From making never ending to-do lists to sticking post-its in obscure places, people make all sorts of efforts to manage work effectively. Unfortunately, work has a way of getting ahead of us and causing havoc when you least expect it. But not anymore.
Introducing Personal Kanban, a personal productivity method that easily adapts to all types of applications and individuals.
It is a stress-free way of managing your to-dos through simple visualization that helps you to be more productive.
This article will guide you through the process and advantages of applying the Kanban method to your personal workflows, may it be at your company or your home. With special insights on how to build your own personal Kanban board, tips on how to manage it and guidance on which tool suits you the best, you can get started on your Personal Kanban journey now.
In today’s fast paced world, multiple factors are constantly competing for our attention. A sudden onset of deadlines and responsibilities can make you feel like you are being pulled apart in different directions. The stress of juggling these constantly changing aspects can result in a loss of focus and overall productivity in an organization. As long as work is implemented as an abstract set of tasks, people will continue to lack the clarity and focus required to manage their time and meet deadlines.
Some use to-do lists to manage their day to day tasks but that can soon get out of control as the number, complexity dependencies of tasks increase. We need an intuitive way of visualizing work that lets us see the bigger picture at a glance.
Enter Personal Kanban, a personal productivity method that easily adapts to all types of applications and individuals. Much like a regular Kanban, the Personal Kanban board allows you to organize, visualize, control and prioritize personal tasks to create the perfect order.
A deep dive into the world of Personal Kanban
The Personal Kanban is a personalized version of the Kanban method, which was first used in Japan’s automotive factories to manage manufacturing work.
It is a stress-free way of managing your to-dos through simple visualization that helps you to be more productive. The idea was first proposed in the book Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry in 2011. The book described how the system can work for people with overwhelming workloads and priorities. Personal Kanban has two main defining features:
Visualize Work. A personal Kanban should help you visualize work in a simple and intuitive way, allowing you to see your overall workload to derive meaningful insights. With all your personal tasks in one place, you can quickly determine what needs to be done based on your priorities. Your personal Kanban board should also allow you to add, remove and move tasks to adapt to your changing flow of work.
Limit Work In Progress (WIP). The personal Kanban is made to limit and keep track of the things you work on at one time aka your work in progress. By putting a limit on the number of tasks you are working on, you can easily visualize the tasks at hand and avoid overwhelming multitasking that may lead to burnouts and is one of the main reasons of inefficiency.
Beyond these two rules, your Personal Kanban can be implemented to suit your unique needs and the way it is built is entirely up to you. However, it is always good to know the best practices and applications before you begin using the Personal Kanban to aid your work.
Personal Kanban in the Analog World
The concept of writing down important tasks and organizing them into easily comprehensible lists is not a new one.
People have always been coming up with innovative ways to manage their day to day tasks and using them to organize their workflows. Before the technological revolution, people used resources in the Analog world to design such solutions. Hence, there are many personal Kanban board examples that exist in the real world. Let’s take a look at how you can make your own.
Setting up your first Personal Kanban board
Here’s how you can build the most basic Personal Kanban board with very little resources such as a pad of sticky notes, a board and some motivation to manage your work and life better!
1. On a pad of sticky notes, write down the things you need to do. One sticky note should contain a single clear task, for example: Review documents, Attend sales meeting etc.
2. Along the way, you will run into large projects and goals that will require a subset of tasks. Break these bigger goals down into smaller work items – dedicating one sticky note to each. For example, if you are planning a business trip your work items may consist of: Book Flights, Make hotel Bookings, Attend Meetings, Hire transport services and much more. These small tasks can further break down into more granular tasks such as attending meetings can be broken down into scheduling the meeting and establishing talking points.
3. You may also start using different coloured cards to represent different natures of responsibilities and give your board more structure.
4. Once you have a set of goals written down, set up a poster board, white board or any large sheet of paper. Make three columns named: To Do, Doing and Done.
5. Now is the time to decide what goes where. This may require some deliberation, so don’t get demotivated yet! Start off by deciding your Work in Progress (WIP) limit. It is generally good practice to begin with two or three cards at a time and adjust according to your capacity. A small and manageable WIP limit usually helps you get more done. However, since each task may vary in duration, you can adjust your WIP accordingly. Set a time estimate for each task and add their times to see where you stand.
