Using Visual Kanban for Personal and Professional Management June 11 2015

We've spent a lot of time in past posts talking about the Japanese business management concepts behind 5S and kaizen. Another useful personal management tool from the Japanese, kanban, is a simple visual aide to help you organize, prioritize, and track your tasks. Kanban is translated to “sign” or “signboard.”

The purpose behind creating a kanban is to show your work in progress, your work yet to be touched, and the efficiency of your work flow. Using this productivity tool will help you to simplify and control your workload, allowing more to get accomplished and putting your own anxiety at ease.

The importance of limiting your current workload cannot be stressed enough. This will improve your overall work performance, as well as your mental and physical health. When you feel good and are confident in your work, you will find the work day and overall work life more fulfilling.

How can you start building your own personal kanban to improve your work and personal life?

1. Establish the steps along your work flow. Typically, there are stages of completion in your flow of work. From start to finish, your most simple value stream consists of three phases: (1) your backlog – the work on your to-do list that has yet to be started, (2) your work in progress – the work that is currently being done, and (3) your completed work – the work that has been checked over and can be checked off of your to-do list.

2. Establish your entire backlog. If you are creating this kanban for both personal and business purposes, you'll want to pull out a few different colors of Post-its to help you visualize the entirety of your to-do list. Everything you need to do, whether the task is big or small, needs to be written down.

3. Establish your personal limitations for your work-in-progress. As you know, this stage of your work flow is limited to the tasks you are currently working to complete. Every person has a bandwidth – a “sweet spot” where you can complete tasks and not lose any quality or speed in the work. This section of your personal kanban may fluctuate at first, but you will soon find that the visualization of your tasks through the use of kanban will help you find the perfect amount of work for you.

4. Test drive your kanban. You have already established every task on your to-do list. Now, it is time for you to begin your work. Begin to pull the Post-its from each stage to the next, from your backlog to your work-in-progress to your completed tasks. When your completed work has been submitted or cleared away from your hands entirely, then you may remove the Post-it from your completed kanban section.

As you iron out the stages of your work flow through kanban, you may even want to translate the tasks by the color of your Post-its to your Google Calendar, so you can take your kanban on the go with you.

Other Posts you may find interesting:

5 Foolproof Tips for Implementing 5S Now

A Lean Introduction to 5S: What it is, Why You Need it, Where it Comes From

How Lean Thinking Will Transform Your Workplace into a Safer, More Satisfying Environment