Personal Kanban – Visualize your workflow

Personal Kanban

Photo by orcmid

I am not a naturally organized person. The creative side of my brain is far more dominant. Since my workload has become increasingly large and complex, I had to find a system that worked for me. I did, and it’s called Personal Kanban.

Kanban was created by Toyota to help support its production system. It has been adapted to fit personal needs and goes by the name Personal Kanban. It is a way of visualizing your workflow.

All you need is a whiteboard, post-it notes, and sharpie markers or anything else to write with. Each post-it note contains a task that must be completed. The post-its occupy various sections of the board depending on what stage of work they’re at. The board at its most simple has the following sections:

  • Backlog – this contains all of your tasks that have to get done. If you’re honest with yourself about how much work you have on your plate, then this can be quite large.
  • Ready – this means that you’re ready to start the task.
  • Doing – this is when you’re actually doing the task.
  • Done – this represents the ultimate feeling when you’re done with the task!

This is the beauty of visualizing your workflow. You see your various tasks at different stages. You see which ones haven’t even been started yet and which ones you’re working on right now. You see them all in context.

Visualizing your workflow also helps you find bottlenecks. Why are a bunch of tasks in the “Doing” not getting done? Look at how many tasks there are in there. The new consensus is emerging that multitasking makes you less efficient and productive, so perhaps you’re trying to do too much at the same time. This is where the Work in Process (WIP) limit comes in.

How many things can you actually do at the same time? It’s different for everybody. My WIP limit is three. Find out what yours is, write it at the top of the “Doing” section, and stick to it.

The beauty of this system is that all you need is a whiteboard, post-its, and sharpies. Some of us prefer to use our computer for this. Right now, I use KanbanFlow, but I have also used LeanKit Kanban. Both are excellent tools and free, and LeanKit Kanban does have paid plans as well.

There are lots of great resources on how to use a Personal Kanban, including Jim Benson’s site.

What kind of system do you use to keep your workflow and tasks organized?

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