Organization and Productivity

How to Manage Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Space With Trello

If you’ve ever had to manage a household or just try to accomplish all your personal to-do items, you know how hard it is to get them out of your head, figure out how to track everything in a simple way, find a balanced way to prioritize all the things you have to do, and actually get them done.

I have found an awesome way to make this easier.  It takes two steps:

First, sort your personal to-do’s into three spaces: physical, mental, and creative/emotional/spiritual.

Second, use Trello.

In the video above, I show you how to use Trello to manage your personal to-do items in a very simple and balanced way.

To use Trello, you don’t need any technical expertise.  All you need is a computer, internet connection, and an email address.

Read about it in this blog post, watch the video, or both.  It’s your choice.  But for full effect, don’t miss out on the video.  The visual nature of Trello is awesome.  Trust me, you’ll be hooked.


What is Trello?

Trello is a free web application that you can use to track pretty much anything you want.  It’s a kanban board of sorts.  Just go to and log in using your email address.

Trello’s three main building blocks are cards, lists, and boards.  Cards are things you’re working on, lists are collections of cards, and boards are collections of lists.  You can put all kinds of things on the back of cards: comments, color-coded labels, checklists, file attachments, due dates, voting, and more.

Use Trello on your own, or collaborate with others by adding members.

Here are 6 reasons why I like Trello:

1.  Simple – It has just the right amount of features to be approachable, yet powerful.  It’s naturally intuitive and just easy to use.  Add a card, add a list, rename a board – easy.
2.  Visual – The visual layout just works.  Seeing all your lists in one place is so nice.  And the drag and drop functionality makes it actually fun to use.  I love the visual display of priority: the card on top is simply the highest priority.  Dragging members to cards is delegation made fun.
3.  Accessible – You access your boards via your web browser on your computer or tablet, or from the Trello app on your smart phone.  Changes are instantly updated on all devices.  Very cool.
4.  Flexible – You can choose what you want to display on your board layout.  Don’t want to see a sidebar widget?  Hide it.  Just click Options, then Layout.  You can choose to hide the entire sidebar, or just individual parts.  Adding it back is easy, too.  Same goes for features.  You get to decide which features you want to use.  Love the color-coded labels, but the voting and due dates not so much?  That’s fine – it works how you want.  For this personal board, I keep it super simple and don’t use a lot of features.  But for my blog board, they sure come in handy!
5.  Actionable – Before Trello, I mostly used Evernote.  But it seemed like stuff I was saving was being just kind of lost into a sea of notebooks, with no plan for action.  Now, for example, when I want to save a web page, I add its link to the back of a card, so it’s directly related to something I need to do.
6.  Helpful – Whenever the Trello team tweaks or implements a feature or wants to share some helpful tips, they post a little red notification at the top of the screen.  The Trello Blog has some nice tips that help out a ton.  Also, the search bar is uber-helpful in finding any card you’re seeking.


Remember the physical, mental, and creative spaces?

These are three perfect personal to-do lists in Trello!

Balancing your focus among your physical, mental, and creative space is a simple and effective way to make you feel more accomplished, satisfied, and just happy.

I learned about this concept from Jeff Goins in his blog post The Most Important Part of the Creative Life.  Here’s how Jeff describes the spaces:

  • Physical space – if your space is cluttered, you will feel anxious
  • Mental space – if your mind is consumed with worries and concerns, you won’t be thinking clearly
  • Spiritual/emotional space – creativity is a spiritual act, a work of the heart

Does this resonate with you, like it does for me?  If so, here’s what to do:

  1. If you haven’t already, sign up with Trello.
  2. Create a new board.
  3. Add five lists to your board:
    • Physical Space
    • Mental Space
    • Creative/Emotional/Spiritual Space
    • Doing/Waiting
    • Done
  4. Add cards to each of the first three lists, for to-do items in your physical, mental, and creative spaces.  Add stuff to the back of each card, as you see fit.  Assign simple priorities by moving cards that you want to get done first to the top of the list.
  5. Choose which cards to work on, balancing your choices from each of the three spaces.
  6. As you’re working on your to-do’s, move them to the Doing/Waiting list.  Consider integrating these into your day planner.  Personally, I use Trello to compile and prioritize my tasks, then when I’m ready to accomplish them, I bring them into my my Comp Book Day Planner.
  7. As you complete your to-do’s, drag them over to the Done list.  It feels really good to see your Done list expand over time.  Take some time to relish what you’ve accomplished!


And there you have it, now you know how to manage your physical, mental, and creative space with the super-cool online tool, Trello!  Pretty neat, huh?

Like what you see?  Pass along the link to this post.  If you’d like to embed the screencast in your blog, go for it!  You can find the video on YouTube.

Do you use Trello?  Does the idea of physical/mental/creative space resonate with you?


Organization and Productivity

How to Make a Day Planner from a Composition Book

I don’t know what I would do without my day planner.  The planner in me NEEDS to be organized.  To-do lists, calendar events, family stuff, and menu plans all need to be scheduled and tracked.  And once I started my blog, there you have it – yet another item to track: an editorial calendar of blog posts.

All of these demands of my attention can easily add up.  I need to guard my time – it’s precious, you know?

The goal of my day planner is to help me be purposeful with my time.

I’ve tried many different day planners, both online and hardcopy.  But nothing really fit the bill for me.  Either planners were missing things I needed, or had unnecessary features that just sat there empty and useless.  And now that I want to track my blog posts in a day planner, I really want to have space for color-coded post-it notes.  My solution: a customized composition book.

Comp Book Day Planner

Why hardcopy versus online?

