Get the trucks off your Kanban board!

On my Personal Kanban board, there are tasks big and small. The big ones take weeks, the small ones take days. When a big task is in the DOING column, I am always tempted to let it block everything so that it starts to clog the system.

Example: Say, I am in the middle of preparing a new presentation for the next conference. The more new ideas are inside the presentation, the longer it takes until I can write them down in a form that is simple and easy to understand for my audience. Meanwhile, another task pops up, one that I can’t simply NOT do. This new one preempts the presentation task and forces itself into the foreground. This makes me unhappy because I have become (sort of) addicted to uninterrupted flow in my Personal Kanban system.

How did I react the last time? I finished the urgent thing, then I turned my attention back to the long-running task: the new conference presentation. It cost me a complete context reload – this really felt awkward, like a waste of time.

So, how will I react next time? Tomorrow, I will split the big task into six small ones:

  1. understand the emerging ideas
  2. answer the usual four questions about them (why, what, how and „where else“?)
  3. give the presentation a dramatic structure
  4. write down one scene of the drama after the other
  5. rehearse the drama with the projector switched on
  6. inspect and adapt, rinse and repeat

For #1 to #5, I’ll put up five new tickets and throw the big ticket into the waste paper basket.

Now, what will happen next time, when a small urgent task pops up? It will only preempt another small task and will not cost me a full context reload! And: Every two days or so, I will be able to pull one new small task from the list above, which will help me get a feeling for when I will be done with the entire presentation.

Easy enough – why did I usually behave otherwise at all?

Lesson learned: Do not let a big truck clog your system so that all the regular or small cars have to queue behind it. Slice the truck, keep cool & go ahead!