How to Manage All Your Tasks With a Lean Kanban Board
We are all looking ways to become more productive, whether it be in our personal lives or in our business lives. If you are an entrepreneur (or married to one), this line between personal and business becomes even more blurred. As a result, it is not only important to delineate the two, but also to use the time that you have dedicated to business efficiently and effectively. In the below post, we will share the 3 practices that we do in order to not only decide what we are going to do but also the details of how we do it.
Long-Term Goals, Milestones & Tracking
Goal planning (and monitoring) is so important, yet so often when we work with clients we find that they do not have Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Boxed (SMART) Goals. In a previous blog, we described how we planned for our 2014 goals. In case you did not read the blog (we recommend that you do), here is a quick summary.
- We plan out 10-year goals and work backward to 5 year, 3 year, 2 year and 1 year goals
- For each calendar year, we purchase a desk calendar and hang each month on the wall
- For each of our 3 businesses (and personal) goals, we break them down into milestones for the year
- We use a different color post it for each business and put the milestones for the goal on the calendar
We received a lot of great feedback on that blog, but several people wanted to know more about how we actually manage our tasks once we get through our goal planning process.
Batching & The Sunday Review
We also previously described the concept of batching and how we utilize it in both our business. Again we highly recommend that you read the blog, but here are some of the key concepts.
- We as humans can not multitask. When we try we simply become less productive and things take longer to get done.
- Batching items that do not need to be done right away and doing them at pre-determined times will allow you to be more productive with your time.
- We batch tasks such as blog writing, some weekly business work, email processing and social media management.
We utilize a tool call GQueues to capture all of our tasks. It is available as a website and it also has an app for our phones. Whenever we think of something else that needs to be done, whether it be for a business or our personal list, we add it to the appropriate queue (backlog) in GQueues. Here is an example of our queue for our real estate business.
By capturing all of our tasks in a single place, we make sure we do not lose sight of them. We can also reorder these tasks so that the highest priority tasks are at the top.
Our Kanban Board
The goal planning, batching and task capturing concepts above are both essential, but what really connects the dots and pulls it all together is our Kanban board, which allows us to actually execute and complete the tasks. In my professional life, I help organizations improve by utilizing lean concepts and removing waste, specifically relating to delivering large-scale software projects. If you are not familiar with the concept of lean, it is a concept of removing waste from a process so that work is only done on valuable pieces of the process. It comes from Toyota and their Toyota Production System.
We discuss lean, agile, and kanban more in this episode of the podcast.
Kanban is a practice within lean. A “Kanban” is really signaling card. When you see a Kanban card, it will signal you to do something. We use a Kanban board with these signaling cards on the wall in our office to track all of our tasks for the week. Below is a more detailed breakdown of our board.
The left-most column of the board is reserved for upcoming work. We take the next top priority tasks for each business (and personal) from the backlog in GQueues and add them to the board via the appropriate color Post-it notes.
We decided to break our tasks up by business (as well as personal). So we created a row (swimlane) for our personal tasks, as well as one for each business. Each row has its own color post it notes. These post it notes are the same color as the corresponding goals/milestones on our goal calendar.
When we decide to take on a task for the week, we move the Post-it from the “Upcoming” column to the “New” column. When we get done with our weekly planning, all of the tasks for the week start out in this column.
When we start working on a task, we pull it into our “In Progress” column. We split this column into 2 columns, one for tasks that I am working on and one for tasks that Ariana is working on. Currently we do not have a WIP (Work in Process) limit on the board, but if we ever started to multitask too much we would add one. Generally we each do not take more than 2 tasks on at a time.
If we have worked on the task but are waiting for someone else to continue, we move the task to the “Waiting” column. Likewise, if a task becomes blocked, meaning that we cannot proceed with it until the blocker is removed, then we move it to the “Blocked” column. Having tasks in these columns is a visual indicator for us to follow-up and see what we can do to get them to keep moving.
Our target and final state is “Done”. Tasks move here once we have completed them and no further action is needed. Our goal at the end of the week is to have all tasks end up here.
Pulling it all together, here is the picture of our entire Kanban board. Not only does it provide us with an easy way to plan our work each week, but it is also a great visual indicator at how we are doing with accomplishing all of our tasks for the week.
It is easy to create a Kanban board to manage your tasks. For our board above, all we needed was the following:
- Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape – Used to outline and create the board.
- Post-it Notes in Multiple Colors – Used to create tasks for each swimlane.
- Printer/Paper or Label Maker – For creating the labels for each column of the board.
- Pen/Marker – Any will do. For writing on the Post-it notes.
Once you have these materials, you can create your board in a few minutes with the following steps:
- Determine the different “states” that your tasks will go through.
- Print out the column headers for each state.
- Outline your board on the wall with the painter’s tape.
- Place the column headers on the board.
- Determine your swimlanes (rows). We decided to break our up by each business, with 1 for personal.
- Print/add your items for each swimlanes.
- Populate the board with your tasks.
Using a Kanban board is just one of the potential ways that you can manage your work. We are big fans of using this method and creating a physical board on the wall. There are tools out there that will allow you to create an electronic Kanban board as well, along there is just something about the big visual display and being able to physically move work across the board.
Looking for more guidance and support as you build your business to create your ideal life? Check out our #lifestylebuilders mentorship.