Organize your work like a programmer

In my essay on how software is made, I mentioned how programmers are constantly trying to find smarter, more flexible ways to Get Things Done.  This involves adopting all kinds of fads, and then some fads turn out to be really good ideas, and become permanent.

An interesting fad in my world at the moment is called Kanban.  One core idea is about how you visualize and restrict your team’s workflow in order to highlight bottlenecks, and maintain a steady flow of tasks without getting distracted by doing ten things at once.

What you do is make a board with different stages a task can go through.  For each area you choose a limit for how many tasks can be there at a time.  And then you use post-it notes to mark where each task is. Every time a task is moved, that opens up space for another task from upstream.  Essentially tasks are pulled instead of pushed through the system.

For instance, you may have a Backlog area for future work (max: unlimited? four months worth?), a Ready area for tasks you are ready to start on next (max: 5?), an In Progress area for the tasks you work on right now (max: 2?), and an Approval area for finished tasks that somebody needs to verify, (max: 5?)  The areas and limits are up to you.

Here’s one version of such a board.  Here’s another:

This might be useful in all kinds of situations, also for individuals.  Try it for your own work, see if it works.

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