Why Creating Workflows in Your Trello Boards May Be Your Biggest Win!

Updated on September 8, 2018

Did you ever feel you are spending too much of your time in your Trello boards by moving cards around, adding or removing labels, due dates, and comments? Do you sometimes lose track of cards because it gets all to crowded in a board? Have you ever caught yourself leaving a board out of frustration because the maintenance it requires with countless clicks, drags and drops is just too much for you right now?

I have been there. And I was almost on my way out of Trello.

Luckily, I came across something that was a total game changer for me.

I found a way to automate my Trello boards in the most fascinating ways, and I would like to open this door for you, too. If you are using Trello yourself, you know the Kanban-style of its setup, and how flexible and easy to use this tool actually is. By setting up workflows and automation within Trello, you can tap into an unbelievable potential of getting things done and following up on all your tasks in Trello, which - if you would miss out on that - you will very likely regret it.

The tool I have discovered for automating by Trello boards is called Butler for Trello. It is its own tool, it is not associated with Trello in any ways.

What Butler for Trello does, it automates manual processes: actions like moving a card from one status or from one list to another, or assigning members to cards are a child’s game for this tool. And of course, you can do much, much more with it. (And I will elaborate on it in further articles.)

Is It For You?

All these IT-terms and abbreviations (API, AI, code, etc.) may really not be your cup of tea, and you may wonder whether you are able to use this tool at all.

The creators of Butler for Trello have kept in mind, that not everyone knows a programming language. Still, the need to create a workflow or two is overwhelmingly big in the community. So, they did something very smart.

They choose the language of interaction to be plain English. If you want to give the Butler a task, you can do it with normal English vocabulary, like this:

Every Monday at 6am, sort list “To Do” by due date

This is a command you can easily comprehend as long as you understand the English language. So does the Butler.


Getting Started With Creating Workflows In Trello

If you want to try Butler for Trello yourself, you’ve got two options.

First, you can use it either as a little Bot that accesses your Trello boards as a member and executes actions from within the board. This board member is called the ButlerBot.

Or, alternatively, you can use the Butler Power-Up.

There are a few differences between them, but they are both suitable as a starting point.

… with the ButlerBot

If you go for the ButlerBot, and that's probably what most people would do because it lets you do so much more, you will have to connect each Trello board with Butler. After doing so, your board has a new list: the Butler list. This new list is used to write commands into Trello cards and get them verified by the ButlerBot.

Now, don’t wince here, because creating a command is really easy to do.

To write your first command, you simple open a new card in the Butler list, and type the command text into the card’s title.

A sentence as simple as I used above: “Every Monday at 6am, sort list “To Do” by due date”, is already a complete command.

When you hit enter, the validation process begins. Two things will happen.

First, when the ButlerBot recognizes a Trello card as a command card, it adds its member icon on the bottom right side of the card.

And second, when the ButlerBot valides the command as valid, it adds a green checkmark sticker to it.

Should you have a typo in your command sequence, or there’s some other problem, the command card gets an orange warning sticker instead of a green checkmark sticker.

… with the Power-Up

The Butler Power-Up works a little different, but behind the scenes it does the same.

If you don’t like the idea of having an extra list in your boards (Butler list) and typing commands into a card, the Butler Power-Up is your tool to go.

If you are unfamiliar with what Power-Up’s are in Trello, they are like little feature add-ons that help you do certain things in a board or connect with 3rd party tools and do things that these tools do. With a free account in Trello, you can enable one Power-Up for free in each board. As a Trello Gold user, you can use up to three Power-Ups in each board.

The Butler Power-Up is currently a bit behind of what the ButlerBot is able to perform, but if you are just getting started that might not matter much for you.

What I feel many people will love about using this Power-Up, that you can create card buttons and board buttons, and place some commands behind these buttons. Meaning, whenever you press either a card button or a board button, a pre-determined sequence of actions is executed.

As an example, let’s say you have a board button that runs your housekeeping chores. That could include actions like archiving all cards in list “Done”, or removing labels, stickers, members from completed tasks. Any task that would help you to clean up your Trello board from outdated cards can be included in such a “Clean-Up” Board Button. Then, every Friday afternoon (or whenever your work week ends), you could press that button, and voila!, - your board gets cleaned up from old clutter. - How does that sound?

To get started with the Butler Power-Up, open the Trello board of your choice, and in the Trello menu on the right, click on Power-Ups and search for the Butler Power-Up. Here you would have to enable it. After you enabled it, your Trello board has gotten a new icon + button in the top row, called Butler.

When you open it, you’ll find the interface for creating card buttons, board buttons, rules and a few other automation types I will talk in detail about in another article.

What To Gain From When Creating Workflows Within Trello

Honestly, I do believe Butler has the capability to transform your business. And if you don’t run a business but use Trello to organize your private projects, it can help you just as much.

With Butler for Trello, you can create powerful IFTTT-type commands for the average person.

And even if it still sounds a bit trivial to you what the workflows can actually do that you may be able to create, don’t underestimate the power and reliability it brings into your internal processes! From setting up recurring weekly / monthly tasks automatically, over to creating complex sequences of workflows that depict your blog creation process (think of automated editorial calendars) - nothing seems impossible with this tool, and these are just a few simpler examples.

It is my downright goal to take you on a journey to create workflows yourself in Trello, so that you have to spend less time in your boards maintaining them, and can spend more time with whatever you’d love to spend your time with: your family, your friends, long walks on the beach, etc.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Katrin A


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