Cover of book Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life

Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life

by: Tonianne DeMaria Barry, Jim Benson

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How to apply the 'Kanban' task management methodoly to our private (non-work) lives and projects. This is a short, informative and easy to read book. The insights on the nature of our personal project, the problems with a deadline-driven approach in our complex and sometimes unpredictable lives were super valuable. This methodology works great for those of us with the project Hydra problem: we have a bunch of projects, where each project can spawn more, we have the shiny object syndrome and difficulty finisihing projects. If you recognize yourself in this description, this book might be useful to you.
73 Highlights | 16 Notes
  • From visualizing your workflow, understanding that your capacity is not the same as your throughput, to taking time to note your completed tasks (something at which I am very lacking, preferring instead to pummel myself immediately with the next task)
  • We are told to do work, but seldom understand why. We crave and deserve context. Without context, being told what to do is a communication failure. We cannot make informed decisions or create a quality product without first understanding why we are doing what we are doing. Lack of context creates waste, resulting in long work days, poor planning, and the inability to keep commitments outside the office.
  • There’s a martial arts concept known as Shu Ha Ri, a cycle of learning where first you learn the basics, then you question them, and finally you find your own path.
  • Our board was specifically designed to be an information radiator: we wanted it to show the flow of our work (even from a distance), limit our work-in-progress, and capture all tasks, not just those directly related to software production.
  • My need to quickly complete a disparate, overwhelming backlog produced a series of epiphanies:
    • Personal projects materialize out of nowhere.
    • Personal projects are often short-lived.
    • Personal projects can have their own unique visualizations.
    • Personal work is often unpredictable.
    • Personal work is difficult to manage.
    • The only way out is “through.” Often, you can’t delegate, procrastinate, or ignore personal work.
    • Context dictates the way we prioritize our personal work.
    • Prioritization for personal work happens at the moment of doing.
    • Other people’s expectations of you do not disappear simply because you are overworked.
    • Personal and professional life are not distinct and should not be artificially separated.
    • Risk for individuals is inherently different from risk for a company.
  • Rule 1: Visualize Your Work.
  • Rule 2: Limit Your Work-in-Progress (WIP).
  • Our capacity for work is limited by a host of factors including the amount of time we have, the predictability of the task at hand, our level of experience with the task type, our energy level, and the amount of work we currently have in progress.
  • With Personal Kanban, principles take precedence over process.
  • Like most maps, Personal Kanban depicts a wealth of information. It shows you:
    • What you want.
    • What you do.
    • How you do it.
    • Who you do it with.
    • What you complete.
    • What you leave unfinished.
    • How quickly you do things.
    • What causes your bottlenecks.
    • When and why you procrastinate.
    • When and why certain activities make you anxious.
    • What you can promise.
    • What you can say No to.
    Note: principles of personal kanban
  • At best, we use deadlines to track our progress, even though deadlines are imposed, inflexible, and often don’t respect our current context. Based on assumptions about the future, deadlines fail to take into account actual, real-time information.
  • Kaizen is a state of continuous improvement where people naturally look for ways to improve poorly performing practices.
  • On the surface, Personal Kanban is deceptively simple: visualize your work, limit your WIP, and pay attention to what’s happening in your life.
  • When we’re able to represent each of our tasks on individual sticky notes our workload assumes a physical shape.
  • Work we have yet to complete, or any aspect of our life that distracts us, creates existential overhead. As existential overhead mounts, our effectiveness diminishes.
  • through different stages of our value stream where it develops, is tested, and ultimately finds resolution.
  • Value Stream: The flow of work from beginning to completion.
  • A value stream visually represents the flow of your work from its beginning through to its completion.
  • Backlog: Work you have yet to do.
  • It lurks behind every accomplishment, insisting No time to celebrate, you’ve got so much more to do!
  • Start populating your backlog by writing down everything you need to do on sticky notes. Everything. Big tasks, small tasks, get them all down on paper. Don’t sweep things under the rug. Don’t file them in a folder labeled Tomorrow. Don’t lie to yourself. Wallpaper the room with sticky notes if you have to. You must confront your work beast before you can begin to tame it.
  • batch work by color to make it more manageable.
  • You can set a limit on your READY column if you wish
  • WIP [Work-in-Progress] Limit: The amount of work you can handle at any given time.
  • closer you get to reaching your capacity, the more stress taxes your brain’s resources, and impacts your performance.
  • Research consistently shows we cannot reach our maximum effectiveness while multitasking. Instead, maximum effectiveness results when we limit our WIP and focus on the task before us
  • To find your work’s sweet spot, start by setting an arbitrary WIP limit, let’s say no more than three tasks. Add this number to your DOING column.
  • On days when you are motivated and energized, your WIP capacity will increase. Conversely, if there is an emergency that requires your attention, your WIP limit should decrease.
  • Pull: To bring a task into DOING when you have capacity for it.
  • Personal Kanban is a pull-based system. We pull work into DOING only when we have room to accommodate it. Pulling is a willful act.
  • Take a moment to consider the following:
    • Which tasks did you do particularly well?
    • Which tasks made you feel good about yourself?
    • Which tasks were difficult to complete?
    • Were the right tasks completed at the right time?
    • Did the tasks completed provide value?
    .Then ask yourself Why?
    Note: #to-try
