I am a big proponent of using Personal Kanban for personal work management. It is an effective technique that allows people to visualise their tasks and limit their work in progress. I’ve used Personal Kanban for the last three years in both my professional and personal life. While I have used various online solutions to create my Personal Kanban boards I prefer to use a real physical board. The visibility and tactile interactions of a real board cannot be beat by even the my most convenient app, mobile or otherwise.
Over this time I’ve snapped a few pictures of the various boards I have put together which I present here.
Below is one of my first Personal Kanban boards from three years ago. My wife and I were relocating from Scotland to the US and had a lot to do to make the move happen smoothly. We were figuring out how to manage the large amount of work we had to do when she asked “can’t we just use one of those board things you use at your work”. By “board thing” she meant “task board”.
I had a small 1.5 x 1 foot whiteboard in my home office at the time. On this I created the TODO, DOING and DONE swim lanes using electrical tape. This board was way smaller than those I typically used for task boards in work but by using small (5 x 3 cm) stickies we were able to fit all of our tasks on. Such tiny stickies are what I have used for my Personal Kanban boards ever since. They minimise my boards’ footprint and force me to be concise with my task naming, especially if I write using a sharpie.
The board worked out well. Its visual nature helped us to build a backlog, prioritise tasks easily and see where we were in the overall move process.
I then started using a Personal Kanban board actively in the work place. At the time this picture was taken I was in a cube in the US with nowhere to put even a small whiteboard. Undeterred I crafted the equivalent to a board on my desktop using painters tape for the swim lanes. Note the addition of the BLOCKED column which I find invaluable.
More recently, back in Scotland, I had reduced desk space so I created as minimalist a desktop Personal Kanban as I could. The swim lane labels are simply sellotaped to the desk with the tasks arrayed in line below.
Similarly when on business trips one of the first things I do at my temporary desk is create a quick ad-hoc Personal Kanban board. All that’s required are mini stickies and a sharpie pen.
Lately my employer has introduced a strict clear desk policy. It looked like my Personal Kanban board would have to go as leaving any written materials on my desk overnight, no matter how innocuous or terse, would break the rules .
Instead I created a more mobile board that I could lock away in a drawer. The basis was a small cardboard box my new webcam had arrived in. I flattened it out, used a sharpie to draw on swim lanes and attached stickies with swim lane labels using sellotape. Finally I used blu tack on the underside of the board to keep it in place on my desktop during the day.
This solution works well and is my current Personal Kanban board. The bonus is that it folds up easily along the original cardboard folds. This allows me to slot it into a small envelope and take it with me when I work at home or go on business trips.
The last example board is not a Personal Kanban board but is the smallest board I have ever created. A colleague and I were the only two developers working on a web app to an aggressive timescale. We wanted a task board to visualise the work but both had an aversion to using JIRA as an online board. Fortunately we sat next to each other separated only by a waist high partition. However, local policy forbade any whiteboards in our workspace as they were seen as being untidy. In addition, due to the partition there was nowhere to put a desktop task board where we could both see and interact with easily.
I then had the idea of making use of the narrow top surface of the partition itself. It worked rather well: