Introducing, Getting things kanbanned

I have had on my ToDo list for a long while to write a post about how I manage my time and prioritise things. But to be honest, blogging in general has been suffering from being deprioritised so much of late that this post was just never getting written. However the latest episode of the Cortex podcast #46 inspired me to push it up the list.

I have long been a fan of the Getting things done methodology, but found a lot of the apps built around it overly labour intensive and never quite fitted with my sensibilities. Likewise, I love the simplicity of Kanban, but lumping your entire life into one board gets way too noisy. There is also a principle in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that is you should define the different roles you have and manage your time as such. I believe this ties relates back to the GTD methodology, in that you should split everything up into projects. In my mind roles/projects are essentially the same thing. Hopefully my family don’t think they are just another project in my life…

So what did I do?

Knowing that there were parts of all three concepts resonating for me, I came up with a system for managing my time, priorities and systems that sat at the intersection point of all three. The key to all of it is Trello. Trello is, at least to me, the simplest and easiest to use Kanban board in the market.

How I use Trello

I won’t go into how Trello works because, well, there isn’t much to say apart from there are boards, lists and cards. I start with a board called _Inbox which is where everything I think of, that needs to be done, gets entered – very much in the GTD style of inbox. I then have a board for each role/project in my life. Periodically I go through inbox and move cards over to the relevant board it should live on. I also periodically, will order the cards on each board by priority.

When it comes time to put myself into a specific role focus, I switch to that board and work on the next thing in the list.

As far as what lists or swim lanes I have on each board, that depends on the particular board and what it is for. At a minimum I will have ToDo, Doing, Done and Not doing. The only one that might need explanation there is Not doing which is for cards I later decide aren’t necessary anymore. I will typically put a comment on the card whenever I move something into the Not doing list to explain why I decided not to do it anymore.

Other lists that I have on various boards include, Ideas, With others (including a comment about who it is with and a follow up note where needed), and on a couple of particularly busy boards, I’ll break up Todo into Backlog and Today to further chunk down the most important stuff.

My Inbox board also is where I capture movies, TV shows, books and games I want to watch, read and play. This is great to remind you when you need it for what you are going to do next.

Use comments

I highly recommend commenting on the cards in Trello. It gives you a great way to never forget details of where you are leaving things at any time. Perfect for when you need to change roles a lot throughout your life.

Making it even easier

One of the things that really made this system click for me was setting up an Alfred workflow for quickly capturing things and putting them straight into the inbox todo list. You can see how to do it here.

After listening to Canvas’ series on the Workflow app for iOS, I now have a task to setup something to make capturing stuff even easier on my iOS devices.

Being highly effective

As with all systems you only get out what you put in. There have definitely been times where I have just gotten slack and not referred back to my boards enough and then ultimately drop the ball on things. The times when I’m on using it well, are always the times when I feel like I’m on top of things the most.

So with a little bit of Kanban, Getting things done and Seven habits of highly effective people all mixed together and with diligent use of the system, I could probably call this “Getting things kanbanned highly effectively”.