Personal Kanban: A Simple Tool for Tasks

Recently I moved from the Bay Area to Seattle, and I was in a crush of details– so many boxes needing to be moved, so many pieces of paperwork to be managed, and all the little things left right at the end of a move that don’t fit in any particular box. I felt overwhelmed and chaotic, paralyzed with too many details, and couldn’t choose which thing to do first.

Enter Personal Kanban. I found this technique on the web, and I immediately felt drawn to its simplicity and flexibility.

Three basic steps:

  1. Make a board (corkboard, whiteboard, software tool, whatever) with three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done.
  2. Put your to-do items in the To Do column. Limit your Doing column– maybe 3 or 5 items to start. (These are the things you’re currently working on, you don’t need to think about the To Do column until step 3.) Move done items to the Done column.
  3. When you have room for more work, pull items from the To Do column and put them into the Doing column.

That’s it!

I did my initial kanban on a corkboard (using scrap paper and pushpins), but now I use an outlining tool called Scapple to track my coursework and readings. There are also web-based options, but I generally like keeping things simple– so for now it’s Scapple and the occasional corkboard (once I move to my next place in Portland later this month…)

The most recent version of my kanban:

My Personal Kanban (in Scapple)

My Personal Kanban (in Scapple)

Intrigued? Here are a few links I found helpful:

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