Personal Kanban – A Complete Guide to Improve Your Workflow

written by Dan Silvestre
Productivity, Time Management

Personal kanbanDo you have too much work to handle and no time to get it done? Does it feel like the amount of work is getting out of hand? A Personal Kanban might just be what you need.

People feel stressed a lot. Most of it is because of huge workloads and family responsibilities.

There’s always pressure.

You have to meet the expectations of your boss and juggle time to get things done.

You have other things going on with your life. It’s not all work.

It’s tough to balance.

When you have multiple projects to handle you become unreliable, non-responsive, and lose focus on higher goals.

You become overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

And that’s no fun at all.

So what can you do?

Unclutter your mind and put every task in place by using a Kanban board.

I’ll discuss some proven tips in this article so you can use the Kanban board effectively.

You will be able to get things done on time and navigate your life better.

What is a Kanban?

It’s a Japanese organization system that’s meant to organize and rank tasks.

It allows you to work efficiently in a given time and manage an ever-evolving workflow. It uses cards to write information into and a Kanban board to arrange cards into different columns.

This method helps manage your workflow. In Japanese, it means a “signboard” or “billboard.”

In fact, many corporate units across different industries have recently started to use kanban to manage their projects with big teams.

What is a Kanban board?

personal kanban what is

A Kanban board is a tool that visually illustrates work at several stages of its process.

There are 2 elements:

  • Cards/Post-its: to represent work entities
  • Columns: to represent the different stages of the process

Kanban boards give you a visual representation of your tasks that take away the clutter on your mind.

Also, it’s an interactive method. You just move the cards to the next column as you complete the various stages of work.

Who created Kanban?

Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, created Kanban to enhance manufacturing efficiency. He used a billboard or signboard to schedule time for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT).

In the early 1940s, Toyota was under a lot of pressure to produce just-in-time vehicles. They were going up against the mass production style in the US, and the Japanese Style was just-in-time.

They had to be super-efficient to catch up, and that’s when the Kanban system came about.

What is a Personal Kanban?

A personal Kanban is a simple framework for organizing work and life events.

It focuses on self-management, increases productivity, and creates a good balance between opportunity and achievement. You can apply it to your professional and personal tasks using a Kanban board or digital app.

It’s visually attractive – you can see your current projects, priorities, progress, and accomplishments at a glance.

How to develop a Personal Kanban?

Creating a personal Kanban is very simple.

Follow these steps to set up a personal Kanban board that’s tailored to your particular needs.

Step 1: Collect Materials

Start with collecting the following materials to design your Kanban board:

  • A whiteboard or plastic card sheet. Whatever you want to use as a background
  • Kanban cards or sticky notes in different colors
  • A marker to write information
  • Colored masking tapes or washi tapes to make it a little bit fancier

Step 2: Prepare the Board

Make sure that the board you pick is the right size. Not too big, neither too small.

  • Divide the Kanban board into different grids. For each grid, use colored masking tapes or washi tapes
  • Write down your To-Do, Doing, Hold, and Done on four cards
  • Place the card named “To Do” in the first column, “Doing” in the second, “Hold” in the third, and “Done” in the fourth

Step 3: How to Use the Kanban Board

After preparing your board, here’s what each column is for:

  • First-column: place your new To-Do list in the first column
  • Second column: what you’re going to be working on
  • Third column: tasks that are currently on hold
  • Fourth column: place the cards here when you finish a task

Now you have a well-designed Kanban board.

Using and maintaining a personal kanban is not so hard. You just need to follow some simple rules.

The Rules of Personal Kanban

A Personal Kanban has two basic principles that you must focus on while setting up your board:

  • Visualize your work – what you want to do, how you want to do, etc.
  • Limit work in progress – do as much work as you can handle. Don’t overload yourself. Once you do, your ability to focus starts to break down

Now, you have read the rules. Let’s get to the basic steps of using the Kanban board:

  • Start With a ‘To-Do’ Grid: know your requirements and visualize the projects you need to work on. Collect every task, big or small, and put it all there. Once you pass the initial load, you’ll cherish the gratification that comes with real progress
  • Move on to ‘Doing’: without stressing out your brain, set up the next column by pulling the tasks you’re ready for. Use rule no 2 of the Personal Kanban at this stage (limit your work in progress)
  • Move a Card to ‘Hold’: if something comes up in the middle that’s more important, put a less important task on hold
  • Drag the Cards to ‘Done’: move cards from left to this column once you accomplish your goal. Once you finish something, you will have a real capacity to focus on the next task

It’s easy to make a start but challenging to complete all of them at a time.

Limit the number of tasks you handle so you’ll get forced to finish a task before you’re able to begin the next one. It will maximize the overall number of jobs done.

Step 4: Review Your Board

It’s very satisfying to review your board and see your project’s progress from start to finish.

The act of dragging a task from left to right encourages a state of flow.

