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How I Use Trello to Organise My Reading

Trello is a fantastic productivity tool that helps you organise and prioritise tasks using lists. Who doesn’t love a list?! Kelly @ Another Book in the Wall recently wrote about how she uses Trello to organise her blogging, which is what inspired me to think about my own use of the site.

I started using Trello a few years ago when I was writing for a website aimed at students studying (or planning to study) abroad. With dozens of contributors working from all over the world, the editors introduced Trello to manage pitches, assign articles, and set deadlines. I found it so handy that I continued using it in my own life long after I stopped writing for them. It’s helped me with everything from managing assignments at university to meal planning. Now, I use it religiously to keep on top of and plan my reading!

monica friends organised gif

I’ve applied it to blog scheduling in the past, but I’ve since found that a colour-coded Google calendar works just fine for me. You can create calendars in Trello, but I like to toggle an overlay of my blogging calendar on top of my life calendar so that I can see in advance if I may be too busy to blog, and should try to schedule ahead. Kelly’s post has a fantastic guide to using the Trello calendar function for blog scheduling, so I thought I’d share how I use mine to plan my reading instead. Honestly, I spent far too much time on this Trello board and I now need to share it so that someone other than myself can appreciate all its colour-coded glory!

I don’t always stick to my reading plan, which is why you’ll rarely find me sharing TBR posts on my blog unless it’s for a prompt-led readathon or challenge, but I still like to roughly plan my books each month. At the end of the day, I just freaking love lists and organising things to the extent that the organisation becomes procrastination. Calling myself out so that you don’t have to.

So, here is how my reading planner on Trello looks!

trello organise reading books

The Lists

At the moment, I have four month-lists on my planner; September to December. I’ve planned a bit further ahead than I normally would, just because we’re getting closer to the end of the year and I wanted to get an idea of how much I could realistically read before the year’s out. To the far left, I have a fifth list with all the unassigned books on my TBR, from oldest to newest.

What I love about Trello is that it’s so easy to change up my reading plans. I can just drag and drop a card between lists. Get to the end of the month and still have two books on my list? Drag to the next month. Don’t actually fancy reading them right now? Drag them back to ‘What’s left?’ to be re-assigned later.

The Cards

The cards are where things start to get real organised. When I first started using Trello to organise my reading, it was pretty simple: monthly lists full of cards, one for each book. Now… oh boy.

Let’s start at the top. First, I add any readathons or challenges I’m taking part in that month so that I don’t forget to check prompts or rules or whatever before planning my TBR. You can see at the top of September I’ve got ‘Hogwarts House Battle‘, as a reminder.

Next is the prompt for a year-long challenge. I decided to take part in the Unread Shelf Project at the beginning of April, and whilst I didn’t want to make a rigid 12-month TBR, I did want to keep track of any books I was hoping to save for particular prompts. I started by creating a card for each of the monthly prompts, and added my planned book as a second card directly underneath that. So for September it’s actually July’s prompt but I’m behind oops I have to read a book in a series, so right below the prompt card is ‘Crossfire’ from Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series. Once I’ve decided that, I’ll add everything else I want to read that month, in the order I’m planning on reading them. Then, when I’ve read the book, the card gets archived.

The next development to the way I organise cards is the addition of page counts. Since I started tracking my reading with Reader Voracious’ Book Blogger Spreadsheet I’ve discovered what my average page-count is each month, which has made it MUCH easier for me to plan a realistic TBR. Now I add the page count at the end of each book-card. That way I can add all the page counts up for the month and see if it’s too much, or too little. I keep track of the total page counts with a final card at the bottom. Unfortunately, this needs manually updating if I change my monthly TBR, so it’s something I may not carry on with, but for now I don’t find it too much of a hassle!

The Labels

This is the most recent change to my organising and is truly peak Leslie Knope. Colour-coded labels for cards.

This initially just started with the Unread Shelf Project. I labelled the prompt and the book I was reading for that prompt so if I wanted to move it to later in the month, I can still keep track of it as an Unread Shelf read. Then I started labelling ARCs, so I could see what was a priority.

THEN things got really out of hand.

trello labels for reading books

Nowadays, every book has one or more labels. You can toggle whether the label also displays text or is just a coloured bar just by clicking one of them on the board. I usually have the colour only, as I know what they each mean and it’s a little cleaner, but I’ve turned text labels on for purposes of this post. There’s also colour blind friendly mode, which applies a different pattern to each label so they’re clearer to tell apart.

As I mentioned earlier, challenges go at the top, so those cards and the cards of the books I’m using to fulfil them are labelled green. This doesn’t apply to month-long reading challenges; I’ll just label the top card to remind me that it’s happening that month and to check any prompts before I go shuffling books about. Next, ARCs are labelled in pink, and the bottom page count cards are purple, just to differentiate them.

I have an indigo label for non-fiction, as one of my goals for this year was to read at least one non-fiction book a month. Labelling them allows me to easily see if I’ve ticked that box, AND let’s me see if I have a lot of non-fiction books back-to-back, as that has the potential to get a little tiresome. You’ll notice I have none in October but three in November, so I’ll likely move one of the shorter non-fics to the previous month to balance things out. I haven’t done this yet because the page count for October is creeping up past my average so I’m hesitant to overload it.

In another attempt to prevent reading slumps, I started to label each book based on page count bracket: yellow for 300 or less, orange for 300 to 400, and red for over 400 pages. Again, this helps me see if I’m putting a bunch of big tomes together (like I have in October), as that can slow my pacing down.

“Anyway, that’s all there is to it!” she says, finishing up a 1,300 word post about digitally organising her reading plans.

On a scale of one to me, how much do you procrastinate by organising?
How do you plan your reading, if at all?

7 thoughts on “How I Use Trello to Organise My Reading”

  1. Wow, I have never used Trello, but this looks amazing… Who doesn’t love a good list?! And color coding is so much fun! This looks like a great way to keep track of what you’re reading and whether it’s meeting your goals. I’ll definitely check this out. Great post!

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