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Personal KanBan a visual way to manage work

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I’m addicted to Evernote to some extent. I use it as a mind dump. I use it to manage my massive to-do list, take meeting notes, record receipts, track mileage, and store important information that I need to access frequently. It has many uses, but recently I have realized it fails in the way I need it most…managing my to-do list, and this is by far the most important need.

About two weeks ago I was so overwhelmed with my LIST, that it crippled me from moving forward. I couldn’t even figure out where to begin. But, a week ago  I met my saving grace, and was introduced to Personal KanBan. Personal KanBan is a way to visualize and complete work. It moves beyond the typical to-do list and allows you to see everything going on at once.

My biggest hang up with my LIST was that even if something was in limbo, or I was waiting on somebody to finish something before moving forward, it remained in the list, so it looked enormously huge, even though I was actually making progress on many of my tasks.

KanBan basically utilizes a horizontal and vertical column system to visualize work flow. For example, my Personal KanBan has 6 columns that work flows through: To-Do, Ready, Today, Waiting, In Progress, and Done (within this column I break it into horizontal columns by day).

Personal KanBan

My Personal KanBan at Bearded Brothers.

To-Do: Obviously, this is my list of stuff to get done
Ready: This represents the things I plan on working next, or things that are not, “future projects”, they are tasks ready to be worked on in the very near future
Today: Represents what I need to get done that day.
Waiting: Represents tasks I have started working on, but am awaiting a response to move forward, or waiting on somebody else to finish another piece of the puzzle.
In Progress: Simply means I have started the project, and I am the one responsible for completing it and need to take further action.
Done: Means I have completed that task and no longer have to worry about it.

The system is amazing. I have never been so excited about a way to mange my work before. The only other methods I have seen prior to this were variations of the typical task list…just version 2.0 of Overwhelming.

I have only been using the system for a week now, and already feel way less overwhelmed, and I have an excellent grasp of everything going on. I’m going home at night with less stress; I don’t have my list swirling around in my head because I know exactly what I need to do.

I also plan on using it with my team at Bearded Brothers to manage projects and work flow. Since it’s column based the columns can be used to represent different stages of a typical workflow, and the project moves through the columns until it reaches completion, thus allowing you to track its progress and always know what the status is at any given point in time.

The best part about this system is that it helps you become more efficient in your work. As you use the system you will start to see where things are getting bogged down. For example; at the start of my week I had nothing in the “In Progress” category, but within a few days I had five tasks sitting in there, I also had 5 tasks in the waiting column. This lets me know I have a lot of things I need to follow up on, and possibly need to be more diligent in following up with people and/or making sure I’m doing everything I can to move projects forward. It will also give you a realistic idea of how much you can complete in a given day, how long projects typically take, and it will help you determine high vs, low value tasks.

I’m really excited about continuing to use this system and eventually adopting the digital version of my large physical KanBan, so I can work from anywhere. I have been making an effort this last week to work in the office every day so I can get a better feel for what KanBan is really all about, and I have honestly enjoyed taking my PostIt Notes, placing them on the wall, and moving them through the various columns until completion.

Here are a few more resources for Personal KanBan. I also wanted to say thanks to Gerry, our Couch Surfing guest from Canada that recently stayed with us and introduced me to this system.

Personal KanBan – Visualize Learn Improve
Blog post on Nomad8 – Also sells small physical KanBan boards
Lean Kit – The digital version of a physical KanBan baord

About Caleb

I'm the co-owner/founder of Bearded Brothers, an organic snackfood company. I love ultra running, rock climbing and cycling. I'm also a vegetarian, passionate about health and well-being.