Get Stuff Done. Use a Kanban Board!

Kanban Board

I love lists.  I make lists all the time, and probably multiple times a day.  And I love checking things  off my lists when they are done!  Anyone else?  I know I’m not alone here.

Lately I’ve had so many things going on in multiple aspects of my life, that I was getting stuck.  I felt like I was constantly trying to re-prioritize my to-do list, and I wasn’t getting enough stuff done.  And sometimes I would start working on something, but I would run into a roadblock and need to come back to it later.

A few weeks ago, my coworkers and I were trained on Kanban, a method of visually representing workflow that enables quick re-prioritization and limits work-in-progress in order to keep things moving and get more done.

I tried it.

It worked magically.

And now I’m a little obsessed with it.

Armed with a roll of painter’s tape and a fresh stack of post-its, I turned one of the walls in my office into my own personal Kanban board.  The beauty of Kanban is that it is totally customizable to your needs, and the goal is simply to visually represent your work, and limit the work in progress, in order get more things done.

And who doesn’t want to get more done?

Here’s how it works:

Work is represented on post-it notes, and it moves from start to end through the columns of your Kanban board.  Tasks represented on the post-its should be small enough that you would know immediately how to tackle it without breaking it down into smaller steps.

Then you need to choose your columns.  I chose:

  • Not Yet Started
  • In Progress
  • Stuck

I decided not to include a “Done” column, because I didn’t want to  clutter up my wall with things that I don’t need to worry about any more.  When it’s done, the post-it comes down.  My “Stuck” column is for those tasks that might have hit a roadblock, or are contingent on something outside of my personal control.  I keep them there so they are still (visually) top of mind and I’ll be reminded of them when they are ready to be finished.

The last piece of this, which is very important, is to limit the amount of work in progress.  You can set your own limits, but I try to stick with one or two things at a time, with three as my max.  The “Stuck” column helps a lot.  If I have more than three items in that are stuck, I look at them again to see if I can actually get any of them moving again.

One extra thing that I added was a little color-coding.  I have three main areas of work, with three overarching goals that are driving this work.  Each goal is written on a post-it to the left of my board, and all of the work associated with that goal is written on the same color.  This helps me to stay focused on my goals and the “why” behind all of this.  It keeps me motivated.

This method has been working so well for me.  I hope it’s helpful to some of you as well.  If you want to read more about creating a Personal Kanban, this is a great place to start.

Now go out there and get some stuff done!

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