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Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life

book, Jim Benson, Tonianne DeMaria Barry

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Learning how to be effective instead of just busy...

  • Feb 21, 2012

To do lists... Getting Things Done... Time Management... Usually they're all focused on complex methodologies or the amount of things you can accomplish in a given timeframe (usually a day).  But instead of being busy, what if you focused on how effective you were in getting the necessary things done? Heck... what if it was also pretty simple?  That's what you get in the book Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry.  To me, this was a book that "clicked" immediately and helped me see where I was going wrong in terms of frantically trying to do and be everything to everybody.

Contents: Foreword - The Agony of Crisis Management; Introduction - Personal Kanban - 100% New Age Free; The Basics of Personal Kanban; Building Your First Personal Kanban; My Time Management is in League with the Freeway; Nature Flows; Components of a Quality Life; Finding Our Priorities; Strive for Improvement; Endgame; Appendix A - Personal Kanban Design Patterns; Appendix B - Personal Kanban and Social Media

The basics of Personal Kanban are very simple. You need to be able to place work in context with who you are and what you need to accomplish.  Next, limits need to be placed on the WIP (Work In Progress) so that you can be effective in what you're doing.  Finally, you look at what you've done and learn how you might be able to do it more effectively next time.  That's really about it.  The tools to implement Personal Kanban are even more basic... sticky notes and a whiteboard/wall with three columns for Ready, WIP, and Done.  As you choose items from your Backlog (all those sticky notes with tasks and to do's written on them) that are ready to be worked based on your overall context, you move them into the Ready column.  As you start to work on them, they move into the WIP column.  And then to see and feel that sense of completion, the sticky note moves into the Done column. The goal isn't to have 100 items in Ready or WIP all the time.  If that's the case, you haven't gained anything.  Instead, the items that are Ready are ones that make sense to start based on the current situation. Even more important, the WIP column should only have a small number of items actually being worked on (try starting with three) at any given time.  If you have 15 items "in process", you're not managing anything. You're just reacting to whatever is squeaking the loudest. By understanding your own personal workflow limits, you'll know what you can and can't accomplish in a truly effective manner.  Again, it's not how productive or busy you are... it's how effective you are in what you choose to do.

The authors have an easy-going flow between them when it comes to writing style. Having also followed them on Twitter, I can see where that comes from. They enjoy what they do, and it shows through in this book.  By the time I was a third of the way through, I was already planning out my own implementation. The fact that I could start immediately and improve it as I went along was right in line with what kanban is all about... incremental improvements to become more effective and cut down on wasted effort.

I'd recommend Personal Kanban to anyone who is looking to get their work and/or personal life under control. The concepts work equally well in both environments, and you don't have to commit to an all-or-nothing methodology that costs major dollars to get started "properly".  It's hard to argue against sticky notes. :)  This will also be a book that I'll revisit on a periodic basis to look for new angles and slants on how I'm doing within the framework.  Overall, this is great material with the potential to make major differences in your life.

Obtained From: Amazon
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Learning how to be effective instead of just busy...

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About the reviewer
Thomas Duff ()
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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