Archive for category Productivity

Personal Kanban Boards

I started using personal kanban boards about 10 days ago.  They are visible on the wall behind me when I videoconference with people, and many people have asked me about them during our calls.  So, here is a post about why and how I’m using kanban boards, and the value I’m getting from them.

Who isn’t busy, right?  I find it hard to resist a good opportunity or idea, so sometimes end up with a lot of projects on the go.  I’ve tried a range of ways to prioritise and manage my time across projects, business development, recurring tasks, administration and other activities.  I like the portability of electronic tools that synchronise across multiple devices, and have been using the 2Do app for a couple of years.  However, it can be time-consuming to enter and maintain all tasks in an electronic tool.  When I get really busy I revert to sticky notes and scraps of paper.  It’s quick to hand-write a new task on a paper note and easy to sort and shuffle them as priorities change – definitely quicker for me than with online tools.  It gets tasks out of my head, so helps me to concentrate on whatever I was working on when the thought of the task popped into my head.

However, there are still a lot of things on the list, which is now less portable.  The long electronic list has been replaced by a growing stack of notes.  Either way, they require regular review to figure out what I should do on any given day. I’m concerned to ensure that at any given time I’m working on my most important activities (I use the Eisenhower matrix to help identify what these are – but that’s not the focus of my post today).

In my search to efficiently managing tasks and be confident that I am focussed on the things that matter most I’m often drawn to online content about productivity.  A couple of weeks ago a post on Snapchat by Helen Blunden about personal kanban caught my attention.  What appealed to me about using personal kanban boards was:

  • the visual nature of it
  • high visibility of a physical board (as opposed to using an online variant)
  • ease of adding and updating tasks, and moving them from one status to another
  • satisfaction of seeing what I’ve done
  • ‘rule’ of not having more than 3 tasks in progress at any one time, to combat the downsides of multitasking

I decided to create a board for each of my top 3 projects (rather than one board with all projects mixed in together).  The 1-minute Snapchat video below outlines how I set the boards up.  I have since added a fourth board for a client project.

I’ve been using the boards for a week.  Every morning before I set down at my desk I check the boards and decide/confirm what I need to work on that day to progress my most important projects.  I add new tasks on a sticky note (1 task per note), and sometimes replace a high-level task with multiple more granular tasks.  I update the boards as I work too.  I’m finding the process very fluid and the boards are definitely assisting me to prioritise and progress my most important projects.  Importantly, using them also decreases my mental chatter about what I should be working on.

A downside of how I’ve set these boards up is that they are not portable.  I get around this in part by writing the 5 things I ‘must’ get done each day in a small notebook that I carry around.  (Actually, I write down up to 5 x Quadrant 1 tasks (Important and Urgent) and 5 x Quadrant 2 tasks (Important and Non-Urgent).  The quadrants are based on the Eisenhower matrix mentioned earlier in the post.)

Another disadvantage is that they cannot be shared with other people so don’t help with collaboration.  Some people in my network use Trello, which uses a board structure for task management.  I downloaded Trello several months ago, looked at it briefly, and deferred figuring out how to use it.  I suspect that the practices I’m using with physical kanban boards would transfer readily to Trello.  This tool is obviously portable and could be used with others.  I think I would miss the immediacy and visibility of the boards on my office wall were I to move from using them to Trello.  Of course, practices evolve so I may well be posting about my use of Trello (or something similar) in the future.

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