When I posted about the Public Facebook Feed, I hinted about the long development time. I’ve also mentioned my use of Personal Kanban.

Well, it’s been a few weeks, and still not gotten around to this post, which discusses my usage of it and similar tools in organising my own life. As the delay also implies, this is a mixed bag so far.

Reminder of intent here:

  • Organize my personal life. I wouldn’t call myself disorganized, rather I’d like to be more productive
  • Apply lean/agile software development tools/approaches in my personal life to this end. A very good starting point for more info is Personal Kanban, which I’m going with over other Scrum or heavyweight systems like Get Things Done, which appears firmly to be in the “add endless embellishments” stage

The two main mechanisms are Visualize your work and Limit your work-in-progress. I’d like to use something like AgileZen, but it has no data import-export. So I’m sticking by Remember The Milk for now, especially as it has an app for my old Windows Mobile phone, and my new HTC Desire.

So, what do I feel the main impediments are here? I feel it exposes that:

  • My current setup encourages a ‘todo list’ mentality
  • There is no feel of the ‘flow’ that is supposed to occur – the “Goals/Tasks/Backlog/Doing/Done”. Instead, it’s more “ToDo/Done” with little rhythm or awareness of greater goals. I’m unsure if this is an issue, a benefit (“fit the process to suit you”) or if it’s a barrier to being hyperproductive
  • I somehow never seem to have the time to significantly work through the backlog

I’ve talked this over with a few people, including people at work also involved with Agile & our use of Kanban there, and personal friends involved in management-like activities. No conclusion was reached.

So why don’t I feel as productive as I should? I’m not exactly sat around watching TV all day. And when I e.g. do watch TV with my housemates, it’s usually with my netbook with me, multitasking. (Side note, I’ve noticed an increased ability to do this, something well-documented as Internet technology encroaches. To the point where if I’m doing just one action that isn’t at work, my brain feels like it’s idle & starts to chug over some other task in the background, to my annoyance if foreground task is, y’know, important, like a conversation or something. Even now, I find myself saying “C’mon!”to the computer as I want to get this post finished and move on to some other task, and it doesn’t respond as fast as my thought processes, which already feels several steps ahead).

Maybe it’s good old-fashioned information overload (or rather, the filters are broken), but this seems like a cop-out.

Perhaps my throughout is at an effective high already so I get few returns? My life work-in-progress limit is “full”. But a) I don’t seem to have much to show for it, and b) there’s lots of talk about being hyperproductive. Perhaps the value I think I should give items isn’t the value I actually give them. Or maybe I am just reaching an effective life balance between “doing stuff” and “living life”?

It doesn’t feel very balanced, though. Just like my Google Reader list which constantly has thousands of unread items, I have a lot of items to do, books to read, etc. that never happen. (Upstairs is an unopened copy of The Guardian I bought yesterday, the first in many years, bought as a symbolic gesture as they switched support from Labour to the Liberal Democrats for the imminant General Election.. Have a feeling it may not actually get read.)

This “never ending pile” is a common feature of life, I know, but it seems more acute now than at any other stage of my life, which hints something else is going on – maybe my work-in-progress limit is in practice lower than what I think it is (a common Kanban issue)… Reviewing this post before I hit ‘Publish’, it seems more like a random infodump from a hyperactive brain. Maybe I’ve just had a bit too much coffee on not quite enough sleep?

This is certainly not a definitive post, and hope to follow up on it sometime soon(!); I’m pretty sure I’ve read items dealing with this on the Personal Kanban site. Perhaps this is a self-perpetuating shallow loop whereby I am missing some component and so never really ‘get into it’?

  1. Hey John,

    Great post.

    More than anything, Personal Kanban is supposed to make you think about what you’re doing – to actually be aware of the choices you make.

    If RTM is working for you, then I’d say stick with it. I might recommend that you make a Personal Kanban that is less granular. Track your projects or major tasks – and let the subtasks slip to lists. What you want to find is that spot where the things-that-are-John’s-life are displayed in a way that more fully inform you of the options you are trading off.

    But, one thing I tell people is that lean and Personal Kanban are about perpetually seeking and solving. Not about a final solution. Your goal here is increasing effectiveness (not really productivity). Productivity is a dangerous quantitative measure – effectiveness is qualitative (as in quality) measure.

    It sounds like you’ve got productivity down and are frustrated by effectiveness.

    Last, review what you’ve done later. Even if it’s in your lists. Beat yourself over the head with how good a job you are doing. If your other work is like this post, you are already doing amazing work.

    Okay, really last in this comment-cum-blogpost – you might want to try Leankit Kanban which I believe has a fuller API and allows you not only to import and export, but also to have multiple value streams. (Oh, and it sounds like you could do with a few fleshed out value streams).

    Sorry to be long winded, but your post is inspiring.

  2. Thanks Jim. I do have less granular categories in RTM, generated by Smart Lists using tags in the task, but they don’t get populated; everything stays at Pending or Done. But, I like the Lists-inside-Tasks idea.

    And, I do keep a Reflective Journal, inspired by my MSc from a few years back, but again it’s making the time to keep it updated; again, maybe this is exposing the effective value of this task in the aspect of the process overhead?

    And I’ll certainly check out LeanKit Kanban! Thanks, and thanks for the praise!

  3. Personal Kanban is just so helpful! Visualizing all the ideas and objectives you have in mind on a digital board (like Kanban Tool) leaves your mind free to concentrate on
    the things needed at the moment. That is all I need to run projects

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