Thanksgiving Kanban Board

Thanksgiving is our big family holiday. Every year I start planning a few weeks ahead of time, and finish by sitting at the table, watching everyone eat food while I struggle to not drown in my wine glass from exhaustion. I use a spreadsheet that I created to automatically calculate my cooking schedule based off of the number of ovens I have that year (I have an awesome neighbor with three ovens in her garage), baking temperature, etc. But this year I found myself wrapped up in school and spending hours planning and filling out a spreadsheet didn’t fit into my schedule. So, instead, I turned to post-it notes and a foam board to turn my Thanksgiving to do list into a Kanban board.

I was intrigued last week when my professor posted a video on how to do a Kanban board, but I wasn’t ready to test it out for class. It seemed so simple, and yet, I wasn’t positive that I trusted the system. I have tried so many different task-managing-to-do-systems where I end up spending a ton of time setting things up only to find that it doesn’t work for me. So, when I waited to start planning Thanksgiving dinner the day before this year, I decided I was already spiraling towards failure, so why not push it all the way to the ground by trying a new to do system? Great idea, Jen.

I grabbed a foam board, blue tape, post-it notes, and a sharpie. I created a few columns on the board much like he did in the video. I had no idea how many columns to make, or what I was going to label them, but they were on the board in just a couple of minutes. Cool. Easy. Then I started writing each dish I was making for dinner on a post-it note. Quick and easy. I do this all the time. Then I realized that oven vs. stove top cooking was the next important thing to know (only one oven this year) so one color post-it for oven and a different one for stove top. Then I put everything down the left hand side. Looking legit. After that, I just started adding some helpful details to my post-it notes, and organizing them by cooking time and day.

Here is what I learned from my little experiment…

  1. Visualizing the dishes as post-it notes on my board gave me a better since of my progress. I usually forget to serve something, but because everything had a post-it, I could see where everything was, even if it physically was hiding in the back of an over-stuffed fridge. One of the most helpful parts was seeing what needed to be re-heated at that final cooking crunch. That is usually the most stressful part for me, and it didn’t seem so bad knowing there was nothing for me to forget.
  2. Post-it notes are WAY easier to deal with when cooking than my expensive computer. It didn’t matter if I had wet hands or cranberry sauce dripping down my apron — killing a post-it note is not a big deal.
  3. The structure of the board came naturally. Kind of like a timeline and priority matrix in one.
  4. Kanban was super easy to set up and helped me think through the day by making it physical. I spend 1/4 of the amount of time I usually spend planning every year.
  5. It helped me to delegate. I usually have a really hard time delegating tasks out while I’m cooking. When someone asks how they can help, I usually have to pull open the spreadsheet or try to run through the list in my head to figure out where someone can help. Frankly, it is easier to just say, “no”. BUT, with the board, it was simple to visualize at a glance as to see the big picture of what I was working on. “Ahh, yes, the potatoes are up next and need some peeling, go for it kiddo!”

Not gonna lie, it was still a tiring day. BUT I’m sold on the Kanban board and I will use it again. (I think I would like to make the board a little bigger, and add my recipes to the board itself. Not sure that is practical for the kitchen, tho.) All and all, I think that it was very successful for executing a Thanksgiving day plan. That said, I believe that it was very successful because these were simple and specific tasks that needed to be executed. Breaking down projects into doable tasks could still present a challenge that could cause strain on my relationship with the Kanban board. So, next up, I am going to put the rest of the semester on a Kanban board test to see if I can make this work for school projects, not just cooking!

This year, I am thankful for Kanban boards.

11/28/15

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