This Personal Kanban Approach is The Simplest Way to Give Up Multitasking
Attention is a limited resource. People, tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines all compete for your attention daily.
The human brain does not respond well to the stress of juggling multiple priorities at the same time. That’s why multitasking has a bad reputation.
Neuroscientists say multitasking literally drains the energy reserves of your brain. “That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing,” says Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University.
Enter personal kanban!
Imagine a productivity system for your life that actually works. Something that’s easy to learn, keeps you organized, prevents you from multitasking, and helps you reach your goals, fast. That’s personal kaban.
Kanban (literally signboard or billboard in Japanese) is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT).
Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed kanban to improve manufacturing efficiency.
It relies on cards, on which you write information, and a board, on which you arrange your cards.
It’s highly visual — you can see at a glance what needs to get done, what you’re working on, what your priorities are, and what you’ve accomplished.
Kanban became an effective tool to support running a production system as a whole, and an excellent way to promote improvement.
Kanban is popular for project management in office environments but people are also borrowing the core ideas from it to organize their personal lives. Trello, SwiftKanban, and KanbanFlow are popular Kanban apps.
Personal Kanban, is a simple system for managing your to-dos. It’s a philosophy of self management — of tasks and time. In many ways Personal Kanban is the perfect balance between opportunity and accomplishment.
The core principles are:
- Visualise your work
- Limit your work in progress
In his book, Personal Kanban: Mapping Work — Navigating Life, Jim Benson says, work unseen is work uncontrolled. He writes:
“Visualising work reduces the distractions of existential overhead by transforming fuzzy concepts into tangible objects that your brain can easily grasp and prioritize.”
“Personal Kanban is based on the principles and techniques of a management concept known as “Lean.” Lean is both a philosophy and a discipline which, at its core, increases access to information to ensure responsible decision making in the service of creating value.”
“Personal Kanban is an information radiator for your work. With it, you understand the impacts and context of your work in real-time. This is where linear to-do lists fall short. Static and devoid of context, they remind us to do a certain number of tasks, but don’t show us valuable real-time information necessary for effective decision making.”
Janice Linden-Reed, president of LeanKanban University, an organization that teaches kanban to professionals and promotes its use, explains:
“There are different forms of visual management out there, and one advantage that kanban gives is it limits work in progress. It has a way of addressing issues around multitasking and helps people focus so they’re not overwhelmed. The thing that makes it kanban as opposed to just a task board is limiting work in progress and flow.”
Personal Kanban gives you mental clarity about you want to do. It enables you to visualize the big picture.
It limits multitasking because you’re not forced to juggle multiple items. This helps ensure that your highest priority tasks get completed first.
Visualising your commitments and tasks can significantly change how you work. Personal Kanban helps you to tackle one thing at a time and to track the progress of your work or tasks from start to finish.
Once you start using this approach to work, you will feel less stressed, because you will know exactly what you have to focus on at any point in time when you are working.
Here is a simple way to use the personal kanban for work
- Set up your Kanban board (To visualise your work, use sticky notes to record all your high priority tasks; you can use different coloured sticky notes to visually show different tasks)
- Write down your tasks on sticky notes — one note for each task (limit this to a few tasks)
- Move your sticky notes along the board as you work on and complete each task.
When you are in control of what to do, what is being done, and what has been accomplished, you will be in total control of your day. Work will be meaningful and fulfilling.
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