Experimenting with Personal Kanban

Copyright 2013 Dollar Photo Club by Inez Bazdar
Copyright 2013 Dollar Photo Club by Inez Bazdar

After reading Personal Kanban, I wanted to try running with some of the authors’ ideas in the real world. And why not? All I needed was a Kanban board and a few minutes at the beginning and the end of the day. I threw a twist at the experiment by downloading a new Android app, Trello, to free me from the need to set up a physical kanban board at my desk.

Trello gives the user the ability to create Kanban boards and tasks / columns at will. The app even lets the user move the issues from column to column as if you were looking at a physical Kanban board in your office.

Since Trello lets you name your columns, I used the columns used in Personal Kanban:

  • To Do – Those items that need to be done
  • Doing – Those tasks that are being worked on
  • Holding – Tasks that are not moving forward because they are waiting on other folks to take action or make a decision
  • Completed – Those tasks that are completed

After you finish your tasks, Trello gives you the option of leaving them in the Completed column or moving them into an Archive.  Instead of just striking out a completed task on your to do list, you’ll move it to the completed column.  Moving a task to completed will give you the same satisfaction as moving a post-it from the To Do column on an actual Kanban board to the Completed column.

After two weeks or using Kanban and Trello, I’ve discovered:

1. If I’m good about using them both, my focus improves.
Small distractions are less likely to derail me because I know they need to go on the list. If I must attend to them immediately, I can address them, then go back to the Doing Column to stay focused on the tasks I’m working on.  Before Kanban, I could be driven from task to task and never get back to the priority for that day.

2. Some issues stay in a holding pattern because they are dependent on the actions and decisions of others. This is one of the key benefits of the Holding column, so you have clarity about what is keeping a task from completing. You know who to push and have a better idea of your capacity.

3. I also discovered that I cannot move entirely away from paper to using Trello.  And this makes sense. You wouldn’t use a kanban board to capture every detail of every task either. Where I need to take notes or doodle, I need to use – what else – paper. A Campus notebook to be more specific.Campus Notebook

4. Finally, I learned that multiple boards seem to work best for me.
Personal Kanban recommends that you use the kanban to drive your life (work included). Although I can see how including everything in one board may help identify your priority and impacts of other projects, I prefer to keep my business to dos separate from my personal activities.

You only get the benefits of both Kanban and Trello if you’re disciplined enough to capture every task that comes your way in the system/ tool.  If you’re like me, that might be more challenging than you expected.  What I’ve learned from using Kanban and Trello at work have encouraged me to continue my experiment at home.  If you’re interested in learning more about Personal Kanban, check out my review a few weeks back.  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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