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personal kanban

This is Week 13 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether Personal Kanban could improve my productivity. I used the traditional method of Post-It notes and a dry erase board. Scroll to the end of last week’s post for more details.

How Personal Kanban Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me visualize my work. I’ve learned that I benefit from having an offline picture of my work in as big a format as possible. I decided to use my large vanity mirror for my Backlog color-coded notes. I could scan them and choose the ones I wanted to work on by category. I also discovered that I have a LOT of blog-related tasks.
  • Gave me a reward for completing tasks. It’s a good feeling to move those sticky notes across the board and into the Done column. I was motivated to remove as many sticky notes from my mirror as possible (my teenage son thought I was really weird).
  • Was portable. No, I did not put my dry erase board in my purse. But when I knew I would be at the dentist’s office with my laptop for three hours, I quickly pulled the sticky notes I knew I could work on, added them to a piece of paper, and popped them into my laptop bag.

How Personal Kanban Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Sticky notes not so sticky. I did have to restick them quite often when they fell off the board. It wasn’t a deal breaker. I did read about people who used magnetic cards instead. I would have to have dozens and dozens of magnets!
  • Didn’t limit my work. One of the main reasons I was excited about Kanban (besides visualizing my work) was to force me to limit the amount of work I took on. The problem is there aren’t any limits on the work being fed into the system, only on the tasks being worked concurrently. I’ve discovered that isn’t an issue for me. I don’t tend to flit from thing to thing when I’m actually working on them.
  • Work is never complete. Routines, Do it Tomorrow, and Scheduling tasks all gave me a sense of completion at the end of the day. With Kanban there is a never-ending stream of work coming into the system through Backlog. I started to feel hopeless. Then again, maybe it’s the winter that refuses to end!

Did Personal Kanban Help Me Get More Done?

Yes. For the better part of the week, I was motivated to complete as many tasks as possible. It was when I realized I would never finish them all, that the approach broke down for me.

While I don’t want to continue using Personal Kanban, I see a lot of value in having a visual representation of work. Using it to track projects could be very beneficial. I’ve created forms I use for blogging that use checklists for every phase of a post that remind me of Kanban.

A friend sent me a picture of her Kanban board and thanked me for the idea. In no way would I want to discourage anyone from using an approach that works for them. That’s the point of this series! I’m finding what works for me and hopefully you are, too.


Although I do not use Personal Kanban for all my tasks, I use it for writing curriculum. I have a large dry erase board at my desk. I have columns of tasks that have to be completed for each lesson (some of which others on my team have to do). I find it motivates me, organizes me, and gives me great peace of mind. Highly recommended for work that goes through a process.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 14

Brian Tracy

This week I’ll be using Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. 

The concept. Brian Tracy argues that having a written list of tasks to do the next day will increase productivity by 25%. Furthermore, choosing the top 20% of tasks that make the most difference in your day, work, or life allows you to get the most results for your efforts. Brian says that most people do easy tasks to try and “warm up” to the day, in essence wasting valuable time.

Eating a live frog first thing in the morning is the analogy for choosing to do the worst task first. The work may be repulsive to you because it’s a big, time-consuming task or is just something you don’t want to do. But to be a “frog,” it must be the most important thing you could do that day. Once that frog is “eaten,” you can continue to work your list by identifying the next most important task. This way of working is not only supposed to improve your self-control, but will increase productivity by 50%.

I’m one who has really resisted eating the frog first thing. I read this Pick the Brain article by Tom Casano (who also sang the praises of doing the worst first) and realized that I could probably get myself to do this now that I use a 50/10 Pomodoro. If I know I can take a break after 50 minutes to do some fun tasks for 10, I might be able to stomach a frog or two.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read about the basic philosophy of Eat the Frog and watch the short video. Make a list of the next day’s tasks. I’m going to make an electronic list which I then print, but you can use any method you like. I think you could choose your most important tasks the night before, but I prefer to do that in the morning. It’s amazing how different things look overnight! Then eat that frog. I’m going to try and eat the frogs in successive order of importance, but my main goal will be the top frog.

Click here to read how my week of Eat That Frog went.

If you’ve tried Personal Kanban to increase your productivity, please vote in the poll below.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test