Kanban on the desktop
Today I felt like drowning under my to-do list. There’s an ever-growing stream of to-do items I, with the valuable help of the rest of the world, generate for me. Unread emails (which are in fact mostly read but not replied), starred RSS feeds, writings on post-its on my desk, notes on my phone, half-written blog posts on my computer, some unfinished source code here and there, books piling up to be read. I was looking for a tool that can help me organize my tasks, my thoughts, and I remembered I’ve seen a tweet about something called personal kanban a long time ago with a link I did not open back then. Today I looked up the term and it seemed that this is exactly what I need. (Personal kanban is not a big surprise if you’re familiar with kanban in software development or if you’ve heard of lean manufacturing.)
So I set up my kanban at home. It’s a simple cork board I extended with a calendar so I can see everything important everytime in my room. Seems it helps with remaining focused. After a couple of hours of fiddling around I finally decided to limit my WIP to 3 so I can combine two long-running tasks (e.g. reading a book, processing some 70 raw photos) and still have room for one short term task (e.g. writing a short blog post or completing the registration for an event.)
When I completed the blog post I published yesterday about growing development estimations, I moved my first post-it from Doing to Done and was so happy I immediately tweeted about it along with a photo of the board. A couple of minutes later Algernon asked if I know any useful tools to do the whole thing online, but I had to explain him I need dead trees since this is the only option that keeps the kanban visible always when I’m at home, so I didn’t even take the time to look for kanban applications.
Then I started to think. I realized I don’t use desktop icons at all. I start every program from the command line or from a launcher, I keep my files organized in several directories at my
/home, so the only thing I need a desktop for is displaying a photo I like and a vim cheat sheet GIMPed on it. But since I actively use vim I don’t need a cheat sheet anymore. Then an idea just popped into my head: I could recommend Algernon to use the desktop as kanban! Icons would be the post-its to be pulled from the left to the right and the wallpaper would be the whiteboard. It can be created and adjusted later on in GIMP if needed and if the desktop icons are plain text files, they can be easily edited to contain a more detailed task description than the bare name of the file. Algernon extended the idea with the use of
git as a synchronizing tool between his home box and his work PC, and bam, you have a kanban application without ever installing or registering into one.
Too bad I can’t use such a clever idea for the reasons explained above. But one thing kept bugging me: I can’t add a task to my kanban when I’m not home. Of course I could take a note about adding it later, but before I could promise someone I would do some task or give a deadline estimation, I’d better take a look at the board to see where I can squeeze it in between the priorities already on the board. That’s what lead me to another idea: using my Android phone to keep a copy of my board always with myself. It has desktops, arbitrary folders can be created on them, icons can be moved between different desktop screens. So I quickly adopted the idea to my phone: now I have three dekstops for the three columns of kanban, to the right from the Home screen.
This of course will introduce some synchronization overhead, but that seems to be a fair trade-off compared to either forgetting something to be added to the board or to commit myself to tasks I will never have the time to complete.
I like the idea of personal kanban so far, but I’m going to write a more detailed post about my experiences after a couple of weeks or maybe months of practising it.
The Kanban on the desktop by athoshun, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.