Track Your Work With the Kanban Method

Track Your Work With the Kanban Method

If you’ve ever heard the word ‘kanban,’ you probably remember it, since it is inarguably fun to say. ‘Kanban,’ it turns out, is more than a fun word—it’s a system for scheduling tasks in a highly productive way. It’s a visual method for determining what you need to do, what your team needs to do, and what your organization needs to do to reach goals. It can get pretty weedy, but you can totally do it yourself on a smaller scale to maximize your own workflow and productivity.

What is kanban all about?

Kanban was developed by an industrial engineer at Toyota. The word itself translates from Japanese to mean ‘signboard’ or ‘billboard’ and a lot of kanban fans use whiteboards to display their kanban boards.

The idea of the methodology is that to get things done, you have to know where you’re at in a project at any given time. On your kanban board, you’ll have three columns: One is for work that hasn’t been started, one is for work that is in progress, and one is for work that is complete. You can label these ‘to-do,’ ‘doing,’ and ‘done.’

When you’re using this system, all tasks start out on the left side of the board and migrate across it, giving you a visual representation of where everything is. In addition to the little confidence boost you get when you see tasks in the ‘done’ column, this can help you see how long certain processes take you. Consider writing the date of each shift from column to column whenever you move something into any of the three.

How to make a kanban board

You have a few options when you’re trying to kanban: You can make a super-simple Excel sheet with the project name at the top and three columns for to-do, doing, and done. Leave yourself room for notes about holdups, special requirements, or anything else pertinent to the competition of a given task. You can also use pre-made kanban software from productivity companies like Asana and Trello, which allow you to add notes, files, and other important information, plus sync with your team so everyone is on the same page.

Typically, people use whiteboards for this and write their tasks on sticky notes, making them easy to move from column to column. Like a thermometer chart, this is displayed somewhere in the office, and you can move the sticky notes that correspond to your responsibilities as you go through your workflow. If you’re just doing your own project, not a team one, you can use a small whiteboard, like this one, and keep it at your desk.

Or you can just commit fully to this method and get a pre-made, physical kanban board. This one from pmxboard comes with an additional column for ‘backlog,’ or older, pre-defined tasks that don’t need to be done yet, plus four markers, an eraser, and a mounting kit. Try this simple, folding board from Kling Magnetics, which has dry-erase magnets you can use instead of sticky notes.

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