Everyone's work environment is different. A lot of it has to do with your role, the expectations at your work, and you or your employer's industry. I work in a very dynamic environment where each day brings new problems to solve, adapting to changes in project requirements and other variables that are sometimes out of my control. Consequently, I need to be able to actively manage this chaos of work tasks in a fashion where things do not spiral out of control and instead steer them to completion. Enter Personal Kanban; the framework or pattern that I use to approach my work on a daily basis.
The Personal Kanban framework is based on two rules. The first rule is simple; your project/task management tool needs to be visual. Whether you put it on paper or use software, you have to be able to visually see the entirety of all the tasks of a project. The second rule is the important action of limiting your work in progress.
- You can document all of your tasks, but you if you don't approach it in a manner that limits the number of tasks you are working at one time; things can quickly become stressful for you.
- You and I don't want this, because we both want to be able to work on our tasks in an optimal mental state.
- Therefore, you need to be able to work on the right amount of tasks that enables us to complete them and do them well.
- Multi-tasking is your enemy.
- It can easily put too much stress on your mental and physical wellbeing.
By being able to have a visual picture of all of your tasks, it makes it easier to selectively choose a small set of tasks to focus on for the time being. Choose one task at a time from this small set and put forth your best work in completing them.
The first rule of Personal Kanban provides for you a visual terrain of all of your tasks. The second aspect of this is being able to categorize each of your tasks in way that shows the state of each of them. I want to make sure that I can easily look at a task and quickly see its current status. I use these three labels:
- To Do (Open) - Tasks that I have not started on, but I want to document them so I don't forget about them.
- Doing (In progress) - Tasks that I am currently working on. This is where the work in progress rule is important. You want to work on the right amount of tasks. Don't overload yourself with tasks where you are unable to effectively work on them.
- Done (Completed) - Tasks that you have completed. It's important to keep these on your Personal Kanban visual medium. It is motivating to see yourself taking tasks to the finish line.
The combination of visually seeing all your tasks and having a proper state classification for each tasks makes it easier for you to prioritize your work.
The visual characteristic of Personal Kanban comes really handy when you need to convey the status of your work to your stakeholders. I like being able to visually see the status of my work and being able to quickly communicate that to others. I use Personal Kanban at my work to provide structure to an unordered set of tasks and then utilizing that structure to complete those tasks.