Over the past few months, I’ve been using Trello to manage the tasks that Mel (my Virtual Assistant (VA)) is completing for me and I’ve found myself recommending it over and over again.
It’s now something I regularly speak to mysundayclub clients about and I encourage them to use it as the key point of communication with their VA.
When I hired my VA, I was really clear with her that I wanted her to reduce the noise from my phone and inbox, not add to it. I knew I was going to be delegating a lot of tasks (as much as possible) and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to be receiving questions from her multiple times a day.
I introduced Mel to Trello.
Trello is a free online tool that helps you manage tasks. You can use it to create lists, assign tasks to team members, track progress, and add comments or questions for your team. Trello can be used on a desktop and also via a mobile app.
Trello is a series of lists which track the progress of your tasks (i.e. your to do list) and I set mine up as follows:
Lists in Trello
- To Do
- In Progress
- Discussion Required
- Pending Approval
- Approved Complete
I was previously keeping my to do list on a reminders app on my phone. I went through and transferred everything that could be completed by a VA onto the ‘To Do’ list in Trello. I then had to translate it so it would make sense to Mel. Unfortunately, the one word prompts I’d put on my list only meant something to me. Actually, I recently reviewed a note I’d left for myself — it read ‘Michelle’. I’d completely forgotten what the action was, luckily Michelle remembered!
For me, the key to using Trello successfully (and actually delegating any task to a VA) was my ability to explain what I wanted and be clear on my expectations.
When you add a task into Trello, it creates a card on your ‘To Do’ list. This card has a ‘Title’ and a ‘Description’ option. The description of any task is essential. My ability to describe to Mel what I needed was directly linked to how successfully the task was carried out. The more time I spent clearly explaining ONCE what I needed and how I wanted it to be done, the less time I needed to spend responding to questions or reviewing drafts.
Mel will also tell you that from your VA’s perspective, the more detail you provide, the better. VA isn’t code for mind reader.
Tasks in Trello aren’t deleted. They are either archived or put into the ‘Complete’ list. This means when something goes wrong or I wonder why my VA hasn’t completed a task in the way I’d hoped, I can look back to the card and check how clearly I’d explained what I wanted. More often than not, when I wasn’t happy with the way something was completed, I actually hadn’t explained my requirements well at all. This tool helps keep me accountable, as well as my VA.
It was important for Mel and I to develop some ‘rules of the game’ when managing our tasks in Trello and these were as follows;
Rules of the game
- Keep the cards updated with comments and ensure they are in the correct list. If Katie is working on a card, she always moves it to the ‘In Progress’ list. This means if I’m wondering how she’s going with a task, I can check Trello and if it’s in the ‘In Progress’ list, I’ll know she’s working on it. It saves us a lot of back and forth.
- Use Labels in Trello. Trello give you the ability to label each task. The most important one for me is the ‘Priority’ label. Which I use for the tasks I’d like to be completed first. This is essential as I tend to load up Trello with many things for Katie to get on with and 80% of them aren’t time sensitive.
- Check Trello regularly. If you’re expecting your VA to mainly contact you on Trello and keep all of their updates on this tool, you need to check it. I do this by setting my Trello board (on my laptop) as the first page that opens when I open Google Chrome. I also schedule 15 minute calls in the diary twice a week with Katie for us to jump on the phone and review Trello together.
- Set expectations. If you are going to use Trello to track all of your 3am business ideas, let your VA know this. You could agree a rule that you only expect your VA to work on something if you’ve assigned their name to the card. This will save them from feeling responsible for the completion of all of the other things that might be added to the list that you plan to ‘get around to at some point’.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Katie and I have made Trello work for us, give me a call anytime on 03 595 6810, I’d be happy to share our ways of working and any tips and tricks for making things easier.