Career Tips 17/04/2020 by "Rebecca Hartshorn"

Why You Need a Kanban Board & How to Design One at Home

Since going into lockdown, it’s been inspiring to see how adaptable people are and the fun, innovative actions people are taking to juggle life at home. Which, of course, now encompasses our work, our children’s school, our rest, our play and our relationships. 

With everything now taking place under the same roof, it can be easy to let the lines blur — getting absorbed into work when you should be participating in family time, or forgetting to take the time for tasks that are essential to look after your physical and mental health. 

This is a balancing act that we’re all struggling with, but I recently read a post on LinkedIn from then Tabcorp CIO, Mandy Ross (thanks for the inspo Mandy!) who shared how she had ‘co-designed’ a home kanban board for her ‘extraordinarily overactive’ 4-year-old. Here is ‘Mia’s Rainbow Day’:

Great idea, right? But ‘overactivity’ impacts us grown-ups, too. Transitioning into my new role as COO at Launch Recruitment just as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting, means I have certainly had a lot of plates to spin! I found myself often consumed by critical work priorities and letting my usual daily exercise slip, or pushing those ‘creative’ projects to the bottom of the list. Visualising all the possibilities of what makes me productive in a day, made me realise that making time for all of those ‘categories’ outside of work’ ultimately impacted the quality of my work: how present I am with my team in meetings; the energy I bring to difficult ‘crisis’ conversations; my clarity of thought when problem-solving; how happy I look on a Zoom call! 

We all have mechanisms for managing this, but if, like me, you like to visualise: you need a Kanban board.

What is Kanban

Kanban, in its typical application, is a framework that’s used to implement agile software development. Work items are represented visually on a Kanban board, which allows teams members (or housemates, both big and small) to see the state of every piece of work at any time. Using cards, columns and continuous improvement, Kanban boards help teams to commit to the right amount of work and get it done efficiently. 

How Kanban Can Help You While Working From Home

Whether you have a family or it’s just you at home, these extraordinary times can be tough to manage, and frameworks like Kanban can be incredibly helpful to keep you focussed on the right goals. 

In our normal lives, when we would go to work, go to the gym and go home, there were steps which would prompt us to the next stage of our day. When working from home and being stuck indoors 24/7 there is no more break in the day that tells us we are moving into a new category, such as when the workday had ended we would now go to the gym or go and play with our kids. 

What a Kanban board does is offer a systematic approach with an overall emphasis on achieving flow to complete your goals. This visual representation keeps those categories front of mind, of importance, so that you can see when specific tasks are complete, and it is time to prioritise other categories.

This is not only valuable for those with children, who can use this to keep them occupied while remaining aware of the tasks they should take on to support and play with them. It’s also hugely beneficial to family-free professionals who can too easily get sucked into their work and forget to step into the other categories, maintaining friendships, health and wellbeing. 

Creating Your Kanban Board

The simplest way to do this in your home is with a physical board divided into vertical columns, grab some sticky notes and sit down with yourself or your family to brainstorm activity ideas for each activity category. The categories should cover all of your responsibilities – both to your family and to yourself. Hence, it’s important to add downtime activities, as well as exercise and family time. 

If you’re creating a Kanban for your children, Mandy Ross’ categories are perfect and might include: 

  • Family
  • Learning
  • Creative
  • Active 
  • Quiet
  • Parents

If you’re creating one for yourself, the board may cover categories such as:

  • Work
  • Creative 
  • Active
  • Personal Development
  • Social 
  • Well-being
  • Life Admin (!)

 To ensure you are keeping on top of each of your categories, you can set a goal that an activity from each category must be completed each day. Then you simply move these items from a to-do column to a completed column as they’re done. Here’s Mia smashing her ‘Rainbow Day’:

Not only does this keep you working efficiently, it feels incredibly rewarding to have a visual representation of your accomplishments for the day, and it helps to keep you accountable for your health and wellbeing through these testing times. Don’t underestimate how important it is to make the time for these activities in your day.

Thanks for reading!

Rebecca H

COO, Launch Recruitment 

If you’re looking to take the next step in your career, get in touch with Launch Recruitment today. 

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