6. Now you can stick your boards in the to do column in order of priority, placing the most important ones at the very top.
7. Move some of the notes you wish to do into the Doing column and start working!
8. After finishing each task, move the note to the Done column and replace that with another note from your To-do list.
9. Repeat this process all over again and smoothly manage your day to day activities.
As you may have noticed, this Personal Kanban approach is quite natural and not much different from how you may have been scheduling and managing work so far. As simple as this approach may be, it reflects the two very crucial principles namely Visibility of work and Focus on finish. The sticky notes provide full visibility and an at-a-glance overview of your work while having it all laid out in front of you will help focus on a given task and bring it to completion.
In the practical world however, the personal Kanban takes on many forms. For more complex work organization structures which involve multiple teams and employees, it takes the form of a shop floor management system. However, the core mechanism and principles remain the same – high visibility of work with a clear view of current task and progress – all visually arranged in a neat package for your perusal.
Personal Kanban in the Digital World
The digital revolution has transformed our everyday lives with useful tools that provide the highest levels of convenience.
With the advancement of tools and technology in multiple industries, the productivity sector has also seen a major uplift. With so many options at your fingertips, you may wonder which one to choose and why?
If the personal Kanban is your go-to approach for organizing and managing work, then you can utilize one of the many personal Kanban software and tools on the market. Here’s a brief introduction to some of the top tools that can help you build a digital Personal Kanban board.
Trello is one of the most popular work management tools featuring an easy to use Kanban board with strong features and a flexible work environment. With Trello, you can create appropriate lists and add cards that represent goals and work items. Trello makes it easier to collaborate on large projects and creates an uncomplicated flow that can help you streamline your projects in the long run.
Asana is a popular productivity software that specializes in task management and making collaboration easier. The intuitive interface makes it easy to setup your personal Kanban board with the help of tasks that are the equivalent of sticky notes on a Kanban board.
Smart sheet is a spreadsheet application and project management software that includes support for personal Kanban through a dedicated template that lets users assign cards to different columns.
Jira is a highly well-received project management software that works well with Scrum, Kanban and other hybrid models.
Despite the high level of control and features provided by the popular software mentioned above, using them at your workplace may not be possible due to your company’s security policies. In such a situation, you can return to the basics and use Microsoft’s nifty notetaking app for more than what it was meant to do.
By creating some simple tables to represent lists and adding tasks as new table entries, you can build a simple personal Kanban board to visualize and simplify work.
Many of these personal Kanban tools can serve you well for personal needs or even small businesses. But what if you want to shift it into the context of your large enterprise? This can pose a huge challenge as the security practices may prevent you from integrating your personal Kanban from these third-party software with your enterprise-related work contexts.
Shadow IT is not the best idea and a return to the paper version is like going back to the stone-age. Large enterprises must have control over the collected data and full control over the solutions used.
Aligning your Productivity Tool with your Company’s IT Strategy
One of the tools that fully supports and allows you to work in accordance with the Personal Kanban methodology is KanBo. KanBo features a built-in MyBoard feature that supports the Personal Kanban with all its functionalities. By installation of KanBo in the IT environment of the organization, enterprises can maintain full control over the collected data and management of the software.
If you would like to use the Personal Kanban approach in your company, we would be happy to get you started. For your comfort, we have mechanisms for migrating data from Trello to KanBo to retain your important information and workflows. Empower your employees by introducing the revolutionary Personal Kanban principle to work smarter and get a coordination experience you have not encountered before. Contact us now to get started on your Personal Kanban journey.
Introducing the KanBo MyBoard
Before we jump into the world of the personal Kanban board in KanBo, let’s take a look at some simple concepts that drive KanBo:
A KanBo Card is the perfect container for dynamic work contexts. From conversations and documents to tracked progress, structured/unstructured data and responsible individuals, all relevant information is stored in the KanBo card for all to see and benefit from. In terms of a Kanban board, the KanBo card is much like your regular sticky note but with a lot of added functionality for you to explore!
True to its values, KanBo eliminates pressure by helping you break down complex work tasks into small to-dos so you can sort them and group them for an easier execution. KanBo lists can contain multiple cards, in the real-world context lists are the columns where your sticky notes would go.
Analogous to a Kanban board, the KanBo Board is a digital representation of an area of work, specially built to visualize flows of work in an intuitive manner. Effortlessly maintain a comprehensive view of portfolios, projects, processes or departments as you speed through work stages with great ease and efficiency.
