Using Kanban in Your Personal Life
Kanban is a workflow visualization tool that has proven itself to be extremely valuable in the business environment as a way to manage processes of all sorts. It’s simple yet powerful, and it makes a lot of vital information both evident and easily accessible for whole teams, bolstering productivity and process optimization.
But Kanban’s potential is not limited to the fields of business and management. It can be a tool that everyone could use in their personal life to efficiently manage all of their tasks, and to increase their own personal productivity. At its core, Kanban is just an organized approach to treating your list of to-dos. What makes it great and useful is its simplicity that doesn’t diminish its power or effectiveness.
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a method that is used to create a Kanban board. It’s usually a whiteboard, but it can be done on a large piece of paper or through specialized software, or even on MS Excel. Kanban has a few columns that signify different stages a task might be at, starting from the most basic ‘To Do’ state, and ending with the ‘Done’ state. The simplest version of Kanban has just one column in between, which is traditionally labeled ‘Doing’, but there is no limit on the number of columns that can be used, so Kanban boards can get quite complex if need be. Tasks are usually written down on sticky notes, and they are physically moved from column to column when they are at different stages of the task completion process. The idea is to quickly move each sticky from one end of the board to the other end, which means your “customer” gets what they want quickly.
What Is Personal Kanban?
There are two main aspects of Kanban that make it quite suitable for anybody to apply in their personal life:
Kanban is an extremely visual method, which is very helpful for the visual creatures that we are. One of the keys to personal productivity is the ability to get organized without wasting any time. There are many people that use just a simple to-do list on a piece of paper or even people that don’t write down their tasks and expect to hold it all in their heads. Most of them spend a lot of time and effort to decide what they need to do next, what has been done and what hasn’t, and making sure they are not forgetting anything. It’s really easy for it all to become a mess Having a Kanban board with all your tasks helps solve that problem. It presents all of the tasks you have and their progress in an easy to comprehend visual form. When you implement Kanban in your life, you will probably get used to it quickly, as being able to access all the information about the tasks you have at hand at a glance is virtually addictive.
2. Limited Work in Progress
What leads to a lot of busy people struggling with managing their personal tasks is the fact that they try to do too much all at one. One of the most important principles of Kanban is the limits that you need to impose on the “work in progress” (WIP). You need to decide on a number of tasks that you will allow yourself to be active on at any given time, and adhering to this rule will help you stay focused and avoid stress. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but it forces proper prioritization, and this has immense results on personal productivity. When you worry about everything all at once, your mind becomes highly ineffective, and this drains a lot of energy. But when you have a Kanban board, you can relax and concentrate on the task at hand without worrying about everything else you have to do – everything is clear and manageable. All those items you need to do in the future should be stored in the backlog (‘To Do’ column), but only active projects and tasks are in the ‘Doing’ or WIP column. Start by limiting your WIP to 3 tasks, and see how that works for you. You can always move tasks back to the ‘To Do’ stage if something new comes up, but don’t go over 3 active tasks, or the system will not work.
Where to Start?
Kanban is not a complex system that needs a lot of preparation for. All you need is a few sticky notes and a surface to divide into columns and start sticking them on. It doesn’t require any additional expertise, so you can start from the most basic three-column board, and move up from there. Alternatively, you could look into the many desktop, web or mobile Kanban applications available and give them a go. We suggest you start using Kanbans by hand, instead of electronic solutions, so you learn the methodology and practice it first. In the end, the most important thing is just to start and to stay consistent, and you will start completing tasks more quickly, and not feeling overwhelmed.