Your Own Personal Kanban: The Board

Since I went full-time freelance as a writer, designer, and consultant, a number of people have asked me how I manage my workload. It’s a fair question, since I juggle three consulting contracts and usually two to five projects at any one time. I thought I would write a few blog posts to detail my personal management process as it looks now. Maybe it will help other creative professionals as they get ready for the new year.

Yesterday I looked at how I handle my daily tasks. Today I’ll go into how I use those tasks and track them.

Day-to-Day: The Kanban Board

A lot of my process is based on a system known as Personal Kanban. I’ve modified it for my use, but the basics are similar.

I use Trello to track all my tasks. Each task gets a card, much like this one (click to see a larger version).

Example Task

It has all the basic stuff: information on the task (usually from an email), files associated with the task, checklists as needed for subtasks, a color-coded label for major clients, and comments where I can put updates. In the title, though, you’ll notice a number in brackets, like so: “(10)”. That’s my estimate of how many pomos I think the task will take. Every pomo I complete, I update another number in square brackets with how many I’ve completed, like so: “[1]”. It’s a satisfying way to show progress, and it forces me to move from “work mode” to “break mode.”

These numbers tie into the overall board I use for planning, which looks like this (click to see a larger version).

Example Trello Board


I use a plug-in called Scrum for Trello to get some additional functionality. It converts the estimates into dark blue boxes on each task, and momentum into light blue boxes. It also calculates estimated pomos and completed pomos for each lane and the board as a whole (which I’ll get into tomorrow).

The “This Month” column is where I have the month’s worth of tasks, including regular meetings I have with clients. At the start of each day, I pull roughly 10 pomos worth of tasks from the “This Month” lane into “Do Today.” As I work on tasks, I move them into “In Progress.” Once I complete them, I drag them into “Done.” At the end of the day, I check the three main columns to make sure I got at least 10 pomos worth of work, and then archive everything in “Done.” Tasks that I can’t work on (usually because I’m waiting on something from a client) I move to “Blocked.”

This is what I look at every day. It’s a simple way of prioritizing my day, making sure I’m getting good work done, and keeping myself accountable while also showing progress.

Tomorrow I’ll end my series by showing how I estimate tasks and do my monthly planning.

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