Arrange your work the way it is best for you with MyBoard
Now that you are aware of the basics of KanBo, you are ready to delve deep into the world of KanBo’s MyBoard feature – specially created for building your Personal Kanban board.
The Context of You
As each board in KanBo represents a certain area i.e. a project, a department or a process you will find yourself quickly involved in many cards representing different work items spread across several boards. Each KanBo board gives you the perfect representation of the state of progress regarding the context it represents. But what about the context of YOU?
Much like the Personal Kanban board, the KanBo MyBoard is a place modelled for individual work contexts. It looks like a regular KanBo Board with the major difference that only you can manage the lists to have you organized the way that matches your work style.
Visualize and Prioritize Your Work
MyBoard lets you visualize and prioritize your work while staying updated on the big picture. The cards in MyBoard come from other boards but are not duplicates, they are virtual avatars of cards that actually “live” in their origin boards. Moving cards across the MyBoard does not affect the position in the origin boards where the cards live, ensuring a consistency of information.
The goal of the MyBoard is to unify the context of individual projects or processes with the view of the individual employee, who usually delivers parts of the work in many projects and processes. Since every single person has their own, reinforced working style (Six Sigma, Eisenhower Matrix, Sprint, etc.), KanBo gives each employee the freedom to practice what they’re most comfortable with – without disrupting the bigger picture. Thus, each person can use lists to illustrate his personal work stream based on his unique needs. The names of the lists in the MyBoard can be arbitrary but the most important thing is that the human being finds himself miraculously in it.
Why Personal Kanban?
As humans we are always seeking a sense of order and organization that can lead to greater productivity and goal achievement.
Personal Kanban is a tried and tested method of work management that benefits people in their personal and professional lives.
Greater Visibility and Organization
The beauty of Personal Kanban lies in the simplicity with which it organizes and presents your day-to-day tasks. With greater visibility of what needs to be done, you can develop a mental clarity that helps you maintain focus on the tasks at hand.
Know your Priorities
With your work all laid out in front of you, prioritizing tasks becomes easier than ever before. Your personal Kanban can help you organize work in the order of priority so you can always focus on the most important work in your pipeline without getting bogged down by other commitments.
Work as per your Capacity (Stop overcommitting!)
Overcommitting can lead to revisions, bottlenecks and overall unsatisfactory results. Personal Kanban works on the principle of limiting your WIP so you no longer have to juggle multiple tasks that lead to mediocre work. Limit your WIP to maintain full focus on the tasks at hand and start delivering results.
Streamline and optimize Workflows
As the personal Kanban approach becomes second nature to you, your workflows start becoming more streamlined and less stressful with higher chances of on-time delivery and predictability. The Personal Kanban approach also helps you study and optimize your workflow as you gain valuable insight into your own work metrics.
Improve Team Engagement with Transparency
Sharing Personal Kanban boards can help foster deeper team engagement that improves the team’s overall efficiency because everyone can see how the priorities of colleagues are and how busy they are. The greater transparency leads to a true teamwork culture that can help employees collaborate more effectively to take the team forward.
Tips and Tricks for Managing your Personal Kanban
As the Personal Kanban becomes a daily practice for you, you might need a strategy to optimize and manage it for the best results.
Here are a few tips and tricks to maintain order and help you get the most out of your Personal Kanban.
Adding cards to MyBoard (your Personal Kanban in KanBo) depends entirely upon your need and situation. Cards can either be added manually or automatically based on predefined rules. Here are some ways in which you can add cards to your MyBoard:
- Manually add new cards from other KanBo Boards to your MyBoard
- Add private cards that only you will be able to see
- Use the rules and automation available in the MyBoard settings to have them added automatically to MyBoard as soon as you get assigned as responsible or co-worker to any Card in any Board.
Once added, the cards can easily be moved between the MyBoard Lists to mimic your state of progress and visualize work the way according to your unique preferences. This can be done in two ways:
- Drag and drop cards in MyBoard between Lists
- Determine the MyBoard List within the KanBo Cards.
Focus and Finish
Once you have your cards set up, you can start focusing on the most important work and devote the appropriate amount of time to complete each one properly. Finish work, add new tasks and repeat.
