Trello for My 37th Attempt at Personal Kanban

Recorded on March 7th, 2016

Between Drafts, Siri+Reminders, and TaskPaper/Taskmator/Editorial, the individual tasks in my system are fairly well locked in to a structure. I know where things go, I know what projects they’re attached to, and they pop up as annoying reminders when they need to just Get Done Now.

Where I continue to have a hard time is with the concurrent projects and “weekly outcomes”. The projects are necessarily higher-impact and contain the ultimate destinations and time goals. To me, a project is not “have scooped the cat boxes every day for a week”. It’s got to be something at least one notch up the hierarchy.

The weekly outcomes are the places you’d like to end up at after a week of checking items off the list. If the tasks are gassing up the car, setting the GPS, and accelerating, the weekly outcomes are the Wawa’s and Chick-fil-A’s you’d like to have arrived at along the journey by a specific time. They’re the milestones that tell you how to reach the ultimate goal in time to make the trip worth doing in the first place.

If you take on too many projects or outcomes at a time, they all stall out and drag on and on and nothing moves. However, if you limit work-in-process (WIP), it seems like you’re going more slowly, but you’re actually just working on fewer things that get done way faster, with more focus. You pull in another project or outcome when you’ve finished one of the things in your WIP/current queue.

I figure if I keep trying different tools to manage this stuff, one of them will stick. I’ve tried the Getting Results the Agile Way, which I still love, but have a hard time sticking to. I’ve tried the paper Action Day Planner, which is also a great system, but anything that requires me to carry around another notebook is just going to be too much of a pain to rely on. I’ve also tried Markdown outlines in a separate text file in Editorial, but it feels too close to TaskPaper. I know that it ultimately comes down to the dumb human sticking with a system, any system.

The latest experiment is with Trello. It usually starts you out with To Do, Doing, and Done boards, but those “To Do” and “Doing” columns get too close together in my mind. Instead, I took a cue from how Pivotal Tracker does things. PT generally has these columns for work:

  • Done: Where things that are done/accepted go.
  • Current: Where you put the things you or the team are actively working on.
  • Backlog: A prioritized list of stuff for the next sprint.
  • Icebox: This is where you throw things when you don’t want to take time away from the current task to think them through, but you don’t want to forget them, either. It’s like a Someday/Maybe list in Getting Things Done.

I’m trying a setup of Current, Backlog, Done, Icebox. It doesn’t make left-to-right flow sense like a real Kanban board would, where items march through their stages in one direction. For me, Current is going first because when you open Trello to a board on the iPhone, it always defaults back to the first board as the one you see on screen. Current is the one I want to be reminded of first. We’ll see how this works.

screenshot of Trello Kanban boards

blog comments powered by Disqus