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Why a Personal Kanban Board Makes a Great Productivity Tool

March 24, 2015

Years ago, Toyota championed the cause of bringing a ‘logical sequence’ into the way they did things. For this, they looked at a bunch of super markets, studied the complex correlation between what the customers bought and how a store stocked commodities and came out with stark insight of sorts.

It went something like this:

A company’s inventory should always be aligned with consumption — no more, no less. They figured that a production activity should always be directly proportional to the rate of demand. And the flow of work should be directed and checked by few gradually occurring pitstops (much like a signboard in case of the supermarket example) for the sake of ensuring clarity and efficiency in the work flow order.

This is kanban — a system of working in a flow — and a logical flow at that. And if you ponder on the concept a little longer you will realize that it has much to do with productivity than being conspicuously portrayed in the above scenario.

I am talking of kanban as a reaction to an article I recently stumbled upon. There is a lot of talk about personal kanban doing the rounds in the productivity circle and articles about it have made for an interesting read at the very least. Let me put forth the highlights of the ideology that’s being professed across these articles here in this post for you:

Personal kanban is a system for managing your daily life a little better. You essentially put your to-do list in a logical sequence and follow it cue by cue. What makes it special is the fact that it is a ‘lean task scheduling and delivery mechanism’ so that you don’t stress yourself with too much or too less work. Thanks to this ‘systematic scheduling of activities’ it becomes easier to visualize the process of a task and its goals better and also to sub-group and prioritize responsibilities better.

This system was first suggested by productivity experts Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria in their book Personal Kanban: Mapping Work — Navigating Life in 2011. This book has offered significant strides in helping improve notions of personal and professional productivity and I personally have found their suggestions quite actionable.

Understanding Personal Kanban

A basic personal kanban is typically about a ‘three-bin progression’ of sorts or 3 stages of output, to be accurate. The first bin takes into account things you have ‘to do’. The second is for things you ‘are doing’ and the third for things you ‘have done’. And tasks, quite simply, move from the first bin to the last. As for the amount of tasks you are allowed to put in a bin, well, there is no limitation to that. Here’s a simple template of a three-bin kanban:

kanban for productivity
‍A Personal Kanban

Here’s why kanban works for someone like me:

  • It takes away the stress of ad-hoc work

When you work in marketing long enough, you realize one thing clearly. Of all the things you will plan for, 50 per cent will never fall in the timeline you have assumed. Never. There is always so much ad-hoc work that needs to be done that a bottleneck is almost a given.

With a kanban-like system in place, it is easier to schedule thing as and when they come about. I realize it is easier to deal with the stress of the pile much better when you can see it right in front of you and you have the ability to physically move listed tasks around. My head seems to turn into a sloth every time I have to deal with these ‘urgent’ requirements. So a system really helps manage my work life better.

  • I like the sense of productivity it imbibes in you

To be able to check off items from your to-do list is such a boost for your self-esteem at times. And a kanban system takes it to a whole new level. I move my tasks across these three task bins and quite honestly it does make it palpably real that things are on their way to being done.

My version of a kanban board

I have only recently jumped onto the apps bandwagon, and you will agree when I say it that apps make your life so much easy when you can manage everything with a swipe-and-click.

‍A Brightpod Kanban Board

Take Brightpod for instance. The app allows you to create a virtual kanban board of sorts where you can group tasks in priority stages or a logical sequence that best suits your modus operandi. We keep moving around tasks from ‘to-do’ to ‘doing’ to ‘done’ and it really does help gauge the progress with so much more clarity. Results? Emails are hardy tossed around, lesser meetings are called for and a greater amount of time is spent doing the actual work.

Being able manage tasks smoothly and with clarity across the board of operation — isn’t this what productivity is all about?

Meeta Sharma is an independent writing and editing professional from digital marketing domain. Loves marketing and everything about it.

Meeta Sharma

Meeta Sharma is a content marketing specialist and regularly writes about her domain and start-up life.

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