Unless you can complete the tasks on your To-Do list each day, To-Do lists may be outdated in your environment. A better solution might be a personal Kanban board. While this sounds complicated, it can be pretty easy to implement. Kanban (literally translated as “signboard” or “billboard” in Japanese) was developed in the 1940s by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota as a system to improve and maintain a high level of production.
Your personal kanban is a visual representation of work that you need to get done. You will need to create a bulletin board or whiteboard with 3 columns. You should label the first column “To-Do”, the second column “Doing”, and the last column “Done”. You then put each assigned task on a separate Post-it note, and put the new note under the “To-Do” column. The note should include a title, brief description, and maybe a due date.
As you start your day, you need to look at the “To-Do” column and move items to the “Doing” column as you actually begin work on that specific item. If you stop working on an item, it can stay in the “Doing” column or you can move it back to the “Pending” stack. At any time, you can glance at your kanban board and see what you are supposed to be working on right now, and those items still in your queue. You can also see your progress by seeing how many items are in the “Done” column.
For weekly or monthly reoccurring tasks, you can move the Post-it note from the “Done” to “Pending” column on Monday morning to restart the queue.
- Limit your “Doing” Column – You have a limit to how many active tasks you can work on at the same time. One of the points of the kanban is to show the pipeline of assigned tasks and visualize what you are actually working on so you can focus on specific tasks.
- Don’t Cheat – Don’t try to manipulate the kanban to make it look better. Be honest with yourself and wait for positive results based on actual success.
- Acknowledge Backlog – If a task is stuck in the “To-Do” column, you need to review why your aren’t able to start or complete the task. Maybe you are waiting on someone else to do something first? Maybe you have too many urgent requests to work on the non-urgent requests? You need to understand why you might have a large backlog and talk to your boss about ways to address the assigned workload.
- Adjust – If your have a more complicated environment, you may choose to add more columns or rows. More columns might allow you to track postponed or delayed items, items waiting for other people or groups, etc. The additional rows can be used to track tasks for multiple people or groups.