You can also see your productivity level for a specific project- what was easy to accomplish, what took up a lot of time, and where you were stuck.

When you work with a Personal Kanban you focus on your work, finding the ability to finish it and get things done with quality.

You can also make your board more complex by adding some more grids to the board.

For example:

If you are working on a project with a team, you can add columns for each worker and monitor the workflow.

Digital Personal Kanban

Once you master Kanban’s basics, you can switch from a conventional whiteboard to a digital Kanban.

Digital Kanban boards are a virtual workshop floor for your daily errands. These apps/tools allow you to access your board from anywhere with an internet connection.

You can manage remote employees, consultants, or freelancers involved in the process.

Plus, a Kanban app allows you to track your team’s workflow, get better accessibility, and automate recurring tasks.

So, why not try some popular Kanban board apps?

1. Trello

Personal kanban trello

Trello is an online project management tool that popularized Kanban.

It has a Kanban board where you can add a ton of cards at once, make new boards, and move the cards to different columns.

It will allow you to type up your cards in a bullet point list, upload files to your cards, label them, and set due dates. It’s fast and straightforward.

2. LeanKit

LeanKit is a detailed board that will allow you to unify plentiful information in one space.

It has sections to group your cards and options to personalize them with links and dates.

3. KanbanFlow

A simple Kanban tool that looks like a sketched kanban board. You can add cards and lists and customize each card with your favorite color.

It also has swimlanes to split your board into sections.

4. Meister Task

Meister is much like mind maps that allow you to string a connection between your thoughts. It is a great tool to build digital mind maps.

Just outline your ideas with details and add them to MeiserTask columns to work on your project.

If you aren’t a mind mapper, you can still add your lists and cards manually.

5. Blossom

Blossom is one of the finest looking Kanban board apps with a focused path for you to complete your tasks.

It lets you add your project stages in lists, while each list is supposed to be the next phase in your process.

Pro Tips

You can have a “healthy” Kanban board if you follow these tips:

  • Don’t overcrowd your “To Do” column. Consider dropping tasks if you can. If you don’t have time to do a particular task, avoid adding it to the “To Do” grid
  • Prioritize your list and make sure to put the most essential ones on the top
  • Use colors. Different colors—such as red, orange, or yellow—differentiate high priority and low priority tasks
  • Make your board more visual. Add images or use clip art for task cards. For example, if you have to do a floral arrangement, you can add a picture of flowers
  • Review it regularly. Make a habit of reviewing your Kanban board daily or weekly
  • Don’t reverse a card on the Kanban board. Push the cards only once you are done with it. There is no room for pushing a card back to a previous column
  • Adjust your Kanban to your needs. Modify your board continuously until you get the results you want

How to make Personal Kanban work for you in the long term

Getting used to a Personal Kanban can take some time. But once you learn to practice this productivity system, you will reap its benefits in the long run.

You can either use a wall, download an app, or scribble in a notebook to maintain the workflow. It’s that simple.

The key to making it effective for the long haul is deciding on the jobs you’re hooked.

Set a schedule that compliments your workflow rather than breaking it.

Another beautiful thing about Personal Kanban is that it beautifully integrates with other productivity techniques.

Like if you are a fan of Pomodoro or GTD, you can use them with the Personal Kanban. You can even use a personal kanban for the Rule of 3 to maximize productivity.

It can be applied to almost any system that uses a to-do list.

The Benefits of  a Personal Kanban

A lot of our cognitive energy is spent on just managing stuff. Multitasking and prioritizing are the most mentally taxing things that people do.

Daniel Levitin, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, said:

“That (task) switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing”

So, to sum up, here are the benefits of the Personal Kanban:

  • Prevents you from multitasking. It keeps you organized and helps you reach your goals faster
  • You know just what to do. You will know what domains you have to focus on at a particular time
  • Doesn’t force you to juggle multiple items. Instead, it ensures that your utmost priority tasks get done first
  • Gives you mental clarity and helps you visualize the big picture

When you see your commitments and tasks daily, you can easily track your work’s progress from start to finish.

Jim Benson, in his book “Personal Kanban: Mapping Work — Navigating Life,” says:

“Visualizing work reduces the distractions of existential overhead by transforming fuzzy concepts into tangible objects that your brain can easily grasp and prioritize.”

A Personal Kanban will not only keep important stuff from slipping through the cracks but also offer time for strategic activities.

Where do You Go From Here?

Find out the biggest thing you’re struggling with right now and put that on your Kanban board.

Keep in mind that your Personal Kanban requires regular scanning. You can use it if you have many tasks to handle each day.

Make a habit of using a Kanban board and you will notice a big change in managing your tasks.

Remember to stay focused on what’s important.

No more undone tasks.

Tags:: tasks, To-Dos

Thanks for reading!

You can get more actionable ideas in my popular email newsletters.
Enter your email now and join us!