If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to stay focused on the work you need to be doing there’s a simple tool that can help you prioritize, stay focused, and get work done faster and with better results. All it takes is a white board, some dry erase markers, and index cards or sticky notes.
What I am talking about is setting up your very own Kanban board. The same kind of boards used in modern, agile software development shops around the world. The Kanban board isn’t just for technical teams. Setting one up to manage your own flow of tasks will produce results beyond what you ever thought possible.
The setup is simple. Get a decent sized white board. I recommend one at least 3 feet wide. Draw off four columns: To Do, Doing, Stuck and Done. Write the tasks you need to accomplish on index cards or sticky notes and place them in the To Do column of the white board.
Once all the tasks are on the board rearrange them so that they start at the top with the most crucial things to get done and descend down the board to the least crucial tasks. As you start a task move the card or sticky to the Doing column. If you ever get stuck and are unable to complete a task due to any reason move it to the Stuck column until whatever is blocking you is resolved.
Once you’ve completed a task, move the card to the Done column. Then go back to the To Do column and select your next task to work on. Repeat until all of your cards have moved from the To Do column to the Done column.
Make sure you never have more than one card in motion at a time. You will be amazed when you focus your effort on getting a task fully completed before moving on to the next one. Stop Starting and Start Finishing is an admonishment and challenge from Lean disciplines. When you start practicing it amazing results will follow.
The process sounds simple, and it is, but it takes discipline. You’ll be tempted to cheat and think you can track everything in your head. Don’t do it. Create the board and move the cards. These tasks have more power to motivate you than you realize. The small reward of moving the cards and seeing the progress you are making is crazy addictive. Try it. You will see.
If you are interested in learning more check out Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life to read up on the topic of using Kanban in your day to day life.
Also, I want to hear or see your experiments. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, Tweet to @natfyi, or share your YouTube video with me to show me your results. I know I will learn something from your experiences.
As always if you have questions you can reach me via the methods above and I will do my best to give you a response that helps you as quickly as I can.
Enjoy your productivity everyone!