If you’ve ever been in my office, you’ve seen the giant wall full of Post-its. This is my version of the personal kanban Benson & Berry describe in their book. Their method is simple, flexible, and effective. As a bonus, it’s also based on agile project management which happens to be my jam.
There are many (many, many, many) tools and systems out there people use to manage their work, keep track of projects, and be productive. The kanban method works really well for me, and I recommend this book for anyone who wants to be more intentional about the way they work and spend their time (even if you use some other system to do it.)
You may find this particular tool is right for you, or you may not (you should be very skeptical of any system that claims to work for everyone). That said, there are some important benefits you should demand of any productivity system, method, or tool you consider using.
It should save you time, not cost you time – This seems obvious, but I’ve found it’s very easy to get wrapped up in feeding & caring for your productivity system. It can become a major distraction from getting real work done. The system should exist to serve you, not the other way around.
It should help you focus – One of the features of my kanban-style system is that it limits my work in progress to only a few things at a time (for me, it’s a maximum of three). This allows me to focus on only a manageable amount of work and free my mind of all the other things I will eventually have to deal with. Most of the systems out there do a reasonable job helping you capture and organize all the to-do’s in your life, but many fall short of helping you focus on accomplishing the work you really need to be doing.
It should help you see and understand what’s actually happening and how that relates to your priorities – This is a big deal. Is the work that’s really meaningful getting done? If not, it’s probably not (just) because you’re lazy. More likely, you’re doing a lot of work but not the important work. What’s worse, it’s probably because you just don’t really have a handle on how you spend your work time… because that can be surprisingly hard to do when you’re really busy. A productivity system won’t make the right decisions for you, but a good one will make it possible to see what you’re actually doing with your time. That way you at least have a chance to do something about it.