How Kanban helped me to organise my life

After 10 years working in IT, I can say I’m pretty organised related to my tasks: I can keep track of my productivity, plan my actions accordingly and, at the end of each sprint, reflect about the mistakes and successes in the last two weeks.

But when I turn to my personal life, I can’t see the same level of organisation: emails waiting to be replied, German letters that need to be translated, groceries list… Any life bureaucracy gets lost in a long and outdated Google Keep list, mixing done and to-do items.

Prioritising tasks? Pff, what a dream…

For some time things were quite working (messy, but working), until the mess become so big that my wife and me decided that something should be done about that.

So, I decided to find a definitive solution for that.

But what could I do? How can I put things under control again and give the necessary attention a topic deserves?

After reading some articles about life organisation and different techniques, I just realised:

Wait a second: I’m organised… at work.

Why can’t I bring my daily work organisation and prediction to my life tasks?

That’s where Kanban appears.

Sprint stories x Life tasks

After some reflection, I realised that life tasks are pretty similar to sprint stories, with the difference that you’re also the stakeholder.

Sprint stories have dependencies, like story A depends on story B, the same way that buying a new vacuum cleaner depends on the research of available options in the market.

A Kanban backlog is prioritised, so the most urgent stories are attacked first, the same way that doing the groceries is more urgent than buying a new watch.

Keeping track about a sprint story discussion is as important as keeping track of the ping-pong email thread with the insurance company.

So, I decided to give a try and Kanbanify my life.

Trello

The tool chosen to keep track of my daily tasks was Trello for the following reasons:

  • It’s free
  • It’s easy to use
  • The board is clean and organised
  • Has support to checklists, which can be useful to split the work of big tasks
  • Has both desktop and mobile apps.

The whole thing was organised this way:

  • A single board, containing all my tasks
  • Each task is represented by a Trello card
  • Four lists:
    • Backlog: as the name suggests, it’s the entry point of all tasks
    • Working: the tasks being addressed at the moment
    • Blocked: tasks blocked due some dependency and/or waiting input/response from someone else
    • Done: the happy list, containing all the tasks finished
  • Priority is defined using card’s labels (only one per card, but this control is done manually, since Trello hasn’t such feature):
    • Nor urgent (green)
    • Important (yellow)
    • Urgent (red)
  • Backlog is sorted from the most to the least urgent tasks
  • History is kept via card’s comments

Here’s a screenshot of my current life board (unfortunately cards are described in Brazilian Portuguese):

Results

After around a month, I can see the following results:

  • I’m more efficient related to the life tasks. Everytime something gets done, I’ve a personal pleasure in moving the card to the Done list. In this sense, the board acts like some kind of reward system, because a clean board is a happy board :)
  • I’ve full control about the state of my tasks. I can’t remember how many times I had to scour my emails to find the last feedback about a task. With this new board, I’ve the entire history of a subject organised and directly available when I need.
  • No more lost deadlines, since I can use the due date feature on Trello’s card to remind me about that.
  • Even my wife liked the idea and now she has her own board too. Most of the time she’s the one who feeds my backlog, so I can no longer say I’m my own stakeholder :P

Conclusion

The conclusion couldn’t be better: I’ve full control about my life tasks again and the only thing I did was apply some well know techniques in a different context. I’m now happier, because I don’t have that daily stress anymore of getting things undone or lost in the limbo, and I’ve my TODO list directly on my browser or smartphone.

I’ve saw some similar approaches, like this guy who uses Github to control his list, but since Github is very technical (my wife would hate) and it imposes a premium account to keep the project private, Trello sounds like a more accessible solution.

The point is: no matter which tool you use (you can even use Jira, if you’re masochistic enough), the idea works and can be a big turnaround for people who face the same kind of problem.

Worth to give it a try ;)