At the end of a long day's work, nothing gives you more satisfaction than knowing your day was a complete success.
You were productive, you have your deadlines under control.
Emails and phone calls are coming at you like a firehose all day long. But, you have the experience and determination to prioritise, delegate or ignore like a boss.
As much as you would like to take the title of "most productive employee of the month", you are sure there is still more you can do.
Although your current level of output can be rewarding. There are times you find yourself becoming frustrated with futile attempts at being consistently productive.
You tackling projects and client work by day, your own personal projects by night, fighting off distractions like Bruce Lee. But over time you become less able to summon the will to keep progressing.
Your brain feels as if there are too many tabs open, multitasking (poorly) seems to creep up on you and your attention span starts to diminish.
You need to kick your productivity back into gear.
The secret to improving output is, to repair the foundation. Without a sturdy foundation, regardless of how good of an architect you might be, your castle will collapse.
In productivity speak, by focusing only on the foremost aspect (goals and projects) and abandoning the moment-to-moment reality, your output will falter.
If your to-do list is not being managed well, you won't have purpose in your days and less will be achieved in the long run.
So, lets take a look into one of the most versatile workflow management methods to grace the whiteboards and computer screens of project management.
Kanban is Japanese for "visual signal" or "card". It was created by Toyota to improve its engineering process.
When Toyota engineers discovered inefficiencies, for example, only when an item was almost sold out, would stores order in replacement stock. This inspired engineers to rethink their methods, to match inventory with demand and achieve higher levels of throughput.
The basic concept was to reduce cost through the elimination of waste, and make full use of the workers' capabilities with six simple rules:
Never pass on defective products
Take only what stock is needed at the time
Produce the exact quantity that is required
Level production and track the fluctuation of stock in demand
Stabilise and rationalise the process
Once implemented across the board, the results began to show;
And with those beginnings the Kanban system had begun and as with many Toyota-born ideas, it has exponentially grown in popularity since.
In today's workforce so many methods of communication are text-based. Kanban can streamline your processes by allowing you to visualise your workflow and goals.
The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. A picture is worth a thousand words, right!
Kanban can help you to harness the power of visual information to create an overall picture of your work, simply with sticky notes on a whiteboard or an electronic equivalent.
Kanban can be quickly adopted by anyone; freelancers, students, professionals, project managers, developers... to optimise the flow of your work and track your productivity.
With only five simple steps, you can start your Kanban board today and witness each of your individual tasks as they move through this effortless workflow.
By now, you probably have some questions about how to set up and get started with a Kanban board.
We've got you covered. Whether you choose to use a digital or physical board, the set up for both is very much the same.
Start by preparing a simple task board consisting of three columns, to-do, work in progress and done. This is the basic structure of a Kanban board to follow and sort your tasks.
The Kanban flow can be implemented using sticky notes on a whiteboard.
Whiteboards provide instant transparency and allow other team members or stakeholders to collaborate with information such as backlogs and roadmaps.
For teams who work remotely or those who prefer tech based solutions, the electronic equivalent is your ticket to a stress-free workflow.
All you need to do is, set up three columns and follow the actions;
To-do: Create individual cards for each task, goal or achievement you want to achieve
Work in progress (WIP): Move cards from the to-do column to the doing column once you are ready to get started
Done: Once a task or goal has reached completion, move your card from the WIP column to done
Electronic kanban boards are very accessible. You can see your board from anywhere, at anytime with no risk of losing a sticky note. It makes it easy to review past work and link to other assets/requirements for a project.
Our team have tried and tested the various available tools, so here is a round-up of our top picks.
The team at Notion know "the importance of having a versatile tool where users can create, collaborate, and stay in touch."
From project management, to-do lists, grocery lists to bullet journals, Notion is the life of the productivity party.
Although our team takes advantage of a lot of these features, the one that made the most positive changes to the way we work, is the Kanban board feature!
To avoid context switching between tools such as emails, reminders and spreadsheets to keep track of tasks, Notion has features within features to streamline your workflow even further!
Customise each card with essential details like:
Assign tasks to yourself or another team member
Never miss a deadline, set due dates and reminders with desktop notifications
Highlight key tags related to a task such as a website design, bug, campaign
Each card represents a page for you to add subtasks and notes such as to-do lists, bullet lists, links or images
The possibilities are endless!. This powerful tool will chew up your handwritten to-do list and spit out it out as a piece of artwork.
Trello is known as one of the fastest ways to implement Kanban. It has made the Kanban board set up a no brainer.
Trello offers a highly visual way to witness what tasks you currently have on the go and avoid the ability of ever missing a deadline with due dates.
You can create separate boards to break down large projects, and plan the steps on cards, so nothing slips through the cracks. Or, create an ongoing list for all your personal to-dos.
