I stumbled upon something recently that has revolutionised the way I manage my to-do list.
It’s called a Kanban board and it is the perfect system to compliment any decluttering program like my Clutter-Free Life Membership Community.
- What is a Kanban System?
- The Origins of Kanban
- What are the Key Benefits of Using Kanban?
- The Basics of a Kanban Board
- How to Create a Kanban Board
- My Board looks like this:
- How does a Kanban Board Work?
- Minimize Distractions=Maxmize Results
- Follow this Process to Get the Greatest Benefit
- Online VS Physical Boards
What is a Kanban System?
Kanban is a Japanese term that means signboard or billboard.
Essentially, it’s a visual tool that allows teams to keep track of tasks that need to be done. However, just because it was originally created for a group of people, does not mean that we cannot modify it for our own purposes.
I have found that a Kanban board is perfect for keeping me on track in both my personal and work life.
The Origins of Kanban
Kanban was a system developed by Taiichi Ohn (Industrial Engineer and Businessman) for Toyota automotive in Japan. It was created as a simple planning system to control and manage work flow and increase productivity.
What are the Key Benefits of Using Kanban?
- Reduce multitasking: The system encourages the completion of the current work before beginning a new task.
- Smooth flow of work: The Kanban Method is a process designed to gradually improve everything you do. It allows for the identification of processes that are slowing down the whole system and causing blockages. Once identified, small, incremental changes are made in the system to make improvements.
- Get more done in less time: The system discourages too many ‘work in progress’ items at the same time, thereby increasing efficiency and attention.
The Basics of a Kanban Board
The board can be as simple or as complex as required to manage all of the tasks in a particular system.
The simplest board consists of a whiteboard, post-it notes (Kanban cards) and three columns:
- To do
- Work in progress
In my system, I modified this to use the headings:
- This week
This allows me to take my larger decluttering project and break it up over the course of the week in order to get it done in the 15 minutes of time I allocate each day.
How to Create a Kanban Board
For the physical board, only a couple of items are required:
- Firstly, you will need a board of some description. This could be a whiteboard but a large piece of card will work just as well.
- Secondly, posits, sticky notes or more card and blu tac will be sufficient for your Kanban cards.
The most important part of the board will be deciding what goes onto the Kanban cards themselves.
The first step in creating your own Kanban cards is to identify your workflow.
In our decluttering example, it might be that we want to declutter the bedroom.
We would break that task down into its smaller parts. For example, the closet, side table, dresser and floor.
Each task is written on a sticky note and put onto the board in its correct column.
I begin by putting everything into the This week column and moving a card over each day to the Today column. At the end of the day, once completed, I move it over to the Done column.
My Board looks like this:
As the week goes on, the Done column gets larger and larger. It might seem a little silly, but seeing that last column increase and the first column decrease, certainly gives me a sense of pride and makes me enthusiastic to keep going until it is all done.
How does a Kanban Board Work?
Kanban allows me to see exactly what I need to complete this week, what I will do each day to get it done and to realise how much I have actually achieved once I reach the end of the week.
One of the basic rules of the board is to ensure that the number of items in the second column, the work in progress (Today) column, is not too large.
I found that it took me a little while to determine the right number of items to move across to today’s column. This number changes depending upon the day of the week and the time I have available to work on the tasks, so some days will have more than others. You will need to do some trial and error to find the right number for you and your circumstances.
One rule I did create for myself was that each day there was to be at least one activity to complete for that week’s task in order to continue to move forwards and not stagnate in the one place.
Minimize Distractions=Maxmize Results
A second principle is that each task is to be given complete and full attention until it is finished and the card moved over to the Done column. We want to ensure that we are not trying to multitask and dividing our attention over many tasks, thereby not actually completing any of them.
In order to do that, I learned to leave my board in the one spot and take the task card or sticky note with me to the location of my work. This prevents me from being distracted by all of the other cards on the board.
Once that work is completed, I go back to the board, place the card in the Done column and grab the next card.
Follow this Process to Get the Greatest Benefit
I am a great believer in finishing off one day by getting ready for the next.
Before I go to bed I consult my calendar to see what is happening the next day and complete any prep work that is required such as setting my alarm for an earlier time or laying out my clothes.
I use this same process to set up my Kanban board for the next day. I even have a note on my board that reminds me to do just that. The last item on my Today board is “Set up board for tomorrow”. It is the one note that never actually moves.
I find that this is a really good process for celebrating the day’s successes.
As we rush through life completing one task and then the next, we can forget how important it is to stop and appreciate the progress we have made. In our road to a clutter-free life this is very important because it can be very easy to become disheartened when we look at all of the work still to do.
Therefore, we should make the time to look at the work that has already been done and celebrate that for a short while before moving on.
Online VS Physical Boards
There are a number of online Kanban type boards that a lot of people use. Trello and Asana are two that are very popular.
I have tried Trello but I found the online system added an extra layer of complexity to the task. I confess that I did not persevere with it for very long.
Once I created a physical board, everything just seemed to fall into place.
I urge you to give it a go. What do you have to lose?