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How to Use the Kanban Board to Become Incredibly Productive

If you are looking for the perfect productivity tool, you won’t find it. No productivity system is guaranteed to effortlessly make you better at realizing your life goals. Nevertheless, there are systems such as Kanban that are easy to learn and use that ensure you don’t easily become overwhelmed by the extensive To-Do lists that are characteristic of other productivity tools.

We cannot go into deep detail on the Kanban technique here (you can check out Kanbanize for a nice elaborate primer on Kanban). Ergo, we’ll cover the most important things you need to know on how to use this board.

The Basics

The Kanban system originated in Japanese manufacturing. It was used to create products on continuous delivery, but it can be deployed to not just business but also your personal life. There are two ingredients that are vital for personal success.

First is the visualization of your work. A visual depiction of work makes it easier to conceptualize all the demands of our time and identify real trade-offs. This, in turn, gives us the ability to make better decisions. Second, limit your work-in-progress as that ensures you can focus better, work faster, and react calmly.

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Preparing Your Board

Take a whiteboard and draw three columns on it. If you don’t have a whiteboard, you can use a large piece of paper (at least A4 size would be best). Label the three columns as ‘To Do,’ ‘Doing,’ and ‘Done.’

The To Do column captures the things that have just joined your To Do list but that you aren’t taking any action on. The Doing (or work-in-progress) column lists the things you are actively working on at that moment. The Done column indicates what you have completed.

As you fill in the columns of your board, steer clear of the common mistake of treating a project as a task. If multiple distinct actions are needed to achieve a goal, then that is a project and should be broken down into its respective tasks.

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Working Using Kanban

Use Post-it notes or a marker to add cards or items to your Kanban board’s To Do column. Describe each assignment with an action verb. For example, if you are looking to buy a home, a relevant task could be ‘Contract a realtor.’

When you are ready to get started on a task, move it from the To Do column to the Doing section. You, however, have to keep a lid on the number of assignment in your Doing column. You have finite time and resources, so there must a reasonable maximum of number of assignments that you can execute simultaneously. Ideally, you shouldn’t have more than three tasks under Doing.

Once a task is complete, move it from Doing to Done and let a To Do task take its position in the Doing column.

Reviewing Your Board

As your project progresses, you’ll steadily drag more tasks from the left to the right of your board or sheet. The act of moving tasks in itself forces you to prioritize the most important activities. You can quickly see what items are easy to finish, what is bound to take plenty of time and which tasks seem to have stagnated in the Doing column.

It also compels you to regularly review the To Do column as you contemplate what assignment should be next to move to the Doing column. All this creates a workflow and gives you a strong sense of accomplishment.

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Over time and as your mastery of how to use the Kanban board grows, you can add new columns to provide greater clarity on the status of tasks. For instance, you could have a Waiting For column that would have tasks where you are waiting for someone else to get back to you before you proceed.

Your simple To Do list may have helped you realize many short and long-term life goals. That, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t better ways to do things. A personal board eliminates the chaos and complexity that bedevils simple To Do lists. Knowing how to use the Kanban board allows you to manage your everyday tasks without getting overwhelmed.