Trello Variable Templates: Because repetitive work is such a drag…..

Click this… click that… repeat…

It’s not just me. Many people shudder at repeating the same task over and over again. Don’t get me wrong. I’m talking about tasks that don’t require thinking or creativity.

While I was still an employee doing office work, I’d have this task of encoding a bunch of numbers in a spreadsheet. It was such a mindless task that sometimes my mind would “drift away” while my eyes and body carried on with the task. To my surprise, the data I’ve encoded were correct. But my head will hurt, not from the work, but from trying to stop myself from falling asleep.

This is why knowing how to automate task is an important skill to learn. I always think that if it’s repetitive and it doesn’t need thinking, it can be automated. Then I find ways to do this.

Set up the Trello board!

Last month, I was setting up a project management board in Trello for a team I’m working with. Our team needs to broadcast a weekly show in Facebook and Youtube live. So every week, we will have the same task. But the tasks need creative thinking so we can’t automate the task itself.

What I wanted to do was to automate the Trello cards so that it won’t take a lot of effort to update weekly. We should be able to set up the week’s task in under 10 minutes.

I set up the cards so that only the parent card will need to be filled up with essential information. The child cards for each member can then be added easily using Processes for Trello.

The challenge is…

Now came my challenge. I need the Trello child cards to carry the same title as the parent card. I also want to set the due dates of the child cards automatically. We don’t want to spend time changing the title of each child card. We also don’t want to waste time manually setting up the due dates for each child card.

Of course, Trello has an automation feature via Butler. But we’re only using a free account so the feature is limited to 50 commands per month.

Let’s automate in Trello without the Butler!

I found that this is possible by using a neat little trick in Processes for Trello called “Template Variables”. We simply add a short string of characters (called placeholders) in the child card’s Description field and we’re done!

Here are the placeholders and a description of what they do:

Screenshot from

Here’s an example on how to use the Trello placeholders:

Use the placeholders in your child template cards
Now setup the parent card. Use “Processes for Trello” to add the child cards.
This is how the parent card will look like after adding the child cards
Now all the child cards are automatically added into the assigned Trello list
Notice that the parent card’s name & the child card’s due date (relative to the parent card) are automatically added

You’ve just optimized your Trello board!

Using Processes for Trello’s Variable Template will automate certain tasks without eating up your allocated Butler automation. This is especially useful if you’re using the free account. And of course, I’m sure you’d rather spend more of your time doing the actual task than setting up the Trello project board, right? So there you go! A simple trick to save you time in Trello.

Let me know if you find this helpful.

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