August 14, 2012

Changes to My Personal Kanban

I thought you might be interested in some improvements I made to my personal kanban wall this week. I know these aren't the best pictures, but below you'll see a before and after view.

First, I reversed the board to flow right to left. This feels more like pull to me. I'm pulling work from the right rather than pushing work to the right. I think this will feel more like pull whenever the board is directly in front of me, or a little off to the right. If I could position the board out to the left of my desk, moving stickies left to right might feel like pull.

I prettied up the headers. The others were ugly. I was tired of looking at a sloppy wall. I don't mind the transient stuff to be sloppy, but I wanted the headers to be a little more neat. I could have done a decent job if I took my time, but I decided to ask my awesome wife, Laura, to make new headers for me.

As part of that, I cut the header stickies down to about a third of the size of the stickie. This, plus writing them with a sharpie, makes them look more like headers and also not take up so much space. This allowed me to feel free to move the header below the window muntin. When I first put the headers above the muntin I thought the muntin would feel like a heavy underline separating the header row from the other rows in a table. I think the muntin was too big for that to look right. Didn't achieve the desired effect.

I used to have "This Week" and "Today" columns. I really liked the "Today" column. I have been making a fair attempt to plan a day and a good attempt to do today's stuff today. But "Today" didn't always mean today. Sometimes it means "today or tomorrow but don't wait until the end of the week". Really, it meant something more like "Important and/or Urgent, don't let it slide".

Compared to how I planned and executed my days, I have been making a better attempt to plan a week but I didn't stick to the plan as much as I thought I would. For the most part, that's okay. I adapted as priorities shifted and as opportunities presented themselves. But I also let important stuff slide. "This Week" really meant something more like "Important and it might become Urgent if you let it slide".

Not sure how it will turn out, but I've now got Important, Urgent, and Important-and-Urgent columns. I can already see that I have lots of Important stuff. I couldn't really see that before. At least I'm not buried in Urgent stuff.

I also used to have lots of todos stuck over on the window stile. It was clear that I needed more room for my backlog. In addition to the stuff I had planned for Today and This-Week, I had all kinds of other stuff that I thought I should make a stickie for. There was stuff I wanted to do, but I just wasn't ready to do them. There was stuff that wasn't ripe; the timing wasn't right or there was another task to do first. All these things aren't exactly the same as Waiting. For me, Waiting is waiting for someone else. So I created the "Not Ready" column.

I had been putting recurring tasks above the header. That's stuff I wanted to do each week. I may still do that.

The new Maybe column is for stuff that is ready to pull but that isn't quite that Important yet. These tasks are things I can do if the mood strikes me. If I have the energy and focus to do a Maybe task but not the energy and focus to do something Important, then why not pull a Maybe task? This is a concept from Getting Things Done (GTD). There is a lot of overlap between GTD and personal kanban:
Get stuff out of your head and onto a system you can trust to free up your mind and then do the most important next-action that you have both the time and energy to do, taking advantage of opportunity and location.
I have an additional pile of Maybe next-actions in the front of my GTD card file on my desk. Here is a photo of that:

I've been stacking my Done stickies starting at the BOTTOM of the Done column, each one slightly higher than the one below it. This keeps the sticky part of the stickie on the glass so they don't fall off, but takes up less room on my kanban wall. This obscures the title of the done tasks underneath the top one, but that hasn't bothered me.

I clean off my done column each week, record my velocity (which I haven't really done anything with yet), have a retrospective, recycle the old stickies, plan my next week, and plan my day. I didn't make any changes to that.

I hope you got some good ideas from this post for improving your own GTD or Personal Kanban. Would love to hear about any changes you plan to make after having read this. Before you go away, please post your immediate thoughts in the comments.