Better Parenting Through Trello

Slick Organization App Makes Family Movie Night a Breeze

If you have shared movie nights at your house, let me offer a little tech hack for tracking what everyone wants to see. Do this and you’ll never again sit there looking at each other saying, “I dunno. What do you want to watch?”

My own impetus for this is divorce. My ex and I split several months ago after 24 years together. Any good parent in my situation wants to make the most of those times when their kids are around. Because I’m a geek who’s worked in tech for ages, I’m using apps to streamline coordination with our nearly-grown kids.

Impromptu movie screenings have always been a favorite in my family. To make my new apartment a more welcoming place for my kids to chill out, I wanted to make it as easy as possible to launch into a show at whim, which means keeping good shows on tap that we all want to see.

At first, my 17-year-old created a Google Doc to track shows that he and I wanted to watch together. But in our experience that wasn’t the ideal setup when we were sitting in my living room trying to make a decision. Then my 20-year-old had the bright idea to fire up Trello. For years, as a tech marketer, I’ve used this slick app to keep track of toiletries, groceries, and so on that I need to keep stocked at my place.

And then the chocolate met the peanut butter: We created a Trello board to track and label the shows we want to watch. Voilà.

As you can see, each column (Trello calls them “lists”) covers a different category or genre, which simplifies things when one of us says “Maybe something sci-fi?” or “I’m not up for an action movie tonight.” The individual movies are listed on “cards” that you can open up to make notes. For instance, in the case of Black Sails, the notes remind me that we can binge it from Starz via my Amazon Prime account.

We keep the lists roughly in descending order of priority, but it’s also simple to change it up because Trello makes it easy to drag-and-drop cards within a list or across lists. Not shown, we even keep a list of the movies we’ve already watched; that’s where we drag each card once we’ve played that show. While this shouldn’t serve as an advertisement for Trello—which, in any case, you can use for free—the app is equally user-friendly from a computer, tablet, or phone, and all three of us have simultaneous access to it.

Note the color coding, too. From time to time, each of my children goes through things I’ve added to the list, marking the ones they want to see. Kid 1 has green, Kid 2, purple. I don’t need a color code, because only stuff I want to see goes on the board in the first place. So it takes only a few seconds to scan the board to find something tailored for the audience on hand, whether that’s all three of us, either kid plus me, or just me.

I was recently reminded of how easy this setup makes things. While I was cooking dinner for the three of us maybe a month ago, something in the conversation (probably a reference to Nikola Tesla, knowing my kids) reminded me of The Prestige. I asked my son to add it to the list because my hands were busy at the stove, so he pulled out his phone and added it in a few seconds, complete with color codes. I promptly forgot about it, but a couple of weeks later when we were looking for something to watch, there it was. Two hours of twists, turns, and running commentary from the three of us later, the kids were left with the standard “What the . . . ?” reaction of first-time watchers of The Prestige. And getting to enjoy that reaction with them brought us just a tiny bit closer together as a family.


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