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology.  I use and love many online tools, including Trello and Evernote.  I’ve actually found these tools to complement my day planner.  But the handwriting and paper planner just ring true to me, for the following reasons:

  • Widely available – Your comp book is available to you at all times.  No relying on spotty internet access or battery/electricity.
  • Sensory output – Handwriting just feels good.  Seriously, the tactile sensation of writing words on paper is a great feeling.  We have our beautiful hands and fingers for more than just hitting keys and pushing buttons – let’s enjoy them!
  • Sensory input – We look at screens hours upon hours, every single day.  Seriously, it can’t hurt to take your eyes off your smartphone, computer, or TV for a little while, to do a little planning on good old-fashioned paper.  Our eyes and brains aren’t meant for this long-term and consistent exposure to screens.
  • Super customizable – When something in your schedule changes (as it often does), just erase it or move it.  Easy.  No clicking from screen to screen to screen to make a simple change.
  • Private – No other eyes or online platforms involved.  With all the online privacy policies out there, it’s easy to get nervous with who sees what.
  • Meaningful – You may find a more meaningful connection to your content when you write by hand.  Your words may be truer, more real, and just less fluffy.
  • Memory – You will more likely remember something you’ve handwritten, versus something you’ve typed.  Physically forming letters with your fingers seems to make an “imprint” upon the brain, according to this Education News article.

Why a comp book versus another hardcopy day planner?

  • Super customizable – This is gold to those of you who just can’t seem to find the perfect planner.  Make it yourself!
  • Widely available – You can pick up a comp book just about anywhere.
  • Inexpensive – Comp books are super cheap.  Ranging anywhere from $0.30 to $2.50, you just can’t beat the price.
  • Approachable – You may find the words flowing more freely written in a comp book, especially if you happen to have a mental barrier to “wasting” pages in a more expensive journal.

Make your comp book planner

1. You need: a comp book, a pen, a ruler, a glue stick, 2×2-in post-it notes, and washi tape or blue painter’s tape.

2. First page: print a yearly calendar from, cut it out and glue to the top of the page.  Use the bottom portion of the page to record whatever you want (yearly goals).

3. Next 12 pages: print each of the monthly calendars from (I printed a screenshot using Skitch so it was sized correctly), cut out and glue to the top of the pages.  Again, use the bottom portions of these pages to record whatever you want.

4. Next 2 pages: leave blank.  I don’t know why, I just did, in case I ever want to insert something in there.

5. Next 104 pages: a weekly calendar for each of the 52 weeks, with each week appearing on two facing pages.

Comp Book Day Planner Pages

  • Using a pen and ruler, draw 3 vertical lines on each page: 1.25 inches from outside edge, 2 inches from that line, and another line 2 inches from the line you just made.
  • Write in the days of the week in the top row, skipping the first square.  I begin the week with Monday.
  • Using a pen and ruler, draw as many horizontal lines as you like, depending on what you want to track.  I drew just two lines, making three rows: one to track events/to-do’s, one to track my blog editorial calendar, and one to track dinner menu planning.  Notice I sized my Blog row to accommodate a 2×2-in post-it note.  Each post-it note reflects a blog post.
  • Write in the row labels.  For my three rows, I keep the first big one empty (to later fill in with pencil each week), the second one is “Blog”, and third is “Dinner”.

6. The remaining 80 or so pages: use for whatever you want – notes, pockets, whatever.  To make a pocket, just fold a regular piece of lined notebook paper in half, cut off about 3/4-inch, and tape it to the bottom portion of a comp book page.  Washi tape or blue painter’s tape work just fine.  The decorative washi tape is especially fun to use.  Here’s a pocket example from my day planner…I needed a place to stash my travel confirmations for the 2012 Sewing Summit – a modern sewing and blogging conference in Salt Lake City this October 🙂

Comp Book Day Planner Pocket

Use it!

Now that you’ve created a one-of-a-kind day planner suited just for you, use the heck out of it.  Here are my personal tips:

  • After I’ve made all the formatting lines and row/column headers in pen, I use pencil for everything else.  I like to erase as my schedule changes.
  • Immediately after I create the planner, I write in all of the year’s events and holidays at once, on the top line.  No more missed birthdays!
  • I love to use post-it notes for my blog editorial calendar.  I color code by blog category.  Yes, I am an organization freak.  Yellow is Organization & Productivity, Pink is Sewing, Orange is Business, and so on.  I have even made a comp book blog planner…I’ll share THAT nugget with y’all later. UPDATE: to see my blog planner, read my post How to Make a Platform Planner.
  • I use the left-most column to pencil in the things I want to accomplish that week, then allocate them to the actual day’s schedule.  I like to balance my tasks among these three spaces: Physical, Mental, and Creative/Emotional (hat tip to Jeff Goins’ The Most Important Part of the Creative Life).  I use Trello to compile all these tasks, then when I’m ready to accomplish them, into the day planner they go!  UPDATE: to see how I use Trello, read my post How to Manage Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Space with Trello.
Comp Book Day Planner Pages Again

I know, it took probably about an hour to draw all those lines and label all those columns and rows.  But that hour was well spent, my friend.  You only do this once a year and you get a day planner tailored to you.

For all you folks who have to share your calendar with others: ooh sorry, this special project works best as a personal planner, not a collaborative one.

Here’s an added benefit I’ve found: since I invested the time making this planner, I am WAY more apt to stick to using it.

Now go out and be purposeful with your time!


Making one and sharing online?  Link it up – I’d love to see what you make!

Link to this blog post – I will receive notification from WordPress of your backlink.  I’d love to comment on your post and share my favorite posts.

Hashtag it – #compbookdayplanner

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