Granting other Users access to your MyBoard
Adding other users to the personal Kanban dramatically improves collaboration. Here are some other benefits:
- Colleagues can develop a deeper understanding and respect for each other’s work due to higher visibility. This causes less interruptions and better coordination
- People can easily view the tasks that you are scheduled to do to find out more about your availability.
- Teammates can get involved in your tasks and help you complete them faster.
- Users may not get the full context of work you are about to do due to permissions of KanBo Boards where the Cards come from but will get an idea of what’s on your plate at any specific moment.
Such transparency of work greatly facilitates cooperation and strengthens trust in the team. Everyone has the right to see what a teammate does. This significantly translates into the effectiveness of our work.
Analog vs. Digital Personal Kanban
Which one is for you?
|WORK VISIBILITY||Visualize work in the form of tasks for greater work visibility.||Personal space to organize and visualize work in a dynamic way.
Work from multiple boards can be added.
Helps team members get a 360 degree view of work with full transparency.
|PRIORITIES||Arrange tasks in order of priority from top to bottom.||Use several prioritization categories at the same time using card groupings.
Get mobile notifications to always stay up to date on high priority tasks.
|WHO IS RESPONSIBLE||Writing names on cards
Physical presence required to be notified about assignments.
|In KanBo you can choose people as responsible or co-worker to a card.
Responsible individuals can instantly be notified when assigned a card on all devices.
A greater sense of accountability and transparency.
|STATUS||Represent status only through lists where cards are in.||KanBo’s Card Status allows you to create personalized stages to suit your team’s workflow and understanding.
Use colors and icons to represent specific states in a visual manner.
|WHO MADE THE CHANGES||No information about who might have made changes.||Easily view what changes were made by whom through the board and card activity streams.|
|REAL TIME||Cannot change or adapt in real time – physical presence required||All changes are made in real time, so everyone has the latest information.|
|DOCUMENTS||Documents cannot be attached||All documents in KanBo are attached to Cards and are versioned. All version changes are monitored by KanBo. These changes are then automatically pushed into the Card Activity Streams|
|ACTIVITY STREAM||Cannot retrace the history||Three levels of activity streams:
|REAL TIME ANALITYCS||No actionable insights or analytics.||Using interactive and customizable widgets, KanBo displays analytics such as live data, cycle time histogram, cumulative flow with other charts and metrics that matter.|
|REMOTE ACCESS||Can only be accessed when physically present at the Kanban Board location, i.e. an office or a meeting room.||KanBo can be accessed 24/7 from any location on any device in the world that has internet access and a browser.
KanBo provides features such as real time notifications that transcends time zones and geographical locations and the ability to work out loud.
|FILTERING||No filtering mechanisms to ease navigation.||KanBo has multiple filtering options. You can filter according to: Card name, Labels, Users and Statuses, and more.|
|VIEWS||Multiple views not available.||KanBo provides useful insights and multiple visualizations on your personal work so you can manage your work better.|
|WHO SAW THE INFORMATION||No way of telling who has seen a particular information on a Card.||KanBo offers read receipts that show how many members are on board and up to date with the current status of the work context (Card Views)|
|BACKUP||No backup – if the physical Board is damaged or lost then all information is gone.||All the data on KanBo is always securely backed up at your chosen location and can be restored immediately.|
|SHARING||Can be shared as long as colleagues are in the same physical room.||MyBoard can be shared with all team members and even externally.|
|TIME LINE||Cannot integrate with calendars or a timeline.||KanBo has its own timeline feature that borrows dates from KanBo cards and maps them as dots on an interactive line that represents time. Addiionally all MyBoard Cards with dates can be displayed within Outlook.
Kanban has proved its mantle in the business world already and now you can get the same advantages in a personalized context with your very own personal Kanban.
Despite its name, the Personal Kanban is not only for mundane, day to day activities but can also help you visualize work in a professional setting to achieve a stress-free work-life balance.
Choosing the right solution is key to getting the most out of your Personal Kanban. From the classic physical Kanban board example, we mentioned earlier to the far more advanced digital versions, what you wish to use is up to you.
However, making your Personal Kanban run successfully in an agile work environment requires a robust and powerful platform that gives you the freedom and flexibility to practice your unique work style. KanBo can do that and much, much, more.
Want to take your work management strategy to the next level? Contact us and try out KanBo’s MyBoard feature now.