Personal Kanbans

productivity Jul 27, 2020

Dr. Bailey Bosch

A while ago I wrote about the Pomodoro method. I am always interested in, and looking for, ways to help streamline the many different projects I have going on with the aim to try and improve my productivity in the very small amount of time I get to work child-free. So, I have come across this: A Personal Kanban.

If you can get your head around the somewhat odd-sounding name, I am sure you will pick up some good advice in this summary that I have put together. It is essentially a way of looking at your to-do list. Now, this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea simply because we all have different ways of working and different styles of learning. So, have a read and see if this might be the method that can help you to manage the many different tasks and jobs you have on an ever-growing to-do list.


What is a Kanban?

The term 'personal kanban' was developed by two experts in productivity, Jim Benson and Tonianne De Maria Barry, but I am sure the method of visualising and prioritising work has been around since forever. Like anything, you can make this as simple or as complex as you chose, and there are books and courses you can access if you want to find out more. Personally, I don't really have the time nor inclination to spend time on learning how to save time so here is a summary:


Two Rules:

1) Visualise Your Work

2) Limit Your Work in Progress (WIP)


Rule 1: Visualise your Work

This can be anything you prefer. Post-it notes are a good way to start as you can move them around quite easily but you might like to use a whiteboard or a notebook or even use apps or other online tools. As long as you can 'SEE' your overall workload. Whatever you decide to go with make it easy enough that you can add or remove items as required and move 'tasks' around easily according to priority.


Rule 2: Limit your Work in Progress (WIP)

This is pretty self-explanatory: limit the tasks you are working on at any given time. This is where seeing the 'big picture' comes into it because before you take on a new task you will be able to see everything that is competing for your time and attention. This will make it easier to prioritize what you are willing to commit to, and what activities or tasks you will have to delay or decline (where possible). 


How to Create your Kanban

The most simple version of a Kanban has three columns. These are

  1. Back-Log
  2. Doing
  3. Done



This is where you list all of the things that you are not currently working on but will need to come back to at some stage. These could be any projects you might have started prior to enrolling in your degree, or even projects started over the uni break that you haven't got around to just yet.


 These are all the things you are currently working on, or are committed to working on. For example, Mums who are studying would also include the children's activities on here along with their own studies. You would also benefit from arranging these tasks into order of priority or urgency. Ideally, this is what you want to limit - this WIP. Having too much in this section leads to stress and burnout.


This list is important in that it functions as a motivational tool. You can move all those completed tasks over from the Doing column, to the Done column. Filling up the Done column is a visual reward to keep your Doing activities on track.


In Summary

  • How you actually arrange this is up to you. All that matters is you can visualise it and the moving of tasks from Back-Log to Doing to Done.
  • Keep the Doing or Work in Progress column to a minimum.
  • Keep your 'note' of completed tasks on the board under DONE.








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