Here is an example of some cards you could use:
Respond to Sandy's email
Finalise and send off the end of month invoices
Set up a project board for a new client
The moment you log in to Trello, you cannot miss the prompts to get your very first Kanban board set up.
Start by naming your new board and create some virtual sticky notes (cards).
Similar to Notion, Trello has a list of essential details that you can add to break down these tasks, so nothing gets missed:
Write detailed descriptions of the tasks
Create checklists and subtasks to break it down, like a mini-project
Define due dates with reminders
Add comments (with markdown formatting)
Colour code and add labels
Add attachments and links to external documents or URLs
Once a task has been completed, you can move these anywhere across the board, hopefully the "done" column.
Behind the scenes, our team do so much more than build a productivity app.
We manage our multiple products, projects and client work too.
As a small team with constant and very different projects on the go, we needed the perfect tool to accurately map our processes and progress.
This is where Kanban boards became our second best friend... after the pomodoro technique.
Since utilising Kanban boards worked wonders for our team, collectively. We decided to create our own individual to-do boards, and use them in conjunction with the pomodoro technique (focus booster) to test how we could really optimise our own individual workflows.
Hint: It worked so well, we wrote a blog post about it!Check out the post
Every man and his dog has either heard of or tried the pomodoro technique.
Twenty-five-minutes work with a five-minute break in between. Repeat three more times and follow up with an extended break of 20-minutes.
The purpose of the pomodoro technique is to narrow your focus on one task for a solid 25 minutes without any distractions.
While most employers look down on those regular-break-taking-employees, the power (believe it or not) to get more done lies within these breaks.
By taking a 5-minute break to boil the kettle, have a stretch and clear your mind, you are encouraging your brain to refresh. Avoiding the bogged-down, brain-dead feeling you get from working for hours on end without a break.
focus booster has turned this simple productivity technique into a powerful app with a digital timer and the ability to record and track your daily productivity through session reporting.
By combining your brand new visualised Kanban workflow with the pomodoro technique, your new superpower to combat distractions and focus solely on one task, there is only one outcome.
While both methods promise to increase your productivity when implemented by themselves, your odds of increasing your productivity will only double if implemented together!
You might be thinking, "so I can combine any two productivity methods, then right?"
Not necessarily. Kanban and the pomodoro technique are two methods to increase your productivity in different, but complementary ways.
Kanban breaks those large projects down into smaller tasks and then again into checklists or to-do lists.
As a result, you avoid feeling overwhelmed by the huge project ahead of you because you changed your perspective to view it on a task-by-task basis. You took away the feeling of being overwhelmed and boosted your productivity by narrowing your focus on one task at a time.
The pomodoro technique, however, focuses solely on how to manage your time. By taking the Kanban plan and estimating how long a task will take and then working to the plan, you are essentially training your brain to focus and avoid distractions to meet your estimated pomodoro sessions.
If you like the sound of simplifying your workflow and boosting your productivity through a simple time management approach, then you are going to love the resources we have created for you to nail these methods together.
To plan your approach, just follow these steps:
Plan your tasks - List each task for the week in the to-do column. If there is a larger project that requires more time, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks, e.g. multiple cards. As a general rule, no task should ever take longer than half a day.
Allocate pomodoros - At the beginning of each day, move cards from the to-do list and place them in today's column. Estimate how many pomodoro sessions each card might take, so you can visualise what your day is going to look like ahead of time. This avoids setting any unrealistic expectations.
Tip: We have a pomodoro planning resource for you to try!Download the free resource
Get to work - When you are ready to start, move a card from today's list into the WIP column, start your 25-minute timer in focus booster so you can stick to your allocated pomodoro sessions. Remember to keep taking your 5-minute breaks.
Evaluate - Once you have completed the estimated pomodoro sessions for a card, evaluate. Have you completed the task? Great! Move it into the complete column. If you haven't completed the task, ask yourself, "How much do I have left to do? Will one more pomodoro session be enough to complete the task now?". As you get more familiar with estimating you will become more accurate.
Reflect - As the week comes to a close, now is an excellent time to reflect back on your achievements. Are you satisfied with the level of work you accomplished this week? Were your pomodoro estimations accurate? If not, what can you change next week to avoid bottlenecks in your workflow?
Tip: To help you reflect back on your week accurately, we have a worksheet with a few questions to ask yourself at the end of each day.Download the free resource
Our team's results from this experiment has lead to ongoing use of Kanban and the pomodoro technique combined.
As a productive bunch, we are always looking for and testing new ways to improve our productivity even further. Productivity is a work in progress for everyone.
That is why we have created this detailed guide on how to implement these two techniques together!
If you aren't using any of the tools that we have suggested, pick the one that will fit your workflow best.
If you are already using one of these tools, it is time to level up your productivity and combine them!
If you try this productivity hack, make sure you tweet us and let us know how you go!