Productivity insights – Go visual with Kanban, better than a to-do-list?

This video podcast takes you into you a Kanban Board and how it’s “a great tool to help manage your diary tasks”.

About Kanban

A Kanban board is a workflow visualisation tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work. Physical Kanban boards typically use sticky notes on a whiteboard to communicate status, progress, and issues. Online Kanban Boards draw upon the whiteboard metaphor in a software setting.

The Kanban technique emerged in the late 1940s as Toyota’s re-imagined approach to manufacturing and engineering. Line-workers displayed colored Kanbans — actual cards — to notify their downstream counterparts that demand existed for parts and assembly work. (Kanban is the Japanese word for “visual signal” or “card.”) The system’s highly visual nature allows teams to communicate more easily on what work needs to be done and when. It also standardises cues and refines processes, to help reduce waste and maximise value.


Kanban Boards Mind Map

How do you use Kanban?

How do you build, sort of a flight plan for your tasks and this is where using a Kanban comes becomes important. I send everything to what I call my backlog file in Kanban, and it’s just literally all the incoming jobs that I have to do.

Urgent v. Important

So you need to break those things that are going to go into your diary into things that are important and urgent things that are not important but are urgent things that are important, but not urgent and things that are neither important nor urgent.

You need to break your tasks into those things and I have to immediately work out, is this something that’s important and urgent, and it needs doing today. I’ll move that into my today column.

Is it not important and urgent? I’ll also add to my today column, but it will be a lower priority thing so I can start to really prioritise things that have to be done today.

You actually have to think about time in your own diary when you can do jobs.

Now, if you fill up your diary with stuff all the time, then that’s a problem because how are you going to do things that turn up almost like as an emergency?

So to some extent, you have to put aside some time in your diary to deal with emergencies.

If you don’t do that, you’ll end up doing a lot of late nights, which is what, unfortunately, quite a lot of people end up doing.

Then I look at the other things in the backlog. So things that are important, but not urgent. I’ll put them into my work in progress. If I start working on them, if I haven’t started on them, they stay in the backlog.

Again, not important and not urgent things, if I’ve started working on them, they go into my work in progress column or otherwise they’ll stay my backlog. My backlog as a little reminder to me that there are things there that haven’t been started or haven’t – I have not even looked at them and I need to regularly just check things in the backlog.

One of the best things I can do is put a date on those things in the backlog.

When does that job actually need to be done by?
When does it need to start?
When does it need to be finished?

Using Trello to get organised

You can do clever things, so for example in Trello you can attach dates to tasks and you can also then attach your Trello a Kanban, to say something like Google calendar. So I can see when jobs need to be done in my Google calendar, I can set up little warnings that a job needs to be done soon.

What I’m doing is, I am preparing ahead, I’m finding time in the future when I know a job can be done, but I’m using my Kanban to work out what’s really important to me. Even if that is writing a very long reply to an email, it’s a job that needs to be done and I’m just working out to myself – is it urgent? and I need to do it today, or is it something I can reply later in a few days time.

Side tip on handling emails

One of the things that I think is quite important, just as a little sort of side tip is that if there’s a job that’s important, but it can’t be done today and somebody wants your action, which can involve reply, reply back, straight away within, sort of two-minute job thing – which is thanks for the email, I’ve got it, I’m working on it. I’ll let you have a reply soon so at least the other person knows you’ve seen it.

You can’t say nothing. you have to say something, even if it’s thanks for the email I’m on it.

So those are the approaches I use.

I quite like Trello because if you’re working in a Trello organisation, other people have got their Trellos. It means that particularly when you would need to delegate tasks to people, you can do it via Trello.

Simplistically, you could forward someone an email, but actually, you could Trello it and then you know, that somebody else has, has got it in their workflow and they’ll have to use their workflow management tool to manage it. One of the problems that humans have is they think they can remember everything they need to do and yet experience shows that we just forget stuff, particularly these days when there are so many things to remember.

Kanban v. to-do lists

A Kanban is a great way of literally downloading things to do. It’s better than a to-do list because to-do lists, they’re okay, but they’ve got certain problems with them.

Kanbans come from a production environment where people had to know what to do next. I think Toyota actually came up with the idea in 1950s So it’s not like a new-fangled sort of thing, it’s tried and tested in, expensive production environments. You can use it to manage your own personal effectiveness.