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Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life Paperback – February 2, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

Personal Kanban is all about understanding and effectiveness. People are so busy they can't see past their daily to-dos. They let options slide by while working on tasks of little value. At any given time, we want to know what we are doing, be able to communicate that to others, and see what our true options are. Other personal and team management systems are top-heavy, requiring significant work to update and maintain. Personal Kanban runs in the background, always providing you with information and not adding additional work or pain.

From the Inside Flap

  • Carmen Medina: Director of Intelligence (Retired) Central Intelligence Agency: Personal Kanban is a must read for knowledge workers and their leaders who recognize that old productivity models don't apply to knowledge work and seek a more realistic and centered approach. The ideas are deceptively simple but in that simplicity is their strength. As soon as I finished reading it, I started drawing out the landscape of my projects and felt much the better for it.
  • Ross Mayfield: CEO of SocialText: Personal productivity systems usually fail in practice because of complexity and they don't reflect the collaborative nature of real work. Personal Kanban provides the simplest structure that could possibly work and lets you achieve a state of flow.
  • Jerry Michalski: guide, Relationship Economy eXpedition: Trying to get more effective? Why use Rube Goldberg systems of tabulated notebooks and special-purpose inserts? Instead, consider a system that flows like a stream and focuses your attention, both on the task at hand and on making your process more effective. That's what Personal Kanban is, and it may just fit your thinking and doing style.  
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1453802266
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453802267
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've followed and tried virtually all the time management and productivity techniques and tools since I first found career and life demands were more than I could keep up with in my head. With each one I've fallen prey to losing sight of the end goal and becoming compulsive about the tool or technique -- however not compulsive enough to keep it working for me. With time, the overhead of managing the tool bogs me down. Now a month or two into the Personal Kanban technique, using KanbanFlow as the online tool, I'm holding my own. I think the difference is the core tenet of limiting your WIP, so I can't become overwhelmed (although I may frustrate those who are trying to push WIP into my flow).

Aside from the practice, the book is clear and practical, with doses of philosophy stirred in with the practicality. It's definitely worth a read, and the technique is easy to try. See if it works for you.
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I have seen it all. From the primitive todo to the philistine Covey to digital GTD to the nothing-there ZTD, I am confident saying that there is nothing I have wasted more of my time on than studying how not to waste more of my time. I have active accounts with AppoloHQ, Nirvana, Producteev, HiTask, RTM, TeamLab, PlanBox and a gazillion other task management websites. I approach each of these methodologies and implementations with a cynical eye. I do not inherently trust any "system" and quickly pshaw them right out of the box. But I hang on. I hang on to the hope that as my brain begins to drop more information than it picks up, I will eventually find something that will work.

The prerequisites are simple:

1. No part of this process should take more than 10 minutes to implement
2. It needs to be visual
3. It needs to be visible!
4. I should never be in a position where I say "If only I had an internet connection" or "If only I had my laptop" or "If only my Circa Rhodia pad come unlined."
5. At the "end of the day," I need to be able to report on and measure my performance. We are all accountable for what we produce. My goals are directly tied to what I can accomplish.
6. It's got to FEEL good. Metrics aside, if it is ugly, cumbersome or "kludgy," it will never be a tool for me. I seek beauty through simplicity.
7. It can't be binary. Use it or not, there has to be room for a transition.
8. It should not be mutually exclusive to any other system. If I want to implement Next Actions or Covey's big rocks/little rocks, or a universal capture tool (ie Evernote), then nothing should stop me from doing that.

Perhaps those prerequisites were not so simple after all as it seems that no one was able to meet those criteria.
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The book in a nutshell: create a backlog of your work, add a kanban board (columns: "backlog", "ready", "in progress", "done"), limit your work in progress to a number you determine by trial and error and retrospect periodically to understand what factors influence you to be effective/ineffective for a certain type of task. Adapt.

I think the process suggested (previously defined by David Anderson in his Kanban book; previously developed by Toyota for manufacturing) is valuable, and has made me give up my to-do lists. On the other hand, I don't think you need a whole book to explain it, a simple (if longer) blog post would be sufficient.

The idea I found most valuable was to strive for effectiveness rather than productivity. That is: try to get things done instead of trying to keep yourself busy.
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So, I have finally discovered why I make todo lists and then just ignore them.

Why my self imposed deadlines become meaningless.

Why I used to be really productive and effective and the last few years have not.

Why I have felt so exasperatingly overwhelmed even on days when there is nothing I actually have to do.

Not just another time management system (I have plenty), but a way out of the stress and overwhelm of work that keeps coming at me. Of incomplete tasks nagging at me and keeping me awake.

This book deals with the disconnect between our brains and the modern multitasking/deadline driven world. It is well written a doable.

I loved the system, I have implemented it, I am sleeping better. My backlog of projects hasn't disappeared, but somehow making them tangible has also made them manageable...and I am actually getting to them one by one.
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Personal Kanban changed the way I think about everything I do.

We all feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to fulfill our commitments to work and family life. How often do we find ourselves saying "I am so busy, I can't seem to get anything done!" How can it be possible to busily accomplish nothing?

When we maintain a large backlog of existential overhead we feel stressed because we don't feel like we're making progress. Thanks to the Zeigarnik effect we focus inordinately on unfinished tasks. When we finish a task it is flushed out of our thoughts because we're constantly focused on the unfinished pile.

Personal Kanban offers a deceptively simple solution to these stresses. Take all the tasks currently occupying that ball of stress in your mind, write them down on sticky-notes and stick them to a board. By writing them down you're able to see that they're not all equally important. You remove them from the amorphous stress ball inside your psyche and stick them to the wall. Suddenly you enjoy the clarity brought by simply visualizing precisely what it is you need to accomplish. A Kanban is a signboard where you visualize your work. In it's simplest form a kanban board contains 3 columns: "Ready", "Doing" and "Done".

I generally reject dogmatic and/or complicated concepts. What Jim and Tonianne have written in Personal Kanban is neither. There are only 2 rules:

1. Visualize your work

2. Limit your Work in Progress (WIP)

I've explained the backlog already, one of the benefits of this backlog is that you can now easily see what needs to be done, and prioritize those tasks according to what's most important to you at the time.
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