Friday, April 16, 2010

Personal Kanban – More Done, Less Stress

Personal Kanban whiteboard

Life used to be simple:

  1. Get up
  2. Go to school/work
  3. Relax
  4. Go to bed

It didn’t require much planning for effective time management. As a result of the increasing hustle and bustle of our society or just the result of getting older (which I’m not ready to admit yet), increasing responsibilities and extra-curricular activities place demands on our time.

  • little league
  • professional associations
  • school functions
  • home maintenance
  • [insert your challenges here]

That is where a personal Kanban can help us work smarter and reduce our stress level by knowing we have a handle on our activities.

Anyone can do it

You can use a simple whiteboard (or even a sliding glass door) to help manage your time and activities visually and efficiently with a simple system of sticky notes in columns labeled similar to the following:

  • to do
  • in process
  • done
  • I find “awaiting decision” or some variation helpful also

How To

Jim Benson has a great Personal Kanban presentation that introduces, in detail, how you can improve your personal productivity using a personal kanban.

Home and Office

The process works equally well at the office for work activities/projects and at home. I use 24” X 36” whiteboards (Sam’s Club - $15) which has enough space for two types of projects being managed with separate spaces for each - and a little area left over for impromptu notes and sketches.


If you are like me, once you try it out and realize the power of them, you start using them for everything... and try to convince everyone around you to use them also.


  1. Awesome synopsis!

    The addicting part gets me. I find that a lot of people and even more so teams immediately take to the kanban. Always fun to watch.

  2. Thanks for the comment and retweet! Addicting is the truth. It's funny that we have used them in several of the ways that you have listed in your excellent and comprehensive Personal Kanban design pattens presentation.

    One time my whiteboard even got temporarily hijacked for team use to knock out part of a workbook when I simply suggested we use something *like* my individual kanban board to coordinate the research and edit activity. is a great place to go for inspiration about other ways to feed the addiction. I'm looking forward to your book coming out.

  3. Hello, Dean! That's an awesome summary of the personal Kanban. You know what? In my opinion, I think these should be thought to kids once they reach the time when they'll start juggling the school and extra-curricular activities you have mentioned. By the way, I see that you've put an extra column for things waiting decision there. Does this apply only if you're under a manager?

  4. Hi Liza. Thank you for the kind comments. I absolutely agree about teaching the kids. I know someone has coined the term Kidzban specifically for that purpose. I added the waiting decision column because it was part of a team project where we have a final text copy review and approval step before publically publishing. The beauty of the process is you can and should change the columns and names to match the process you are managing. It doesn't have to be rigid.