Personal Kanban: Everything You Need To Know

The Japanese are some of the hardest-working individuals, so it’s no surprise that their methods are systematic, precise, and effective.

While their Kanban or visual board time-management method proved majorly successful for Toyota in the automotive industry, it remains equally as impressive for managing time on a personal level.

Let’s look closely to see what it is and why it works so well.

Personal Kanban

What Is Kanban, And How Do You Use It?

Kanban is a time-management tool created by the Japanese. It utilizes a physical board that you separate into four columns: Things you need to do, Things that you are ready to start doing, Things you are in the process of doing, and Things that you already did. 

With the help of post-it notes, a pen, and a little preparation, Kanban helps you visualize and prioritize your tasks so that you know which ones take priority. It lessens the weight on your shoulders and creates a clear pathway for you to complete your tasks.

Get yourself a board big enough to place post-it notes underneath four columns. Of course, you’ll also need post-it notes and a pen.

The process is straightforward and only requires you to not circumvent the process by deciding for yourself which task is more important.

Now that you have the gist of Kanban let’s analyze each step in more depth, and by the end of your read-through, you’ll be well on your way to living a less chaotic life.

Woman Writing On A Board

1. Visualize Your Work

The ability to gain an overhead analysis of the tasks that lie before us is precious and provides us with a mental advantage.

Visualization gives us the power to manage our time to avoid wasting it by reprocessing choices that lead to procrastination and add no value at that moment or time.

It reduces the energy required to distinguish between our priorities and distractions.

Begin by writing down all the things you need to do, but do not associate them with a priority list at this point – the first step is about getting everything out of the back of your mind and onto a page. Tasks may include shopping, laundry, exercises, picking up the kids, or completing a work deadline.

If possible, get ahold of little post-it notes because each one can represent a task, and because they are tangible, unlike a digital list, you’ll feel more in control and engaged with your Personal Kanban.

Once you have a list, consider adding the steps and activities necessary to complete each task.

It acts as your value stream (steps essential to provide value from start to finish) and gives you a clear step-by-step mental path for each item on the list.

It lets you recognize at a quick glance which step of the process you’re at before completing the task.

2. Prioritize Your Tasks

If it were easy to prioritize our time, you wouldn’t be reading this article, right?

A suitable method for applying importance to your tasks is by asking, If I leave this task incomplete, will the consequences be severe, harmful, or cause injury?

These tasks have serious repercussions, so identify and do them first. Remember, you won’t get it perfect every time, but time is an irrefutable teacher when it comes to self-development!

Next, identify items on your list that are time-sensitive. Tasks like picking up someone from the airport should be a priority.

Consider how long they will take to complete and place them in their appropriate place on your list. Taking grandma to the doctor might take 90 minutes, while your gym session usually runs for 120 minutes; therefore, grandma’s appointment should be higher on the list.

At this stage, you should have two lists; one for all the things you need to do and another for the things you believe should be a priority set in the order you want to do them.

It’s crucial that you avoid tagging this list with your own personal ideas of what should be a priority. Instead, don’t overthink it and focus only on the facts, or the question, If I leave this task incomplete, will the consequences be severe, harmful, or cause injury?

Otherwise, you’ll make it harder for yourself because you will need to focus on prioritizing and remembering what tasks require completion.

3. Pull Your Work

Now that your jumble of responsibilities is on paper, it’s time to create your Personal Kanban board.

Your board consists of four sections: To do, Ready To Do, Doing, and Done.

You can also choose to personalize the above columns, like changing To Do into Backlog or To Do into Today. The columns run, read, and operate from left to right.

  1. To Do – This is where you put the first list you created when you listed all the things you need to do.
  2. Ready To Do – Your second list where you put time-sensitive tasks goes here. If you consider that they are time-sensitive, you will likely need to do them Today, which is why people sometimes call this the Today column.
  3. Doing – This third column has the task or tasks that you are in the process of doing now. Remember, it’s not the list of what you think you should be doing now but rather what you are doing, so overloading this column defeats the entire purpose of Personal Kanban.

If you have trouble deciding what to do now, remember to focus on time-sensitive tasks, and if it still proves difficult, consider limiting the number of tasks you can assign to the Ready To Do column so that you have fewer potentials to pick.

  1. Done – Place all the little post-it notes or tasks you complete here.

Congratulations on setting up your Personal Kanban board! Now you’re ready to pull the task from the Ready To Do column into the Doing column.

When you complete one, move the post-it to the Done column. Repeat the process, and you’ll have a workflow like a flowing river before you know it.

Again, ensure you don’t put too many post-it notes under the Doing column unless absolutely necessary – you can’t expect rewards for incomplete work.

As you stick it through, you’ll see the mountain of tasks shrink and ultimately disappear without you having to stress about it.

3 People Talking With Sticky Notes

4. Reflect On Your Previous Week 

It’s impossible to grow and better ourselves unless we take the time to self-reflect and consider whether something is adding value or taking it away.

Take a few minutes to analyze your board at the end of the week, asking yourself:

  1. What was a success, and what did not go well?
  2. What are the things that please me?
  3. Where can I improve?
  4. Which one or two things can I do differently to improve next week?

After giving these questions some thought, celebrate by patting yourself on the back for a successful week and taking an important step to living a more productive and fulfilling life.

Keep it up the following week, and soon people will start to notice and compliment you on your ability to prioritize and keep things together.

David Woutersen

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David Woutersen

David is the founder of and has been in the social media industry since 2017. Since then, his mission has been to help others take control of their online presence. For some, this has been earning an income online; for others, it's teaching how to use social networks more effectively. And each year, he continues to help millions with strategy, troubleshooting, and inspiration.

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