Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Building Content Libraries with Trello and Zapier

One of my favorite web writers, James Clear, said "Time and energy that is wasted consuming is time and energy that can’t be spent creating." 

My career as a content marketer demands that I stay on top of trends and news and technology; but I can't spend my entire life consuming, when I need to be creating! I'm pretty diligent about finding efficient ways to handle and benefit from the information available to me without becoming overwhelmed by it.

Lately, I've perfected a little system that I'm totally in love with, using a handful of fabulous apps that work together exactly the way I need them to. Rather than falling into the trap of reading and clicking and reading and clicking, I build libraries. I curate the information that looks useful so it's there when I need it, and so I don't have to give it my attention when I don't.

My favorite app right now for curating content is Trello

It's so simple and functional. It reminds me of a wall of sticky notes:

This is part of my Content Marketing Board; it contains an unlimited number of Lists, and you can add unlimited Cards to those lists. You can click and drag the cards wherever you want them.

I don't know that collecting links is really the intended use of Trello. I think it's more a productivity app to track projects. But the beauty of it is its simplicity and versatility; you can use it virtually any way you want to. For this purpose, the obvious choice is Evernote, but for me, Trello works better. I think it's more visual than Evernote, and that appeals to me. 

So here's my process!

I always start my day with Feedly; this is the new morning paper, right? First thing in the morning I give myself 30-40 minutes to scan headlines, and skim articles of interest. Sometimes I do this from my phone, sometimes from my computer. When an article seems valuable, I either share via Buffer, or save with Evernote (yup, Evernote). Nothing complicated, just a title and a link. MOST of the time I'll choose to save on Evernote rather than share, just because at this point I haven't read anything closely enough to know for sure that it's share-worthy. The point right now is just to "clip" articles for later reading.

The cool thing that happens here is Zapier. Zapier is a web app that builds connections between all your OTHER apps, and automates certain actions between them. You set it up once, and forget about it, and it just works behind the scenes, across all your devices, to connect whatever apps you're using in the ways you've specified.

Zapier offers a few paid plans, which you might find worthwhile because there are HUGE possibilities with this app. But for now I'm on the free plan, and it does what I need it to do.

I've used Zapier to connect Buffer (my social media sharing app of choice) to Trello. So when I share anything via Buffer, Zapier creates a new card on my "Buffered" list in Trello. I also have an "Evernoted" list, connecting Evernote and Trello. So Evernote in this case is really just a vehicle to push my content into Trello, where I really want it. The reason for this is that Trello doesn't come up in the "share" options on my phone; Evernote does. So it's super simple to hit share, create a note in Evernote, and then, thanks to Zapier, it's waiting for me in Trello! These Trello lists live on a board I call "Articles of Interest," and they fill up automatically, every time I save or share anything:

I continue through my Feedly feeds, saving and sharing, trying not to get too caught up in any one article, or fall into any rabbit holes. There's a time for getting involved and reading in depth, but this isn't it.

When I get to the end of my Feedly (love that checkmark!), I open Trello. Voila, my two Articles of Interest lists are filled up! Then I sort them, a quick process. If I'm moving them to a list on the same Trello board, it's just click and drag. If I'm moving them to a different board, I just have to click "move" and choose the new location:

One thing to note: Evernotes are instant (that is, they're pushed to Trello as soon as I create the Evernote, or at least very quickly thereafter; I think the free Zapier plan runs every 15 minutes), but Buffer items don't sync until they actually leave your Buffer. No big deal, I'll catch and sort those next time.

Now I have an organized, personally curated library of resources. When I'm working on an article about SEO, look at that... all my most recent SEO research, at my fingertips.

These are just a few of the lists I have, on one board; you're allowed unlimited lists, boards, and cards!
To view a card, just click it; each card contains the article title, and a link to the article:

You can also add comments, due dates, files & graphics...everything you need, all in one place.

And my Trello is always with me, on any device, so I use those in between moments, in lines or waiting rooms or sitting at school pickup, to actually read and comment on the posts in my library, follow links, and make notes back on the Trello cards, if necessary. I also read in bed at night, so if I didn't get to everything I wanted to during the day, I'll use that time to catch up.

Trello has many other uses. I also have boards to track my job hunt, books to read (with Amazon links), and active projects. You can even add team members, share select boards, and assign items to specific people. You can color code them, attach images or files, or insert checklists. I'm finding myself using it to organize multiple aspects of my life because it's such a simple, versatile tool, with lots of advanced functionality that's there and available, but not required or confusing. The entire UI is clean and uncluttered, and extremely intuitive.

This isn't a Trello commercial. Haha. Nobody's paying me to say these things! But I think it's a really fantastic little tool. I'm always on the lookout for new apps to increase organization and productivity; I'll admit I have kind of a "shiny new things" complex when it comes to apps. So there are other apps I've got my eye on for these uses, like Pocket, for example. But at the end of the day I use what works, and right now, this is working beautifully for me.

How do you stay both informed AND productive? Any shiny new things caught your eye lately? And will you be giving Trello or Zapier a shot?