Kanban At Home (What is Kanban?! The Best Honey-Do List)

Practicing your work at home can be a great way to experiment before real-world applications. It was by doing this that led me to discover the benefits of using a “Kanban Board” at home, which has now become our permanent at-home productivity system. See our beautiful Kanban Board below! We actually call it our “Scrum Board” but for those who know the terms of project management, this isn’t exactly Scrum (a method of project management).

Picture of the side of a refrigerator broken out into sections of "To Do", "In Progress" and "Done" with rows for two people, covered in Post-It Notes.

We keep our Kanban Board on the side of our fridge.

In January 2015, I moved from our Business Strategy Department to a Project Management role in our Technology Department. One of my roles is moving teams in our company towards using Scrum for project management. I really enjoyed the first book that I read on Scrum (Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland) and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in a taste of the subject as a fun, introductory, read about Scrum. It was great on audio.

There were some principles I wanted to start practicing:

  • Open communication through a gathering where you get together as a team and review what you got done, what you’ll do next, and what’s preventing you from getting your tasks done. At work, we call this the “Daily Stand-Up.” For Will and I, we “review our Scrum board” together ~2 times on Saturdays and Sundays, and 1-2 times during the work week.
  • Task lists that are clearly visible to the whole team. At work, projects are more complicated and we use JIRA Agile for our Project Management, pulling it up on a projector screen. At home, we keep this on the side of our fridge using Post-It Notes.
  • Provide value by limiting in progress work. If you’re making software, it isn’t valuable to make 5 features that are 75% done and no one can use; it’s better to make 1-2 features that your customers can use. At home, there is no good in trash that was taken out of the bin but is sitting by the door, leaves raked into piles but not in bags and by the street, laundry washed but not folded. I intentionally made our “In Process” column skinny; it should probably be even skinnier!

Gather At Your Kanban Board

As someone who loves to dabble in different productivity systems, I’ve tried a lot of things. We’ve been on ‘Remember the Milk,’ ‘Wunderlist,’ ‘Any.do’ and more, and nothing has worked as well as the Kanban board on the fridge. A typical weekend morning will involve Will and I standing by our Kanban board for a few minutes. We ask ourselves a few questions.

What do we need to do that’s not on a post-it? Shoveling the latest Boston snowstorm… We’ll put things we’re both doing along the middle overlapping both our rows.

What are you “working on” this morning? For me, it might be finishing a book for book club, baking Pretzel Bagels, reaching our to connect with friends and make social plans, some NSL work, or writing a Biscuit blog post. We write post-its together and move the ones we’re starting with to “IP” — only choosing a few, or one, at a time to start.

Is there anything on here we don’t actually need to do? One of my favorite quotes is the following by Peter F. Drucker, “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” Move some post-its to the recycling bin.

How can we help each other? One principle in Scrum even in the workplace is that you’re all part of one team, with no titles or hierarchy. You’re there for each other to help take down barriers and accomplish things together.  These principles can create a great team at work, but are also perfect for the home where those feelings are already present. You can both utilize and strengthen your home-team.

What You’ll Need for Your Own Kanban Board

Supplies:

  • Wall Space (could be the side of a refrigerator)
  • Tape. You can use painters tape or masking tape. But I love Washi Tape (much more fun).
  • Post-It Notes. A few colors are helpful.
  • Pens. I like markers like Sharpies, since the thick writing is visible from afar.

Steps (see picture above):

  1. You’ll want to make three columns. To-Do should be the first and widest column. In Progress (I labeled ‘IP’ for short) should be thinner and in the middle. Done (which I labeled “Fin”, “End” in Spanish, since I ran out of space) will come third.
  2. Create a horizontal section across the columns for each person. If desired, leave a 3-4 inch horizontal space for your column labels.
  3. Determine categories that your colored Post-It notes represent. For us, Green = Career, Blue = House, Pink = Personal, and Yellow = Other. I wrote these on pieces of Post-It Note, cut them out, and put them under our “IP” title for a key.
  4. Write out your tasks! Always keep the Post-Its and a Pen near your board. Every once in a while, we just recycle everything in our ‘Done’ column.
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How do you do task management at home?

Thank you for reading! Although my goal is to combine life planning, productivity, and dogs… not all my posts will do that. I also just want to share my life planning tips and tricks I’ve learned with the world. I’d love for you to join us on Facebook. Post on our page to let us know how you manage your tasks at home, or feedback on the type of content that you’d like to see here!