  • Sequester tasks that are not yet complete but you can’t move forward on in a column called THE PEN.
  • Always be sure items in THE PEN are actionable.
  • To ensure THE PEN doesn’t become a glorified junk lane, assign it a WIP limit. You should never find your BACKLOG empty while THE PEN is filled with half done tasks. Always refer to THE PEN first when pulling tasks into DOING.
  • Capacity: How much stuff will fit
    Throughput: How much stuff will flow They are not synonymous.
  • We rush through one thing to get to the next, striving for quantity (productivity) when we know quality (effectiveness) will surely suffer. In the end, we achieve neither.
  • Throughput is a flowbased system. It measures success by the amount of quality work flowing from READY to DONE over time, not just the volume of work we can cram into our schedule.
  • The rate at which work moves from READY to DONE is our throughput—our real throughput, not our guess at it.
  • “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand.” — Confucius
    Note: #quote
  • Flow: The natural progress of work Cadence: The predictable and regular elements of work
    Slack: The gaps between work that make flow possible
  • While it’s often less mechanized, personal work also produces a cadence. When we visualize tasks as they travel through a value stream, we begin to detect an underlying rhythm in our workflow. We become attuned to its “beat,” and can operate in unison with it. This cadence is reliable and reassuring, a reward in and of itself. It is a pattern that can be fine-tuned, allowing us to find and fix problems such as bottlenecks and disruptions, and determine pace, ultimately creating an expectation about our completion time.
  • Similarly, Personal Kanban helps you gain control of your backlog, understand your commitments, and pull work more effectively so that you too can achieve stability and sustainability while innovating.
  • Pull is essential for stability and sustainability. The more a system relies on a core mechanism to force action, the less sustainable it becomes.
  • A pull system operates according to flow: people take on work only when they have the capacity to do so.
  • “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” — Philip K. Dick
    Note: #quote
  • “Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” — H.L. Hunt
    Note: #quote
  • Clarity is not just understanding what we’re doing, it’s why and how we’re doing it.
    Note: #remember
  • Productivity: You get a lot of work done, but is it the right work?
    Efficiency: Your work is easily done, but is it focused for maximum effect?
    Effectiveness: You get the right work done at the right time …this time. Is this process repeatable?
  • My pedometer was my measure, my motivator, my visual control.
  • “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Note: #quote
  • Reducing task size is only truly effective when coupled with limiting WIP: tasks are completed sooner, results become measurable, and existential overhead is kept to a minimum. Therefore, we should focus on limiting WIP and completing tasks first, and make task size reduction a secondary concern.
  • we too are better served by allowing projects to unfold as context demands. This doesn’t mean you should put off thinking about the future.
  • It does mean you should take on work thoughtfully, in chunks you can handle, and be prepared to revise your original plans when context demands.
  • Tasks whose status escalates into Urgent and Important should be flagged for a retrospective.
  • The Personal Kanban Difference - The Quadrant of Kaizen:
  • This quadrant should be your focal point, because the more you ignore the tasks within, the more they’ll gravitate towards the panic quadrant. This quadrant is the antidote for panic.
  • “Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” — John Lennon
    Note: #quote
  • Metrics gathered but not used are waste, so choose them with care. Ensure they are actively and thoughtfully proving an hypothesis.
  • “If you employed study, thinking, and planning time daily, you could develop and use the power that can change the course of your destiny.” — W. Clement Stone
    Note: #quote
  • Doing things you don’t enjoy reduces your effectiveness. This includes tasks you aren’t particularly good at, projects you find unfulfilling, and working with individuals you dislike. It’s not just about not wanting to do things that aren’t fun, mind you. Unenjoyable tasks increase existential overhead. When it comes time to do something you dread, you become anxious, irritable, and less thoughtful. There are legitimate opportunity costs in doing things you don’t enjoy.
  • When you create a sticky note, include the date of creation (Born), the date you pull it into READY (Begin), the date you began working on it (WIP), and when you are finished, the date you pull it into DONE (Done).
  • A-listers were successful not because they had superior programming skills, but because they took the time to learn why they were building the software in the first place. They sought clarity from the onset, gathering vital information and incorporating it into their design. If the pertinent information wasn’t readily available, they used deductive reasoning to devise a plan to obtain it. Once they found clarity, they had the freedom to innovate and the ability to outperform their colleagues.
  • Seemingly minor tweaks translate into major results.
  • “What good is experience if you do not reflect?” — Fredrick the Great
    Note: #quote
  • We need to revisit our decisions after the fact, because while we may know the outcome, do we really understand the motivation?
    Note: #mental-technique
  • With introspection, we come to understand whether our priorities truly balance our needs and our emotions.
    Note: #mental-technique
  • “If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.” — Buddhist Saying
    Note: #quote
  • Retrospectives are regular and ritualized moments of collective reflection.
  • Repeat ‘why’ five times to every matter, he instructed, until you arrive at something with real context.
    Note: #mental-technique
  • Like Personal Kanban, the Five Whys depersonalizes a problem.
    Note: #mental-technique
  • “I know you won’t believe me, but the highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.” — Socrates
    Note: #quote
  • In the self-application of the Socratic Method, you question your own assumptions, stripping away confounding information to reveal the truth embedded in your position.
  • Critical self-inquiry—playing your own devil’s advocate—requires both patience and honesty, but is essential in the quest for improvement.