Bullet journaling seems to be all the rage these days. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a combination of journaling, productivity, and notebooks.

It’s gaining popularity and there are a million different versions of it! You probably have at least one friend on Instagram that SWEARS by it.

I tried to ignore the whole bullet journaling thing for a while, but it just kept coming back up. I started to wonder if I was missing something. After all, bullet journaling has benefits like:

  • prevents forgetfulness
  • stronger focus on self-care
  • increases creativity

So i thought maybe I shouldn’t ignore it any more. I’ve been tempted to try it, but I can’t get over the fact that it’s in a physical notebook that I’d have to lug around me with everywhere, and I can’t leave my Life Dashboard on Trello! I love Trello too much and refuse to abandon it.

Which brought me to an interesting challenge…

Can you bullet journal with Trello?

This post is my documented experiment of an attempt to bullet journal with Trello.

Please note: it’s not exhaustive, I didn’t try every possible thing I could do to replicate a bullet journal, and I’m no bullet journal expert, so I probably didn’t even come close to setting up a good comparison. I also found other articles that talk about this very subject, but none of them had systems that really compelled me, so I decided to try my own. Still with me? Keep reading.

I started out by listing out the main elements of bullet journaling to see what I’d need to replicate in Trello.

  • Ability for rapid logging (tasks, events, notes/ideas)
  • Unique annotation/labeling of events vs tasks, and task status
  • Future Log (any ideas planned out for the year)
  • Monthly Log (monthly schedule)
  • Daily Logs (daily to do, events, and notes)
  • Ability to look back and migrate tasks

None of those seemed too hard to create, so I made a board in Trello to start building out the main components.

bullet journal with Trello

Easy enough. But before I could go on, I had to establish a code – unique annotation for events, tasks, and notes, as well as task statuses (not started, in progress, completed, etc).

I knew I could use labels to annotate all of them, but I didn’t want to get label crazy, and I also wanted to try to stay pure to bullet journaling by using the bullets, so I created a combo. Here’s the code I created.

Trello codes

Then I started practicing to fill those lists in like I would in a paper journal. And that’s when I ran into my first challenge…

I wanted to use a card as a block – like a month in the “future” list, or a “day” in the monthly list – NOT for each individual task/note/event. I quickly realized I can’t use labels, because then that would apply to an entire card… not just a line of text inside it.

Back to the code card. This time, no labels. (Also got rid of the symbols at the end of the task… seemed like an unnecessary duplication to repeat at the end.)

Trello notes

I continued to practice filling in the lists with tasks, notes, and events.

Month - July

Daily dates

And we had some progress!! I threw in my status codes to see how they looked.

Daily notes

So far everything worked, and I felt like I had incorporated the system pretty well. I could quickly find my spot (the month, or the day, whichever view I wanted), and I could glance at everything that filled that bubble of time.

I thought I might start using it. But I kept playing around with the system, and while it technically worked, I immediately realized that it just wasn’t me. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a bad system. I liked the simplicity. I set it up really quickly. It was easy to add something to. I tried to keep playing with it so it would grow on me, but the truth is there were just some challenges I couldn’t get past.

Challenges like…

1. If you open a real physical notebook, you can see everything under Day 1, and Day 2, and Day 3. With Trello, I have to open a card to the contents of Day 1, and that prevents me from seeing Day 2 and Day 3 near each other. As much as I hated to admit it, it really would work a lot better in a notebook than a digital tool like Trello. It would be a bit of a pain to migrate tasks as I’d have to open a card and copy and paste (doable for sure, but not necessarily super convenient).

2. It all kinda blends together and looks the same. I like my colored labels. I like things organized in my lists on my board. This took too much extra processing power to figure out where any project (and various tasks with it) was at a glance.

3. It felt like a lot of work. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I think I’m just used to my current system. I can set up repeating cards for tasks I want to repeat regularly, but I couldn’t do in this system that unless I had tasks/events/ideas on their own card. And I quickly realized we’d get to a point where we had way too many cards if I did that by day and month and future for every tasks, event, and idea I had. Having to manually set up all these cards could be a lot of work, especially as I couldn’t just drag a card around if it changed status. I’m a creature of habit and like the automation and ease of use with my current system.

So… can you bullet journal with Trello?

MAYBE.

It didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for others. I’m not I’m sure this is different for everyone, and with a little more experimentation and optimization, I might be able to get it somewhere. That being said, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And my current system works fantastically for me. (If you’re curious what that system is, click here to read about it.)

It didn’t work like a dream for me, but if those particular challenges don’t bother you, maybe you would find a lot of success with it! Or maybe, bullet journaling just isn’t mean to be digital, and maybe I shouldn’t try so hard to fit a round peg in a square hole. Either way, I am still intrigued by the bullet journal and will continue thinking about ways I can integrate it in my current Trello system, without an exact replica. I’ll keep you posted on any updates there.

Meanwhile – if you want to see the live board where I created this experiment, click here.

2 thoughts on “Can You Bullet Journal With Trello?

  1. This is very interesting! I never thought about that. I use both and I like it this way honestly, Trello is good for future planning while my bullet journal is what keeps me unplugged and focused, I use it for daily logs, collections (lists and notes) and trackers. I use an A5 journal, so I don’t carry it with me all the time, it stays on my desk at home where I mostly work and when I’m away, I have a pocket notebook in my bag to jot down ideas and stuff, even if most of the time I just use Google Keep for that.

    1. That’s a good point – i can definitely see the bullet journal working for the daily log, and I do like being able to physically write things down each day. I do this for my to-do list at my full time job, and it really helps me to focus and unplug when I just look at my paper to do list.

      Like you – i keep up with most of my ideas digitally (just using Apple Notes), and I evaluate them once a week, and take action or fit them into the appropriate board/list on Trello 🙂

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