Using Trello to Track and Manage your Reading

March 20th, 2014 7 min read

Trello]( is a project management tool that has been gaining in popularity in part because of its simplicity, speed and flexibility. Projects are categorized by boards which contain lists and those lists in turn contain cards. These cards can have attachments, checklists, comments, team member assignment, labels and more.

Trello's flexibility and easy of use allows for it to be used in many ways. One way in which I am using trello is to manage my reading workflow. I wrote about ways that I've discovered how to read more and smarter and trello has been a vital component. I use trello to store book recommendations from various sources such as friends, podcasts, blogs etc.

I maintain a reading queue to stay in a consistent cycle of books to read. Planning what to read next ahead of time can help reduce decision overload or lack of direction which can lead to inconsistent reading habits after you've finished a book. I keep multiple reading category lists to maintain a big picture view of the different categories of books I am reading and this helps me to see the category I am most focused on or should read up more on.

Having a list dedicated to reviews reminds me to maintain active thought and criticism on the book I'm reading. I add comments to the card based on various weaknesses or strengths I want to highlight.

Once you read start to read a lot more books, it can be difficult to remember all the material within them after a while. I use a flag note system to mark important areas and then I go back and enter in notes after or in-between reading. I use the notes list to keep track of books I am currently taking notes on. After I've taking notes rated and reviewed the book, publicly or privately I then move the card to finished.

Update: (Latest Screenshot of my reading board) [media-credit id=2 align="aligncenter" width="750"][ Trello-Reading-Workflow [/media-credit]

**Update**: I've created a basic template after a suggestion from a reader.
**Link:** []( 
**How to import:** Click on Menu within Sidebar > Click on Coby Board.. > Enter in the Board Title and Organization 
**Note:** _You can select to keep the sample cards or remove them. Remember to update the board visibility as it is public by default._

High Level View of Trello Board:

Left Half [ Books_Board_Trello

Right Half



  • Potential Reads & Themes
  • Up Next
  • Multiple Lists for Reading Categories
  • Review
  • Notes
  • Finished

Potential Reads & Themes


Collect a list of potential reads & themes. You can comment on the source of these books and possible motivations for wanting to read this book and what you hope to get out of it. It can be very helpful to manage themes of different topic areas you want to read about. Within that theme card you can comment about potential books and then move it to it's own card when you feel you may want to read it. Themes also help you manage your priorities and interests so you are more aware of your intentions and have a sense of purpose and direction when you go about reading.

Up Next


After the book has been validated and or purchased / rented / borrowed you can create a card for the book which will move fluidly through your workflow. This is your reading queue of books you want to read soon. Try to make sure this list is focused and has some priorities involved so that you don't have decision overload when deciding what to read next.

Multiple Lists for Reading Categories


I choose to use separate reading lists for different categories or genres. Some benefits for organizing cards this way is that you can see a big picture view of how your time is allocated to different categories. This system also guides you into diversifying the kinds of books you read, so that you can be exposed to different perspectives, experiences, fields and disciplines.



Usually after I've read the book and I still have notes to take I'll add it to the notes list so I can remember to finish the notes.[41+CkE4Q+VL to indicate important areas while I'm reading a book. I personally do not take notes while I'm reading because I want the reading experience to be fluid  and have little interruptions. I also commute a lot and active note taking would slow down my reading significantly. So using quick post it flags when reading is like going on a mining expedition and having the lead scout out the area first barely scratching the surface and leaving flags to indicate the areas for the miners to dig for later on. You can use one color for everything or multiple colors. I choose to use multiple colors to indicate varying levels of importance.

  1. Color : General Highlight / Supporting section of Chapter
  2. Color : Summarized / Main Point of Chapter
  3. Color : Very Important to Me

I use Evernote to transcribe and store my notes.



You can add a review after you're finished reading or after you've completed your notes. I use Goodreads to store my reviews primarily and within trello I'll collect various commentary on the book privately. I use a 10 point scale rating for personal reviews and this also helps me determine which books I will recommend.



Moving cards to this list gives me the most joy and marks that you have finished a book. After this list pills up you can proceed to archive cards in this list.


This section contains extra uses for trello you can implement.Description [ Screenshot 2014-03-20 10.42.29

I use goodreads to get book covers to add as attachments to cards. Find the book you want, for example this awesome book by Sarah Kay, click enlarge cover and then right click and save image.  [ attachmentExample Due Dates

You can set due dates to cards to time box your reading to make sure that you are consistent and do not let one book sit for months on end. This can help you schedule a reading calendar after you gain experience on your reading speed and have the book info that can help you estimate how to assign multiple due dates to books. bookDueDate

  • Recommendable: Books that you would recommend
  • Blog Reference: Potential to be used as a reference in a future blog post or paper
  • Backlog: A book that has postponed due to new priority to be continued later ; can be moved back to Up Next list
  • Stopped Reading: A book that you have ceased reading due to poor quality, complete lack of relevance or extreme levels of disengagement.
  • Fiction: Fiction Category
  • Non-Fiction: Non-Fiction Category

Screenshot 2014-03-20 10.35.01

Conclusion I hope you have gained some additional insights into another great use for trello. I encourage you to comment on suggestions or questions you may have. You can also modifying and add or remove pieces to this workflow to best fit your particular needs. If you have an idea on how I can make this better be sure to let me know! Read more about how I discovered my love of reading here. If you aren't currently on trello, I highly recommend it! You can shape it like clay to manage whatever you want. Be sure to share. Reach out to me on twitter @juvoni or by email.

#organization #personal development

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