Are you in a constant struggle wondering how to get projects done at home? Got a to do list that you keep ignoring? Too many projects on the go? Lots of unfinished tasks around the home?
I’ve often felt that I never get off the ground with projects. Most of my time is spent doing daily or weekly tasks (vacuuming, dishes, etc) and I don’t feel like I’m making any progress. I’ll have an idea of a project I want to do, but no sooner have I started than I’m interrupted or get distracted and the project remains unfinished.
Then I see another project needing attention, get started on that and the cycle continues. Then I just get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
In my pre-motherhood life, I would have classified myself as a finisher. I liked to see things through rather than get excited about starting new projects all the time. But in the home I find myself starting new projects because there seems to be so much I want to get done. Then I move on to the next thing without completing the first project. Not very productive.
Do you relate?
Then I discovered a super simple productivity tool that guides me through the essential steps to get projects done:
- Visualise your projects – so you don’t forget them
- Prioritise your projects – so you don’t get overwhelmed
- Complete your projects!
This super simple secret is called the Personal Kanban System.
What is Personal Kanban?
The Personal Kanban system (first used in factories in Japan) allows you to visibly see your projects and actively move them through a series.
A simple board is separated into three categories: Options, Doing and Done. Each project you would like to tackle (everything from the things that need to be done to those dreams you would like to get to someday) are written on post-it notes and stuck in the Options column. You then choose 3 projects to move to the Doing column. These are the only projects you will work on until they are completed. On completion, you move the post-it note to the Done column, which frees up some space for a new project to be moved to the Doing column.
3 Ways the Personal Kanban helps you get projects done
Personal Kanban helps you stay focused
The first rule of the Personal Kanban System is to visualise your work. All my ideas of projects I’d like to work on are written on the post-it notes on the board on my wall. Easy to see. Easy to focus on.
When I get distracted or interrupted I can quickly glance at my project board to see what I should be focusing on.
Post-it notes for every project I would like to do (any activity or task that will take more than one step) are added to my ‘options’ column. This project could be something that needs to be done within a certain time frame (like Christmas shopping) or something I would just like to do someday (like redecorate the kids’ bedrooms).
By writing all these projects down and sticking them to the wall they don’t get forgotten about.
The Personal Kanban helps you to sort your priorities
The second (and final) rule of the Personal Kanban System is to limit your work in progress (WIP).
I loved the title of the first column – options. Because that is just what they are. This isn’t a to do list, so you don’t get overwhelmed no matter how many post-it notes you have in this column.
It is simply a place to record, and remember, the projects you would like to tackle.
You could use colour coded post-it notes to identify different types of projects (work or home) or to identify different priorities (e.g. red for top priority). This will help you to see what projects need to be worked on, and which you would like to work on.
The middle column is for the projects you are ‘doing’. This should only contain 3 projects.
If we take on too many projects we get overwhelmed, our ability to focus gets broken down, and we don’t complete our tasks.
By limiting this space to three projects we avoid multitasking and it is easier to say ‘no’ to new projects. It is much easier to get projects done if we don’t take on too much at a time.
I see a number of benefits for sticking with what is in this column. First, you don’t have to prioritise all the time – the decision has already been made and you work on a project in this column. Second, you are not tempted to start a new project until you finish one you have already started. And finally, you are motivated to complete your projects so you can get them out of this column!
Which takes us to my final benefit for using this method.
The Personal Kanban helps you to get projects done
Having to physically move the post-it note to the ‘done’ column really helps me to complete a project.
I have a tendency to get a project to the stage where it is ‘good enough’ or workable but not completely finish it. For example, I tidy the wardrobe but the box of stuff to donate stays on the floor.
With the Personal Kanban System, I need to complete a project before I can move it out of the ‘doing’ column, and into the ‘done’ column.
Completing tasks is good for our mental well-being. Seeing all those completed tasks on our board helps us to keep motivated and stay productive. On the other hand, when a task is incomplete we dwell on it, which clutters our mind and we can’t focus.
The moment we say we’re done with something, the electrical activity in our brain shifts from being activated and engaged into a more relaxed state…A neurochemical shift in the brain occurs simultaneously. Serotonin – known as the body’s “feel-good chemical”– is released, creating a sense of calmness and satisfaction. This new relaxed state then allows us to take on the next task and builds our confidence. The more often you complete a task, the more confidence you build to achieve the next item on your to-do list, allowing you to take on even more challenging tasks. Source
Here are a couple of options if you prefer to work digitally rather than with post-it notes and pens:
Trello and asana boards can easily be set up in line with the Personal Kanban System. However, you don’t get the benefit of seeing your projects at all times. I like to have the Projects Board on the wall and then create a board for each project on asana. There I break each project down into smaller steps.
So, what do you think of the Personal Kanban System? Is it something you see you could implement? How do you get projects done?
For another idea for using post-it notes check out my Adjustable Weekly Planner.
To sum it up here’s a quote from the Personal Kanban website:
Personal Kanban gives us clarity in our work and our lives by visualizing those tasks, expectations, and commitments we have and helping us prioritize and complete. Personalkanban.com
And here’s some more info about the Personal Kanban System:
Now it is time to say ‘done’ to this post and get on to another project!