Trello for translators
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Trello for translators: how it helps me get more organized and productive

I love learning about new tools that can make our lives easier. I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my favorite apps that help me be more productive and get more things done on a daily basis. The first app I want to write about is Trello, a free organizational tool that allows to present a project workflow in a very visual form. It also makes collaborating with others an easy and seamless process.


I find it motivating to see what actually needs to be done, cross things off lists and move items around as the work on a project unfolds. Trello lets you do all of this.


It has a simple three tier structure: you’ve got boards, then you have different lists on a board and you can add cards to each list. This simplicity lets you set up workflows for different purposes and make them your own.


You can change the background of your board (there’re not so many options in the free version, though) or add pictures and files to your boards like I did on this board where I plan my next road trip (it looks really exciting and I hope I can make it):



I first started using Trello back in February when Dmitry Kornyukhov and I decided to launch Blabbing Translators. It became clear from the very beginning that collaboration is where Trello can really shine.


Imagine you have a big translation project into several languages. You’ve got a translator and a proofreader for each language, so you probably have to send emails to a dozen of people every time the client sends some instructions or someone asks a question.


Or you could just create a board for this project and add everyone involved in the work to that board. That way people can always stay on top of things without a ton of emails in their inboxes. How cool is that?


The number of people you can add to the board is not limited.


You can easily assign tasks to your team members just by dragging them to the card with the task and use different colored tags to make it clear who’s in charge of what.


You can discuss things in the comments to a card and vote for different cards.


But the use of Trello is not limited to collaborating on different projects. Recently I have started to use it to organize my daily tasks, too. Let me share with you some examples of how I use Trello to increase my productivity.




Have you ever used different highlighters to make your to-do lists more visual, so that you could understand to which category a certain task belongs without even reading the item? Well, tags are a lot like colorful highlighters that help you spend less time on figuring out whether today is all about contacting new clients, working on current translations or doing admin (please tell me that I’m not the only one who hates doing it!)


There are several colors you can choose from. You can also write what each color means so that you don’t forget it.


I use colors the most on our Blabbing Translators board. The tasks that should be done by Dmitry are marked with a blue tag, mine with an orange one and those, that need the attention of both of us — with a green tag.




You probably know the Pareto principle, which says: work takes up all of the time allocated for its completion. As freelancers we’ve got a lot of important but non-urgent tasks, like sending out CVs, contacting potential clients, researching a new service we can offer or doing a course as part of our CPD program.


On the one hand, we can procrastinate on those tasks all we want — no one will wag a finger at us. Only we decide whether we do those things or not. On the other hand, marketing our services, improving our skills and deepening our knowledge is an integral part of being successful as a freelance translator.


And that’s where the deadlines feature comes in. You can schedule a deadline for every card of each list, or just for some of them. You can get notified when the deadline approaches or you can just check in on your Trello board and see the date on the card become yellow when there’s one day left before the deadline, or red if you didn’t do the task on time.


Setting a deadline is a straightforward process. You can either click a card and choose deadline from the menu on the right (you will obviously have the interface in your language, not in Russian):



Or you can just hover your mouse over the card, click the edit button that will appear and choose the deadline feature:



Calendar view


This power-up does exactly what it says — it allows you to see all your cards on a board on a calendar, which I personally find pretty handy. Here’s what a part of my content calendar looks like:



It should be noted, that this view allows you to see only the cards with deadlines.


Also, don’t forget to turn on this power-up to be able to switch between the regular view and the calendar view of your board.


Turning your emails into cards


Every Trello board has a dedicated email address. You can find out what it is by clicking the link ‘Email settings’ in the menu (Menu>More>Email settings).



When you get an email from a colleague concerning a project you collaborate on or an ePO from an agency client, you can just forward this email to your Trello board email address and it will turn into a card. Pretty neat, right?


You can change the list to which new cards created this way go in the settings.




As I said, few things motivate me more than crossing things off my list. A Trello checklist goes one step further than that.


You don’t just get to cross items off the list. There is also a progress bar that shows what part of the task you have under your belt and how many percents of it you still need to complete. You can create multiple checklists in one card.


For example, I have decided to pay more attention to German, which was my second language at the University. Now it seems to have a life of its own. It wakes up every time I am in a German speaking country and falls back asleep when I’m elsewhere.


I thought it would be a good idea to brush up on it so that I could start offering translations from German into Russian as well. I knew that it’s best to start small, so my plan was to spend 15 minutes a day on listening to a German podcast and 15 minutes on the translation of an article into Russian.


I decided to track my progress using Trello. So I created a list of tasks for a week in the form of a checklist. Now I have an additional motivation to do what I have planned (I just love checking those boxes!) and I can always see what else I need to do to complete my weekly plan.



As you can see, I haven’t completed all the tasks for the past week, but did better than the previous week. It’s all about baby-steps!


Trello is a universal tool that can help you organize your work. You can use it not only for collaboration but also for creating daily to-do lists, marketing plans, and content calendars or even planning your vacation. If you’re not familiar with it, I hope you’ll give it a try. If you’re already using it, why not share some of your tips and tricks in the comments?


Header image courtesy of Cathryn Laverly via Unsplash


  • Dmitry Kornyukhov

    13.07.2016 at 20:26 Reply

    Yay! Trello FTW! One of the best tools that I have ever used. Really helps me streamline my workflow for The Open Mic and for the Blabbing Translators, of course. Thanks for writing this great overview.

    • Elena

      14.07.2016 at 16:36 Reply

      I’m glad you like it. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    23.09.2016 at 21:36 Reply

    Thank you so much Elena! It’s just what I have been looking for!

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