How to manage your time with KANBAN?

Christophe Berg
Nov 27 · 6 min read

What is Personal Kanban?

Kanban is a simple board to visualize tasks and manage your time. Kanban was first established by Toyota to visualize the work, limit the work in progress and improve efficiency (or flow) in their factories. It is mainly used as a project management tool by companies. But nobody said that you can not benefit from it personally.

It is a simple and visual system to manage tasks. A Kanban Board contains Columns. Each column helps to indicate the current state of a specific Task (materialized by a Card or a Post-it). A column can be a day or a similar span (½ day) during which a small groups of tasks can be completed. A Card describes one Task: title + short description, optional: category label, person in charge, deadline, checklist…

Is Time management even possible?

Time is not a renewable resource. There is no refill for time. You can’t buy some. It is a scarce resource. At best, you can try to limit wasting too much of it. Enjoy the best of it and be frugal with your time, like you would be with a very precious resource.

Why?

One key motivation of experimenting with Kanban is to get over the never ending todo list, to focus on quality of work by doing less better and to set your priorities. When you face a long and unstructured list of things to do, it is not that surprising to react with a rush of adrenaline to the last emergency or someone else high priority. Being busy, overwhelmed has sadly nothing to do with being effective, committed and organized.

Kanban is just a tool to ease your relation with time. Like having the right key can make a difference as you want to open a door.

How to use Kanban?

You can start by drawing columns on a white board and use post-it to materialize the tasks. Let’s imagine 3 simple columns: backlog / to do list — in progress — review / done

One Key Rule: Minimize the Work in Progress ( W.I.P. ) to get the work done in time. Meaning that you will make sure to not over populated the «in progress » column. Trying to have only few related tasks together in the column “in Progress”. You want to limit your work in progress to achieve a better quality, avoid unnecessary stress and feeling overwhelmed.

2nd Key Rule: Finish a task, before you can add one. Move always from the Left to the Right: complete a task, move it from « in progress » to « review », before you can move another task from « Backlog / To Do” to “In Progress”.

For project or workflow that are a bit more complex, you can define rules on when to move tasks. For example, the workflow to publish articles can be structured with the following columns: ideas — first draft — writing and editing — review — published. You can define what needs to be validated or approved to review an article before publishing (moving a job from « review » to « published »). It is especially useful when you work as a team, with different person managing the columns.

Using an App?

Kanban is a low-tech method to keep track of your progress, yet you can use an app to facilitate even further your time management, visualize a board from your laptop or your smart phone and easily share your board. An online app can help to manage a project remotely without sending emails (which is one of the worst project management tool). Trello (check it on trello.com) is a free online application and mobile app to visualize, organize and share your tasks on a board. You can coordinate asynchronous work smoothly meaning without interrupting each others, emails or having the need for constant meetings.

“Writing Articles” board using Trello

Trello is a flexible app that lets you organize a board the way to feel. There is no forced template that you have to fill-in. You can add the number of columns that you need and label them the way you want.

Kanban Template using Trello. You can check it online at https://trello.com/b/l8jUPtNa

Using a Weekly View to conter Context Switching and induced Multi-tasking

Kanban became to be really meaningful and useful for me, when I started to use it to conter tasks switching and multi-tasking. As the director of education of Blue Lotus, on top of teaching certain classes, I have to deal with Enrollment — Business Development — Social Media Communication — Education — Coordination and Team Management — Writing and Creating Content… One tempting tactic would be to try doing a bit of each task by reacting to the latest emergency, phone call or interruption. As you would imagine, it turns not that productive and rather stressful.

MyWeek, weekly Kanban with dedicated days

So in order to avoid switching from enrollment to education or creating content each time a new task or message pops-up, I try as much as possible to dedicate each day (or 1/2 a day) to a specific activity beside teaching. So I have a day for enrollment, a day dedicated to business development, a day for education … which I then organize as a weekly board. Each day of the week is an « in progress » column. At the beginning of the week, I distribute my work between the days. I try to minimize my work in progress each day to focus on quality. When stars are well aligned, it works out smoothly.

Why I use KANBAN personally? What I Like About it?

  • I highly value being lazy in a smart way. I am not exactly sure if it is a quality to be constantly « busy ». I, for sure, don’t like it.
  • I always try to Do Less but Better.
  • I see Attention and Focus as underrated Super Powers.
  • I hardly manage any Deep Work by dealing with different things at the same time.

Kanban especially my weekly view is helping me without having to spend too much time on it. I end my weeks by planning and visualizing the next one. Then I start each day with a « personal morning briefing » to plan, prepare and adjust to what’s coming. I try to streamline my workflow as much as possible. When my short-time memory is playing tricks with me, my board remembers.

Ok I have to admit it, I like playing with white boards and to move tasks from left to right.

For more listen the Blue Lotus Café PODCAST on KANBAN.

Christophe Berg

Written by

Project Coach, simplifier, facilitator & fixer. Director of Education at Blue Lotus 🌱 #plantbased

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