My first post will be about a recent discovery, personal kanban. I’ve been managing software development based on KANBAN the past few years, but it never occurred to me that I could use the same concept for personal task management.
Personal kanban is basically about two things: Visualize your workflow, and limit work in progress.
Visualize your workflow
In a process based on KANBAN, you usually throw a board up on the nearest wall, draw a flow and put the tasks into the workflow using sticky notes. Personally I prefer a digital board, and I’m using Agilezen for this purpose (for our team we use greenhopper).
I’ve got several columns on my board, but just start with “Todo”, “In Progress” and “Done” and work your way from there. You should also have some kind of backlog (possibly outside of the board) so you don’t end up with too much in your Todo column at any one time. For some good principles for managing future tasks and todo, check out Getting Things Done by David Allen (more about that in another post).
Limit work in progress
When you’ve set up a board and figured out what columns to put on it, you need to set a limit for how many items you will allow in the “In progress” column. All work you’ve started but not finished, occupies a part of your brain. When your brain has to focus on several tasks at once, the quality of your work decreases. I know you think you are an expert multitasker, but you’re not.
These days, most people multitask like squirrels on speed. You start one task, *pling* an incoming instant message distracts you, and when you’re done chatting you start something else. Before you know it, you’ve got two half finished emails, you’ve written four lines on a document because you need feedback from your boss (and he’s out of town on business), and forgot what you were supposed to be doing in the first place. Limit your “In progress” to three, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it fills up.
When you learn to limit your work in progress, you’ll find that you’ll get more done. Instead of doing ten tasks at once, you will be doing one task at a time. Not only will you become more productive, increased focus will also increase the quality of your work. You’ll also have a great system to keep track of all the stuff you need to get done.
This was just a brief introduction to the concept, for more information I encourage you to google “personal kanban”, follow #pkflow on Twitter or buy the book. If you have any time / task management tips of your own, feel free to share them below!