Kanban is a great planning method to visualize simple productivity processes. And it’s not just for teams, it’s also extremely useful as a personal board for any kind of project.
To get started you can use free tools like Trello or even a whiteboard with sticky notes. If you have multiple projects you are working on, I recommend to create multiple boards. One for each project. As an exception smaller projects could be summarized into a single board. It really depends on a number of todos and information you have to deal with. You get the best use out of Kanban when you don’t fill it up with too many things — as with most tools.
Let’s start! Create multiple lists or columns from left to right:
If you have bigger projects, you might add more lists, like I did above for developing NotePlan. Instead of “Next Up”, I have made two lists: “Later” (limit = 20), “Soon” (limit = 10).
Instead of using “Later” and “Soon” this could be also split up into a rough estimate, such as “This Month”, “This Quarter”, “This Year”, “Some Day”, etc. It depends on how many cards you have and how many you really want to manage. It also depends, if you have a team, which works on the cards. Kanban is very flexible. You can add a new list anytime and fine-tune your workflow.
For example: If you test a software release before uploading it to the public, you can add a list “Test” before moving cards to “Done”. Or “Code Review” or just a general “Review”, if it’s not a software project.
If you are using Trello, I recommend the chrome extension WIP to create a card limit for your lists.
If you work on any kind of product, you will have feedback from your customers. Copy this feedback in its raw form and paste it into a card as a reference (for example into the comments section).
This will help you in multiple ways:
Use colored tagging to create categories of tasks. Such as “Bugs”, “Marketing”, “Design” or “Support”.
This helps you prioritizing cards on-the-fly and important things won’t get drowned so easily between the less important cards. Above I have tagged critical features, bugs and marketing activities. I don’t tag every card, only the significant ones.
Like in any other productivity system, it’s important to review cards and clean up the system to keep an overview. Here every 1–2 weeks all cards should be reviewed, re-prioritized, purged and updated. If you don’t review and clean up, you will end up with a dozen old cards, which will never be finished or which are not really actionable and actually belong somewhere else. They create noise and make it harder to keep an eye on the things, which are critical for you. Eventually, you will probably stop using the system altogether, because it will confuse you more than help. Hence review all cards to keep your boards healthy.
Compared to a purely list-based system (taggable lists with todos), Kanban can visualize a workflow much better. In this example the Kanban board replaces the project related notes for the development part. But Kanban boards are really bad for storing reference material like long pieces of text, spread-sheets, checklists, specs, etc. Basically anything with a lot of content or anything which creates a lot of cards, which are not very actionable. If the new information doesn’t fit into your Kanban workflow, it doesn’t fit into your Kanban system. Hence it makes sense to keep a list based system for storing non-actionable items and a Kanban board to visualize your workflow.
I personally moved managing the development of NotePlan from a simple text-based list to Trello, because I needed something more dynamic, where I can move around blocks of text (or cards) much easier. It’s also hard to visualize your workflow inside lists.
Originally published at www.noteplan.co on May 6, 2017.