Hacked Kanban and lists: my best allies for organizing my work (and life)
Organization is not my best quality. With this in mind, I like to use tools to help me keep on top of things.
In my personal life, I use Wunderlist …A LOT. I have lists for everything. Yes, everything. For instance, right now I have lists for:
- Tasks I have to complete during the week,
- Tasks I have to complete over the week end,
- Tasks I have to complete for my thesis,
- Short term goals to achieve.
I have identified the two main benefits of this strategy.
First, well I just don’t forget to do the tasks. Second, I find it highly motivating. There’s just no denying the rush of satisfaction each time I check an item off the list when I’m done with it.
I also keep lists on Evernote: books to read, movies to watch, restaurants to try/that I have tried and liked…and it goes on. So I think it’s safe to say that I’m a list person.
Obviously, the list-mania of my personal life also extends to my professional activity... To organize my work at Societe Generale Global Banking & Investor Solutions — which provides financial services to corporations and financial institutions, from startups to central banks— I use WeKan (it’s like Trello but open source).
The Kanban method theory…
WeKan is a tool based on the Kanban method.
For those who’ve never heard of it, the Kanban method allows the user to display and manage work tasks through a workflow (from “to do” to “done”).
The tool features a dashboard with sections like “To do / In progress / Done” (these can be altered, we’ll take a look at the ones I use below) and cards for each work item that you can move from one section to another.
This method helps:
- Prioritize tasks
- Limit work in progress to avoid wasting time switching from one task to another
- Identify potential bottlenecks
Now, let’s see how it works in practice and how we actually hacked the method within our UX team.
There are 17 UX designers in the team, each of us working on several projects at the same time. Usually, Kanban boards are used by teams (UX, PO, IT…) to collaborate on a project but we also use them to organize our personal work.
Let’s see a dummy (but realistic) example of my personal board:
As you can see there are 5 sections:
- Awaiting: non-urgent matters at the moment that nonetheless need to be taken care of at some point.
- To do: tasks to be completed, ideally within the week.
- In progress: tasks I am currently working on. I try to have as few items as possible in this section, so as to focus on one or two tasks at a time, which in turn helps boost productivity.
- Done: tasks I have completed during the week.
- Archived: older completed tasks.
One card = one task.
But sometimes you can dig into the details. For instance, when I have edits to make on prototypes I detail them in… yes, you got it: lists.
Again, creating a list within a card allows me to keep track of what should be edited AND I can tick each item off when done — my favorite activity.
1 label = 1 project.
As I said, we work on multiple projects at the same time, so this provides an easy way to track tasks per project. You can filter your board by labels, meaning you can display all the tasks of a specific project in one click if you feel like it.
To help you prioritize your tasks you can set a due date on a card. I have to say, I don’t use this very often. But if you’re like my colleague Camille, you can also use this function to keep track of the date you completed a task, which is pretty smart, if you ask me.
Into action within our team
Assigning tasks to colleagues
WeKan works well when it comes to collaborating within a team.
You can assign tasks to other members and “watch” those tasks to see when they are completed.
For example, if I need to ask Marine (UX designer and administrative super-hero on the side) to give me access to a specific application:
- I go to Marine’s board
- I create a task that I put in her “to do” section
- I select “watch” the task (don’t forget to “track” the board, if it’s muted, it won’t work)
- I receive an email when it’s done.
Simple as that.
Letting the boss know your availability
On a regular basis, Morgane, our boss, checks everybody’s board to see how we’re doing.
This gives her some visibility on who might be able to take on a new project, if anyone needs help with anything, and the progress of each assignment. Basically, the tool provides a global view of what the team and each team member are doing.
Note that everything presented here is based on our “hack” of the Kanban method to organize our personal work on several projects. To collaborate at scale on projects we use other tools such as Github, JIRA or even WeKan in the “traditional” way.
Thanks for reading! Any thoughts ? I’d be happy to hear your feedbacks on WeKan or any other tools you use to organize your work and collaborate!