Trello integration is great and easily works with our existing workflow. Definitely one to recommend and both Bernie and I have it installed and use it on a regular basis.
Update: The Pomello app is now also available for download as a standalone application. Useful if you don’t use the Chrome browser or prefer to use an app rather than a browser extension.
Note: The Pomodoro Technique and Pomodoro is a registered trademark of Francesco Cirillo.
Many people store numbers or points on their Trello cards. Uses vary, from Scrum story points to costs in a budget planner. Wouldn’t it be great if you could sum up all these values and show the list total at the top of the Trello list instead? It would mean you don’t need to keep a separate spreadsheet for basic calculations. Trello doesn’t offer list totals out of the box, so how could you make this work?
Time tracking used to mean complicated spreadsheets and boring time-sheets that you were forced to fill in every Friday afternoon. In recent years this industry has seen a massive online resurgence. The time tracking app Toggl consistently ranks as one of the most popular tools and we decided to take a deeper look at how it integrates with Trello.
Toggl and Trello are made by different companies, so you will need to sign up for the two of them. Both tools offer free accounts and depending on your requirements you can continue to use them for free. To compare options (and for sign-up links), take a look at these pages:
Integrating Toggl time tracking with Trello
Armed with your Toggl and Trello accounts, you’re ready to integrate the two applications. Luckily this is made very easy via the Toggl Button browser extension. Very easy, that is, provided that you use the Chrome web-browser. The Toggl Button extension is only available for Chrome! (Not sure which browser you’re using? Check here.) For users of other browsers, this might be frustrating – but if you’re already a Toggl fan and a Trello fan it might be worth making the switch so that you can use your favourite tools together.
You download and install the Toggl Button extension via the Chrome webstore.
Configuring the Toggl Button extension
Once you’ve installed the Toggl Button Chrome extension, you need to give it access to your Trello account. The extension will automatically pop up the configuration screen. Select ‘trello.com’ from the list of allowed sites and ‘Allow’ the permission change for the browser:
Start Toggl time tracking in Trello
When you load a Trello board after installing the Toggl Button Chrome extension, you will see a new Toggl extension icon in the top right of the browser window. The first time round you will need to click it + log in with your Toggl username and password:
Once you’ve logged in, the Toggl Button extension will fetch your normal Toggl projects and make them available to you in Trello. Tracking work becomes a simple matter of clicking ‘Start new’ and because the button is right there in the Chrome browser bar you can access it without leaving Trello.
Any project work that you track using the Chrome Toggl Button extension shows up in the Toggl website interface as well – the two synchronise pretty much in real time. Any time tracking data you collect becomes available on Toggl’s website and in their reports and other functionality.
Time tracking on individual Trello cards
So far we’ve covered the basic functionality of the Toggl extension. Trello integration goes further and it’s here that your workflow can really benefit.
The Toggl extension installs a new ‘Start timer’ button on each Trello card. You need to click the card and the button is in the Action menu. A single button click starts the timer.
Time tracking with Toggl and Trello in practice
In practice, the new Toggl ‘start timer’ button has worked very well and integrates easily with an existing Trello workflow. We tend to move cards to a ‘Doing Now’ column when we start working on it. In 99% of cases, we open up the card to read details of what needs to be done. Clicking on Toggl’s ‘Start timer’ button is a natural extension and doesn’t take any extra time. Toggl is clever enough to copy the card’s title into the time tracking description, so there is hardly any extra work left to be done. In our experience, time tracking lives and dies on how easily it integrates with your existing processes and Toggl scores very highly here.
Of course starting the time tracking is only half of the picture – you also have to record when you stop working on a task. This is where things get a little more complicated. Suppose you start time tracking on a Trello card and then move on to another card. When you click Toggl’s ‘start timer’ button on the new card, the old timer automatically stops. So far, so good.
Problems arise when you switch out of Trello altogether, especially at the end of the day. We found that we would often forget to switch off the current timer. It would simply continue to run overnight. Once I left for the weekend and found on Monday morning that I’d inadvertently tracked 62 hours to a single task. To be fair to Toggl, this is a problem that could happen with any time tracking tool and it is not directly connected to their app or the Trello integration. What would be super useful though is if the timer could be configured to stop automatically when you drop a Trello card into a ‘Done’ column. Then, for us, the integration would be complete. In the meantime, start a habit of stopping the Toggl time tracking via the Toggl Button Chrome extension or the Toggl website when you leave your computer at the end of the day.
To bring this review to a conclusion: Overall we were impressed with Toggl’s integration into Trello. Toggl is known for its ease of use and ‘single click time tracking’. By adding the ‘start timer’ button to the Trello card’s Actions menu, time tracking can fit easily into your existing workflow. Both Trello and Toggl provide free account options and together they provide a powerful project management and time tracking solution.
Have you had your own experiences using Trello and Toggl? Maybe you use another time tracking app? Share your experiences in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.
Trello recently announced a massive change to their power-ups functionality. Trello Power-Ups are used to turn features like the calendar or third-party app integration on and off. The basic power-ups used to be free. However, you will now be forced to choose just one power-up for your free Trello boards. To help you make that choice we provide an in-depth guide to all the Trello power-ups that are currently available.
Trello is simple to use and easy to learn. On the other hand, it still can’t do some pretty basic things. If you’ve ever tried to count the number of cards in a list, see lots of lists on screen at the same time or export your Trello board to a spreadsheet, you’ll know that it’s impossible. To help you out in these sticky situations, we’ve compiled a list of the best Trello extensions. They run right in your web browser and add missing features.