How to Use a Kanban Board

I’ve recently transitioned to a new way of visualizing the work that I have to do.

I find so often that it’s hard for students, including myself, to really define what work they need to do, in what order, and how to do it without getting distracted by another task.

What is a Kanban Board?

Through my usual zealous analysis of productivity methods, I discovered a new way of visualizing work from this book called Making Work Visible by Dominica DeGrandis. In this book, DeGrandis discusses how to “expose time theft and optimize work & flow”. I’m only about halfway through the book so I will wait to do a full review till I’m done reading it, but I can say it’s been one of the best and most actionable productivity books I’ve read.

One of the tactics I learned in this book is called a Kanban Board. While there are many ways to set up a Kanban Board, the most basic way of doing it is to have three columns: to do, doing, and done. In these columns, you put sticky notes with tasks.

Making Work Visible discusses a lot of these strategies in terms of a corporate structure, but I’ve been applying it to an individual project and task management system for myself.

Inspired by this concept, I created myself a Kanban board to put on my desktop backsplash as another way to do work. To do this, I simply took a piece of black poster board, cut it down to size, divided it up into three sections with washi tape, and titled the sections “to do”, “doing”, and “done”.

In addition, I added a subsection for “doing” titled “review”. This is because a lot of times I’ll be waiting for something to be looked over (i.e. an email or essay) so it’s still in progress, but can’t be worked on by me at that moment.

How do you use it?

There are many variations and ways of using Kanban boards, so I’ll give you a beginner’s version which will describe how I’ve been using it lately.

1. Create the Cards

The first step is to determine what tasks/projects you need to do/work on that day. I usually simply write the task or name of the project down on a small-sized sticky of various colors. You can choose stickies of different colors to help differentiate the tasks. You could do it by: time it will take to complete task, priority level of task, category of task (i.e. school, work, extracurricular), or anything else that makes sense to you. For this example, I just did different colors randomly to make it colorful.

2. Put them in Order Under “To Do”

I like to put the tasks in order based on priority. You can read about how I prioritize tasks here.

3. Start your Workflow

As soon as you start on a task, put it in the “doing” category. DO NOT have more than one thing in the doing category. Focus on one thing at a time. Once it’s done, move it to the “done” category and replace it with the next item, and repeat.

This easy-to-use system is so visually appealing and satisfying. If you plan on using it for schoolwork, I’d be sure to use smaller sticky notes (probably flag ones will work best) to avoid clutter. Try not to overwhelm yourself with tasks in the “to do” column and keep the “doing” column limited to one task (unless it’s in review).

Let me know if you have any questions, and if you use this system please share it with me! Tag me on IG @alicia_life_tips.

Enjoy your workflow! ❤ Alicia

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